There has always been a particular lack of pretension to Tex Perkins and his Dark Horses. When the band took to the Oxford Art Factory’s stage on the 19th of July, it was punctually, and with little fanfare; dressed down, they looked more like a group of friends on the way to the pub than a rock and roll group. But, as ever, their humility proved to be the key to their greatness. By avoiding anything resembling the artificial, Perkins and his gang of troubadours quietly but assuredly knocked it out of the park. They played great music for seventy odd minutes, and when they were done they left. That was it. Nothing else was required.
The set was largely dominated by numbers from their exemplary new album, The Tunnel At The End Of The Light. The gig was kicked off by a haunting version of album opener Lucky Me, complete with whistled refrains (Joel Silbersher, Perkins’ friend and guitarist, promised than an album comprised entirely of whistles was on the way.) They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, one of the album’s many highpoints, proved to be a stand out of the gig too, with Perkins in full crooner mode, and Silbersher performing a spellbinding guitar solo.
Indeed, over the course of the night The Dark Horses repeatedly reinforced their status as Australia’s very finest group of musicians. The peerless Charlie Owen swapped between keyboard and guitar duties, stealing the show with a hypnotic, haunting solo that sat at the centre of Slide On By’s eight minutes. Murray Paterson (introduced by Perkins as ‘the doctor’), Stephen Hadley and Gus Agars similarly impressed, with the bands’ work on the blistering and ominous Word To Come best showing off their collective talents.
Perkins, looming large over the proceedings, was as charismatic as one could hope for. Described in awed tones by a flushed gig goer as ‘sex on legs’, he knocked back whiskeys, stared deep into the audience, and sung his way through tracks like Getting Away With It and Last Words with the conviction he has forged a career on.
‘Let us know if you want some more,’ he said, almost as an aside, upon his first exit of the stage. The enthusiastic whooping and applause of the crowd was instantaneous. They did want some more, all of them and when Perkins returned for his encore he wore the unashamed smile of a man who gains a great deal of pleasure from what he does for a living. “Thank you,” he said, genuinely, and then stood back and watched as his band launched into another brilliant number, played with brilliance.