As my husband and I rounded the corner on Saturday night we both asked the same question at the same time: “Is that it?” The building in front of us had a sign advertising Bob Evans’ gig out the front, but it looked more like a beach house than any RSL. The parking lot was packed and families spilled out on the wooden deck, making the place look more like someone’s private party than somewhere we’d see a gig. Walking inside I was still a little confused. There were no poker machines, a decision by management apparently to make this place a little different, and only a flimsy curtain separated the “auditorium” (and I use the word loosely) from the restaurant. Hardys Bay RSL isn’t like any club I’ve been to, but the more I thought about it the more I realised it was the perfect place for an unassuming artist like Bob Evans to play.

We tried to grab dinner but the frazzled waitress told me they were far too busy to take our orders just yet. I joked that we didn’t think to book because everything is usually a bit casual on the Coast. She agreed and said she didn’t anticipate the rush either. As word of this place and its intimate gigs spread, perhaps she’s going to have to get used to it.

So instead we took a seat in the main room, a space that felt more like a nanna’s loungeroom than the venue for a gig. Plush sofas lined the walls which were decorated with framed photographs and ornate lamps. It was all very charming. Food came soon enough, the perfect accompaniment for the wine which was better than I expected from a small RSL.

When Bob Evans stepped on to the stage, which was really just a slightly elevated platform, there was little fanfare, save for the Christmas lights adorning his acoustic guitar. I have the feeling that suits a guy like Bob down to the ground though.

I must admit, I’m nowhere near as familiar with his music as many of the transfixed members of the audience were. But in such an intimate setting, you don’t need to know the songs. It’s a setting which lets you hear lyrics and appreciate new music. Not that I was completely in the dark. I was surprised to hear “Nowhere Without You” come out relatively early. He saved “Don’t You Think It’s Time” until much later in the set, but I don’t think the crowd would have minded what songs came out when.

Watching them singing along to all the words, you could see the adoration in their eyes. A few women were so taken by the music, or perhaps the wine, that they got up to dance. It’s no mean feat to boogie along to a guy playing folky music with an acoustic guitar, but I admired their enthusiasm.

It seemed the admiration was mutual, as Bob came out for encore after encore. At the very end he insisted we’d need to be quiet for this one, unplugged his guitar, and stepped off the stage. He did a slow lap of the room, charming each and every one of us, whether we knew the song as most did, or were hearing it for the first time like myself.

Sometimes when I see a show because I was offered tickets, I feel a little disconnect. I can see the way other people love the artist and wish I could be in the moment as they are. But instead I left Hardys Bay RSL feeling privileged that I’d seen a gig I wouldn’t ordinarily see that was so special. Fans catching Bob Evans as he winds his way around the country, you won’t be disappointed. Here are the remaining shows:

3 May 2017 – Clarendon Guest House, Katoomba
5 May 2017 – Camelot Lounge, Sydney
6 May 2017 – Brass Monkey, Cronulla
7 May 2017 – Heritage Hotel, Bulli
11 May 2017 – The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
12 May 2017 – 5 Church St, Bellingen
13 May 2017 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
1 June 2017 – Baha, Rye
2 June 2017 – The Croxton Front Bar, Melbourne
3 June 2017 – Workers Club, Geelong
8 June 2017 – Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide
9 June 2017 – Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine