Australian musician Daniel Champagne returned to Newfoundland this February, with three shows finishing off his cross-Canada tour.
Having captivated audiences at Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Fest in 2017, Champagne’s interesting approach to acoustic guitar saw his Feb. 10 performance at The Ship sold out well in advance.
Champagne was prefaced by opening act Mick Davis, introduced by Folk Arts Society’s John Clarke as a personification of the Muddy Waters line, “the blues had a baby and they named the baby rock and roll.”
The fully-grown rock ‘n’ roll baby opened to a packed house, launching into Beatle George Harrison’s “I Need You,” then diving into a selection of work from his newest album with Thin Love, “Touch the Moon,” giving the audience a preview of what they can expect when the album drops next week.
Davis could pass as a distant relative of headliner Champagne, with the same stature, short yet unruly hair and genuinely warm grin.
Coming to the island “from Australia, via Nashville,” Champagne took to the stage to a roar of applause.
Clarke’s request for a mindful noise level was met — the audience was silent, captivated by Champagne’s interesting style and impressive vocal talents.
Halfway through the opening number, a voice behind me muttered, “Pretty unique,” his friend nodding in agreement. This was an understatement.
Champagne’s percussive approach to the guitar has left his instrument visibly scarred, as he flicks, scratches, and slaps at the body.
Knuckles and hands bouncing off the neck, he pulls on the excess guitar string winding from his used and abused tuning pegs, later strumming above the nut to achieve a harp-like sound.
Every part of the guitar is used while singing and jumping around the stage, showing each side of the bar how he creates his distinct sound.
I had a chance to ask Champagne about his style earlier that day, when he popped into Fred’s to play a tune for Facebook Live. More specifically, I asked how he hasn’t beaten his fingers down to nubs.
With an internal pickup, Champagne revealed that he isn’t beating on his instrument the way he appears to be.
According to staff at O’Brien’s Music, where Champagne stopped in for a strum, the musician is also a proficient player in the “regular” style of guitar playing, i.e. with a gentler touch.
Playing a mix of originals and covers, Champagne bounced around his own discography, with offerings from “Fault Lines” (2017), “The Heartland Hurricanes” (2016), “The Gypsy Moon Vol. 1 and 2” (2013, 2014), and more.
A Nirvana cover appeared on the set list, as well as a number of blues tracks gleaned from his father, although Champagne’s interpretations likely offer a striking departure from his father’s renditions.
Before playing his encore, Champagne again thanked the audience, and the province for showing him such love.
“I’m just gonna keep on coming back,” he said, smiling at the applauding audience.
We did it, Newfoundland. We’ve got another one hooked. See ya again soon, Daniel!