CAN David Duchovny cut it as a musician?
That was the burning question for the tiny audience that filed into Wests NEX on Wednesday night for the X-Files and Californication actor’s Newcastle debut as a “rock’n’roll star.”
There was a strange vibe in the auditorium, which one would generously estimate at being a quarter full, (the guest list at the front counter also appeared extensive).
That wasn’t a surprise. A $75 cover charge for an unproven musical act is steep in anyone’s exchange rate.
It was as if the crowd was separated into two camps; those diehard fans looking to swoon over “Fox Mulder” and pay homage to a ‘90s cultural icon and others who were intrigued by the morbid fascination of watching a possible car wreck live on stage.
The simple answer is Duchovny was entertaining. Certainly by the low standards set by fellow actors turned rock musicians.
Anyone else shudder at the memory of Russell Crowe’s Thirty Odd Foot Of Grunts?
Duchovny’s musical journey is a classic story of one man taking his pet hobby out of the bedroom and to the world because he has the celebrity profile and bank balance to make it a reality.
Back in 2011 Duchovny began playing guitar following the demise of his marriage with fellow actor Téa Leoni and four years later released his debut album Hell Or Highwater.
He continued his homage to classic Americana dad-rock like Tom Petty with Every Third Thought released three weeks ago.
After walking out to Silverchair’s Israel’s Son, Duchovny and his talented five-piece band launched into Half Life and Every Third Thought from his latest album.
It became immediately apparent that Duchovny can write a tune. Every Third Thought, in particular, hummed along with a sweet melody and impressive guitar flourishes from lead axeman Pat McCusker.
Duchovny, who didn’t play guitar, can hold a tune, but he’s vocal range is limited.
It was particularly exposed on his ballads like the plodding Stranger In The Sacred Heart, which he explained was written in Paris where his father lived in his final years.
To his credit, Duchovny never let the small, yet passionate crowd, derail his performance.
Since launching his mid-life musical project he’s been modest about his talents.
On stage the guy was having a blast. Some of his dad-rock moves and Mick Jagger-style pouts were decidedly cheesy, but they were genuine.
Physically the ‘90s sex symbol was in fantastic shape and more than a decade younger than his 57 years.
Duchovny constantly engaged with his audience, slapping high-fives and providing cheeky banter.
After spilling his alcoholic beverage in the opening song, he said while shaking his hips, “this is gonna give me James Brown moves or make me fall over. Either way, it’s gonna be entertaining.”
Duchovny also revealed Newcastle’s most famous musical sons, Silverchair, were massive X-Files fans and visited the TV show’s set in the mid-90s.
“They were like 12. Like rocking little children,” he joked.
The 90-minute set featured covers of The Band’s The Weight, David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel and Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House.
While the songs energised the audience into a singalong, they also highlighted Duchovny’s vocal limitations.
On The Weight he allowed McCusker, the rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Colin Lee to share lead vocals and they outshone Duchovny.
Then on Don’t Dream It’s Over Lee sang the entire song while Duchovny danced around the stage and played the role of cheerleader.
It was a bizarre moment. But this was a bizarre show.
Not the car crash some predicted and it certainly held enjoyable moments.
Yet you get the sense the audience was there to revel in the cult of celebrity, rather than hear a pet musical project.
At least Duchovny was better than Russell Crowe.