Gigs

Adele @ ANZ Stadium 10.3.17

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She had them at ‘Hello’.

4/5 stars

They came with spouses, with boyfriends, with grandmas. They came in families, alone, with children, and friends. They came skipping and running and limping and strolling.

And they came in hordes.

Although there were many (no doubt willing) husbands in tow, it was clear that on Friday night Adele was providing the ultimate girls’ night out for a large chunk of Sydney’s female population. (And those who weren’t there, were probably Justin Bieber fans broke from buying tickets to his upcoming concert in the very same stadium)

While the gender sway was obvious, the median age was a little harder to pick – but the fact that over half the audience burst into song only when The Turtles’ Happy Together (not Gomez, Bieber and co.) was piped into the arena pre-show, indicated a strong Baby Boomer presence. Regardless of age or sex they were ready to party, and in the case of many, with tipsy abandon.

Still, that’s what Adele does, isn’t it? She gives us permission to simply be ourselves – whether that’s to contribute our soulful howls to Someone Like You (“My songs are pretty miserable, I know” she concedes with a laugh), or throw our hands in the air to I’ll Be Waiting (“I know they’re telling you to sit down, but don’t listen to them!”).

ANZ Stadium engulfs 95 000 people with ease, but all that changes the instant Adele opens her mouth. There is no other voice that could so effortlessly fill, overwhelm and utterly own that cavernous stadium, yet at the same time – here’s the crazy part – sound as intimate as a bar gig.

Perhaps it’s because Adele’s modus operandi is bizarrely earthy for one so revered. Defiantly behaving as normally as possible in the face of extraordinary fame and adoration, she shares genuinely funny anecdotes with 95 000 people as though we’d bumped into her at the supermarket check-out queue. There are plenty of artists who (credit to them) try to reach out to their audience with easy familiarity. Adele just does it.

How? We’ll probably never know. At least, not while we’re swaying to When We Were Young, hollering Send My Love To Your New Lo-ov-er, and sitting amidst a twinkling stadium during Bob Dylan cover Make You Feel My Love.

If the crazy part was that this mammoth concert felt intimate, the crazier (though less surprising) part is exactly how good Adele sounds live. She may have warned us that “sometimes I burp” in the key change of Don’t You Remember; she may have been on the verge of tears as she stopped the concert to check on an unwell audience member; she may also have almost fallen down her own (“f***in'”) stairs and walked around 7000 steps as she made her rounds of the circular stage; but delivery after powerhouse delivery made it very clear that no studio can truly capture the magic that is Adele.

Of course, Adele is not a stadium performer – she told us so herself – but that is most likely because she has little use for fireworks, streamers and balloons (all of which we got just the same). Her voice trumps the lot. At the end of the night it is not the stadium show we have paid for, no mere spectacle; it is the privilege of being in the same space as that magnificent voice, paired with uncanny relatability. And that was worth every damn cent.

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SAFIA @ Enmore Theatre 18.11.16

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Seats? What seats? Everyone became a dancer at SAFIA’s Enmore Theatre gig last Friday.

4/5

Some gigs are led by the performers, leaving audiences in the wake of their brilliance. Some (not-so-great) gigs are led by the audience, dutifully egging on an artist who over-promised and under-delivered. And still other (definitely great) gigs are a manifestation of glorious performer/audience teamwork; a cycle that is the antithesis of vicious, amplifying vibe upon enthusiastic vibe to create an outpouring of abandoned self-expression for both parties.

SAFIA and their wonderful fans succeeded in delivering something like the latter at the Enmore Theatre on Friday night.

Sydney duo Set Mo had amply warmed the crowd with their persuasive disco tunes, but the roar that greeted SAFIA’s appearance on stage was worthy of a band with twice their (already impressive) success. An eclectic, casual and irrepressibly cheerful bunch, it was clear this audience had been with SAFIA for a while. Singing their hearts out from the get-go and dancing in their seats, they were rewarded with multiple confetti cannons, funky visuals and a hella lot of energy.

