Live Review: Aldous Harding, Jess Ribeiro, Seth Frightening

10 March 2016 | 11:35 am | Chris Familton

"She swaggered and swayed, clacked her teeth and sang about princesses and horizons to a transfixed audience."

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This was an evening of three shades of solo performance, three acoustic guitars, three bewitching voices and a common thread of dark humour. Aucklander Seth Frightening serenaded the slowly filling room with his fascinating mix of spooky, atmospheric folk music. With a melancholy angelic voice he stepped out of the standard folk singer paradigm by incorporating vocal and guitar effects — reverb, delay and distortion — to place his songs in a ghostly end of singer/songwriter territory reminiscent of artists such as Ugly Casanova and The Microphones.

Jess Ribeiro was playing solo for the first time in a while and it allowed her the space and the freedom to choose at whim from her cache of songs. She ventured back to the first folk song she wrote, played a song about fishing written for the father of one of The Waifs and gave us a cutting insight into her family and personal life with often hilarious between-song banter. The highlights came with songs from last year's Kill It Yourself LP that showcased Ribeiro's knack for weaving melodic and rhythmic tension through her songs and that sweet voice that always sounds subtly laced with something more sinister.

Aldous Harding's reputation continues to grow with each tour through Sydney, both as a solo artist and sometimes as a member of Marlon Williams' band. This performance was a chance for Harding to air a brace of new songs destined for her new album Party, due to be recorded mid-year. The title track was an early standout, documenting booze and personal relationships. Harding's stage demeanour is endlessly fascinating. She twists grotesque facial expressions to dig out heavenly, bewitching and mesmerising folk music. The sense of drama and theatre is palpable in what she does and it wouldn't work if the source material she writes wasn't so intense, personal and often painful. Beast and Stop Your Tears were reminders of her excellent debut album, but tonight it was about the new songs — the crowning glory left to the end with Harding accompanied only by piano as she swaggered and swayed, clacked her teeth and sang about princesses and horizons to a transfixed audience, who then drew the singer back to the stage for a commanding a cappella version of Roy Orbison's Crying.