"Every beer-bellied man in that room felt inferior as soon as he stepped on stage."
Ainslie Wills, along with guitarist Lawrence Folvig, has gained a plethora of new fans on an unexpectedly successful night in an old town hall in Adelaide. Wills captivated the boisterous room from her opening track with banter on how she has visited Adelaide many times, but has never played in a venue like this, or to such a crowd. And she was right. Instead of the usual fans you'd expect to see at her big name support slots (Big Scary collaborations, a European Grouplove tour etc), every 40+ couple in Adelaide was in attendance tonight, with flip phones recording each song, cheap wine in the air and, yes, about 50 men in outdated Powderfinger shirts. Vocal melodies and Folvig's rumbling guitar filled the room and the set was a short, sweet and suitable appetiser for the night to come.
Following was Dustin Tebbutt. Easy to listen to, his voice was almost faultless and expectantly ethereal, but it wasn't quite suited to the crowd. Fans ears were tuned in happily, but there was next to no engagement, and slowly chit-chat was almost as audible as Tebbutt's voice. Stripping back his show, there was an awkward moment where Tebbutt's pre-recorded vocals during Bones either glitched, Tebbutt sang the wrong lyrics, or there was an electronic mishap. You could clearly hear that his voice didn't match up with what was playing even louder to the crowd. They restarted, without any sort of interjection, and it left the room confused and almost taken aback that not every ounce of his set was live. Even if Tebbutt had played every string of every instrument live on stage, singing each lyric as perfectly as humanely possible, the crowd wouldn't have cared a bit, purely and only because he wasn't tonight's headliner.
Bernard Fanning was the saving grace. He was every bit as humorous, charming and upbeat as we had imagined, embodied with a laid-back energy that had the room swooning. And did the crowd lap it up. Donning a midnight blue suit with his trademark shaggy hair, his guitar seeming like another limb to his body, every beer-bellied man in that room felt inferior as soon as he stepped on stage.
He was the perfect performer, instilling clapping, foot stomping and almost cringe-worthy singalongs through over half of the set, all the while sharing the admiration to his backing band The Black Fins, as though not to steal all of that limelight.
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The crowd melted like butter when, after a 90-minute set, Fanning announced his hatred of "those bullshit fake encores" and cut to the chase with Wish You Well, followed by a solo Watch Over Me. Bringing The Black Fins back out on stage to gather around a single mic, Fanning dedicated his final track to Prince and Bowie, playing the crowd like a fucking genius. He then ended on a rendition of These Days that somehow blended into Prince's Purple Rain.
If you listen closely, you can still hear Fanning's laughter as he drives away into the sunset, surely knowing he's now the screensaver on 500 Adelaide mum's flip phones and not caring one bit.