Pumping through a set list filled with tracks from their debut album Internal, as well as old favourites such as Make Them Wheels Roll , Counting Sheep and Embracing Me, SAFIA hurled themselves tirelessly at an audience who lovingly returned the energy tenfold. Each song was greeted like a hit single; every lyric was hollered by the devoted; and even those of us who usually treat seats as sacred carriers of personal space, abandoned them to better allow our bodies to move instinctively with the beats. Within 20 minutes the entire theatre was on its feet, grooving as one big party.

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If only someone had put a Fitbit on frontman Ben Woolner, he would surely have racked up his 10,000 steps within the hour, running from end to end like a crackling ball of electricity. While bandmates Michael Bell and Harry Sayers stayed put till the end, their contribution was just as intense – and the throngs of outstretched arms when they finally approached the stage edge proved their equal popularity.

SAFIA is certainly a band that comes to life on the stage. Already catchy and heartfelt, their electronic pop explodes with new immediacy when heard in the flesh; the grooves have an all-encompassing presence, and there was a sense of communal catharsis as the fans bellowed the chorus of My Love Is Gone.

In a city where live music venues are dying left, right and centre, a gig like this goes a long way to instil confidence and hope in the Sydney music scene. And in a day and age where millennials are decried for their anti-social behaviour, it was nice to revel in a crowd of young people encouraging others to dance, singing with abandon and happily enjoying the full-body effects of bloody good dance music.

Tinpan Orange @ The Vanguard 20.5.16

Tinpan Orange on stage at The Vanguard last Friday


4.5/5

The red wine flowed generously among the diners of The Vanguard last Friday, as they held hands in the candlelight or chatted animatedly to friends over multiple courses of dinner. With the median age hovering closer to 50 than 25, this was a crowd who likes to gig in comfort – and with such mesmerising performers as Tinpan Orange on the bill, why not?

The mood was unsurprisingly mellow before support act Jim Lawrie took the stage to serenade us. His lilac-hued tales of heartbreak, featuring resolute circles of emotional self-destruction, added an extra layer to the room’s comfortable stupor. It seemed we might never emerge from these fuzzy depths of melancholy, but they vanished the instant Emily Lubitz stepped on stage.

Blessed though she is with a magnetic stage presence and bewitching voice, Tinpan Orange’s front woman is also about as unaffected as they come. Chatting candidly about her inspirations, Emily readily admitted to borderline plagiarism and seeking songwriting assistance from Facebook, causing giggles and guffaws from every seat.

Beginning with the title track off new release Love Is A Dog, Tinpan powered through a crowd-pleasing set list that was equal parts nostalgia, and a persuasive argument for the purchase of their new material. Over The Sun favourites Birdy and Barcelona made a well-received appearance, while Song For Frida Kahlo satisfied the more loyal fans in the audience. But it was the band’s new songs that sounded freshest and most assured.

It is likely some of that assurance comes from Tinpan Orange’s newly refined musical identity. There is a cohesiveness to their latest album borne of artistic confidence, and it manifested in the quiet conviction that underpinned all their deliveries. Guitarist Jesse Lubitz provided solid rhythmic support not just in his playing, but in guiding the set list seamlessly through its paces, while Emily left us breathless in the wake of her candid vocal explorations.

The addition of violin virtuoso Alex Burkoy brought yet another dimension to the Tinpan sound – and it damn near made the show. At first it seemed Burkoy was only there to provide the melodic bass lines we were all familiar with, but suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a blistering violin solo that garnered a roar from the audience when it finally ended.

The fireworks were kept to a tasteful minimum however. Cities of Gold soared tenderly above the hushed crowd, Fools and Cowboys charmed and amused with its cautionary advice, and Rich Man was every bit as captivating as it sounds on the record. But it was unassuming album-closer Leopard that delivered that moment of pure,  spine-tingling intimacy that us gig-goers secretly hope every live encounter will offer up. Walking casually among the tables, the band clambered up on chairs and issued forth with disarming candour, stunning musicianship and a very real awareness of who they were sharing the room with.

