Review Scene: Those Pretty Wrongs, Memo Music Hall St Kilda, Sunday 13 August 2023 by Maryanne Window

What a triumphant return to Melbourne for Those Pretty Wrongs who jingled our jangle on their last tour back in 2016. The duo comprising of Jody Stephens and Luther Russell, brought a rich musical history to the stage much to the delight of the intimate crowd as well as a swathe of new material all of their own, the bulk of it coming from their latest release, Holiday Camp. The last show of the Australian tour, Stephens from Memphis and Russell from LA were relaxed and upbeat as they took their places seated at the front of the stage. Stephens introduced themselves saying “We’re Those Pretty Wrongs and hopefully we’ll get it pretty right tonight! Get it right they did, from the first to last note and everywhere in between.

As an acoustic duo they sure packed a power-pop punch with Russell on the 12 string and achingly beautiful harmonies and Stephens taking on the front man position on lead vocals. His name may be written in the annals of rock history as the drummer and sole surviving original member of the legendary and musically influential Big Star, and one time member of Golden Smog but he has really found his niche as a singer songwriter in his own right. Opening with “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” from their 2019 Zed is for Zulu album, Russell’s 12 string was a perfect foundation for the duo’s exquisite harmonies as their voices created an extension of the chiming major chords beautifully.

There were plenty of stories to go along with the songs, “Ride Along” from Holiday Camp recalled the trip Stephens took with his friend and co-worker Diana, to Key West via Nashville. He’s been married to Diana for 40 years now and jokingly credited Greyhound Buses for bringing them together. Cut to “Paper Cup” also from Holiday Camp, inspired by an overheard argument between a couple in Walmart and the Heartfelt “Brother My Brother” born of the relationship Stephens had with his younger brother David who in his words, ‘Struggled through life but kept pushing forward’. The latter could be a kind of companion piece to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, the song most famously recorded by the Hollies and lyrics written by one Bob Russell, grandfather of Luther. It all comes full circle, just as the music of Those Pretty Wrongs stylistically circles back to Big Star. My favourite of the new album “The Way”, with its harmonic twists and turns, saw this pair of perfectionists do a take two on the ending to get it right. We the audience thought it was pretty perfect as it was but given Stephens’ introduction to the evening, he wasn’t having it any other way!

Alex Hamilton & Friends, Memo Music Hall, 13th August 2023 by Mary Boukouvalas

Opener Alex Hamilton, a singer songwriter from Melbourne who has just released his debut album Sweetest Wine on the Love Police label, joined Jody and Luther on stage with his band for the next section of the set. This pick-up band sounded like they had been playing together for decades as they busted out the Big Star favourites. Starting with “For You”, from Sister Lovers aka Big Star’s Third, Stephens donned his drumming gloves and handled the skins as if he was fresh from the big recording room at Ardent in Memphis where he originally recorded it. Russell swapped his Martin 12 string for a well played Fender strat and tore up the vocals in true Alex Chilton style. You could tell he was a Big Star fan too and the Replacements button he wore on his lapel did not go unnoticed by me – if you know you know. “Back of a Car”,the late Andy Hummel penned “Way Out West”, and the fabulous “September Gurls”, famously covered by the Bangles (who now sing the rightful ‘butch’ lyric these days) were faithfully and energetically belted and it really was the next best thing to being at a Big Star Gig circa 1974. The last song of the set was a rousing rendition of Chris Bell’s “I am the Cosmos” featuring Hamilton on lead vocals – a thrill that was not taken lightly by him as he wore his Big Star influence on his sleeve.

Those Pretty Wrongs, being the showmen they are, ended the night with a two song encore bringing things back to duo mode with “It’s About Love”, the closing track from Zed For Zulu. After regaling us with tales and tunes from past and present, it was the last song of the night that really brought the house down. Stephens and Russell made their way off the stage and into the audience, sans PA, and stood in amongst the front tables, troubadour style and finished with the best version of the Chilton/Bell classic “13” that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard a few! Yes, I’m happy to report that Jody Stephens is a man of his word, tonight Those Pretty Wrongs certainly did get it pretty right.

About Maryanne Window 49 Articles
Maryanne is a writer and bass player. You can find her onstage with Monique Brumby.