Tamed by the Telly

A great article about Mark Seymour and the Basement gig that was to eventually be aired on TV and commercially released.

Author: Iain Shedden.

Date: “Airing” October 5, 2001.

Original URL: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/ story_page/0,5744,2980178%255E12284,00.html


Article Text

Mark Seymour: Live at the Basement
8pm, MusicCountry (Foxtel/Austar, Optus)

THAT rare and beautiful thing, the online branch of the unofficial Mark Seymour global appreciation society, may be familiar with this live slab of the singer/songwriter’s work. I am, too, since I was there – front table at Sydney’s club/restaurant The Basement – close enough to the stage to launch segments of my grilled barramundi straight down Seymour’s gullet had I been of a mind.

That’s the beauty of The Basement. You can eat, drink, talk shop – or of romance – and take in a show all at the same time. It’s rock ‘n’ roll with rocket on a bed of teased rice with perhaps a naughty promise fulfilled later on. What more could you possibly want of a night out?

However, I digress. This show is more than just a celebration of Mark Seymour, an artist whose solo career has been unfairly ignored in the wake of his more successful tenure with Hunters and Collectors. It’s also an advertisement for the advancement of technology.

Why? Well, Mark Seymour: Live at The Basement is the work of the venue’s next door neighbour, basement.com, which in the past 18 months has become one of the first companies in the world to webcast selected concerts live from a club venue (The House of Blues in Chicago is another). This it does with a remarkable degree of professionalism. Without getting too technical, what you hear and see in The Basement is not what you experience on your computer or, in this case, on your television. No expense has been spared in terms of cameras and recording equipment in order to make the webcasts appealing.

Yet the level of investment in manpower and whiz-bang technology (producers, mixing desks, TV-standard studios) would seem to be at odds with a club that hosts non-mainstream entertainment and looks busy with 200 people in it.

That is until you learn that Telstra, provider of the broadband system on which basement .com operates, has plunged almost $2 million into the operation.

Run by industry veterans Hamish Cameron and Doug Mulray, basement.com has so far webcast shows by the likes of Jimmy Barnes and Chris Wilson and the log-on rate among online music punters has been low. This project, like much else related to the net, is geared to the long-term or bust. Meantime, basement.com continues to recoup some of Telstra’s investment by selling on its products to the likes of cable/satellite channel MusicCountry.

Mark Seymour has been in the industry for the long term. Since the Hunnas’ long reign ended five years ago he has been doing it for himself and, as he says in the opening interview before this performance, getting used to the idea of playing in much smaller venues.

This he does well, with a level of intensity and commitment that should have worn thin by now, given that H & C were always fighting an uphill battle for recognition outside of Australia. His new material, particularly his second solo album, One Eyed Man, is among the best of his career and much of it is showcased here.

He is joined by his band, slightly subdued in the intimate surroundings, who nevertheless add subtle dynamics to Seymour’s attacking style. In between songs we are allowed some more interview insights from the man himself. Although hardly new, it’s a nice programming idea and a welcome one in getting Australian artists further into the public domain.

And yet, despite the technology, the intervening weeks have not been kind to Mark Seymour. What seemed dynamic and exciting and fresh just metres away and several glasses to the good appears oddly sterile and flat on telly.

Perhaps there is no substitute for the live experience after all. Or perhaps it was merely the sight of my host for the evening, Doug Mulray, sitting opposite, banging his fists almost in time to the music, that convinced me that here – on stage and online – was history in the making.