An encore was non-negotiable and it came, in the form of a Lubitz-ised cover of Hank Williams’ Jambalaya. An odd choice perhaps, from a band whose audience had consistently begged for their originals, but it was further proof that these musicians’ confident brushstrokes can be applied to other canvases with stunning effect.

Phantom Of The Opera @ The Blue Mountains Theatre 10.10.15

If battling traffic into the Sydney CBD is not your idea of pre-show entertainment, breathe easy: the Blue Mountains has talent that seriously rivals the city theatres. Finally back at home on their new Springwood stage, the Blue Mountains Musical Society opened their production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera to a near sold-out crowd last Saturday, and delivered a performance that earned them a standing ovation. READ MORE.

Simon Tedeschi & Roger Benedict @ The Hub 22.8.15

Whispers of awe and exclamations of praise could be heard amongst the buzzing crowd that filed into The Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub to await the appearance of pianist Simon Tedeschi and violist Roger Benedict. For those of us who grew up performing and sitting in audiences in the old civic centre, the experience is slightly surreal. It’s an exciting update though: the modern, spacious theatre is a performance venue to which Springwood can be really proud to invite world-class performers. READ MORE.

DAN SULTAN @ The Metro 11.7.14

Even with a severe case of Man Flu, the Sultan of swagger still managed to put on a rockin’ good show.

Dan Sultan: A little huskier than usual at The Metro last night, but still putting in 100%.

Minutes after walking onto The Metro stage to a solid wave of whoops and cheers, and blasting through Blackbird album-opener Make Me Slip, it looked like Dan Sultan mightn’t last the night. 

“I’ve gotta be honest with you…I’m sick as a f—ing dog” Sultan confessed early in the set, obviously disappointed with his physical condition. Numerous offers of fatherhood, shouted out – mainly – by those audience members in possession of ovaries, confirmed his fans did not share the same disappointment. They were here to support a guy whose music they love, and if he was feeling under the weather that just meant they were going to “cheer” him up in a very literal sense.

Sultan’s crowd is an eclectic bunch, consisting of hipster fortysomethings and happy-go-party young ‘uns with a beverage in each hand. They mingled happily, dancing and whooping to the catchy rock riffs and egging on every little groin-thrust and hair-flick from the man they had paid to see. The adoration was not wasted on Sultan, who stopped mid-set to thank this particular crowd for being “inspiring”. He doesn’t let it go to his head though. “You’re so hot Dan!” screamed one enthusiastic fan, to which Sultan quipped “I’m hot? Of course I’m f—ing hot – I’m under all these lights!”.

Warming (perhaps literally) to the support of his audience and the high-energy material, Sultan didn’t let his virus-riddled state interfere with the rock n’ roll we’d been promised. He coughed a little, chugged some water, then proceeded to sing like a man who had little concern for his vocal chords (or the fact that he has twelve more gigs lined up for the Blackbird tour). Throwing in extra guitar pyrotechnics when his voice needed a rest, by the time Sultan closed a three-song encore with the exhilarating Kimberley Callingwe’d almost forgotten we owed this gig to cold-and-flu meds.

The set list was clearly designed to promote Sultan’s new album Blackbird, and the crowd was duly pleased with brand new rockers like Ain’t Thinking About You and The Same Man. Popular 2013 single Under Your Skin sparked a raucous crowd singalong, but when Sultan pulled a few from the archives Old Fitzroy sparked renewed cheering and flailing limbs all across the dance floor. It was clear last night’s crowd had been with Sultan for a while.

Evidently both thrilled and relieved to be writing again, Dan paused to reflect on the purpose of this tour – his new album. “It’s been a while between records, friends” he sighed, curiously vulnerable for a moment (his last full-length release was 2009’s Get Out While You Can), but the ensuing cheers promised a warm welcome for the new material. Indeed, Blackbird is proof that we should be thrilled and relieved Dan’s writing again too. 3.5/5

Dan Sultan’s third studio album Blackbird is out now, through Liberation Records.