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Live Review: Carly Rae Jepson @ Forum

14 March 2023 | 1:33 pm | Andy Hazel

“We’re already planning our next trip back down here.”

Pic By Joshua Braybrook

Pic By Joshua Braybrook

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Long before rising Melbourne dance act Memphis LK arrives on stage, the Forum is crammed full of people with tight, sparkly clothes and wide smiles who seem to feed off their proximity to fans of pop music. 

This overwhelming positive atmosphere is fed by Memphis LK, who responds to the loud cheers greeting her arrival with a set of banging dance music that is more interested in creating little worlds of sound than sticking to regular BPMs. Memphis LK spins 90s drum and bass to frothy peaks over which she coos intimate rhymes and witty asides about relationships. The combination of quietly furious beats, effervescent synth chords and gently close mic’ed vocalising is extremely effective, and it’s easy to see why her profile is growing after two EPs and a clutch of singles. Memphis’s sounds are so urban European that the curl of her Melbourne accent at the end of her lyrics sounds bigger than it is. Opening her set with the warm house beats and burbling synths of Where Angels Go to Die, Memphis bugs out behind the DJ setup, mic in hand, faders getting nudged and dials getting turned. Tricky, Whip, Coffee and the title track from her latest EP, Too Much Fun, follow. Memphis LK delivers a set that tours the dance genres of the 90s in a way that is united by era rather than genre. At one point, she plays the clarinet over a pounding Aphex Twin style beat, and, as with her occasional forays into talking to the crowd, we love it. Memphis approaches and plays music with a genuine sense of discovery, keeping things fresh. It’s a great asset and one that it doesn’t sound like she is in any danger of losing.

After a short set of 1970s pop hits play over the PA, the venue darkens and explodes into cheering, screaming and applause. To the strains of Surrender My Heart, Carly Rae Jepsen’s band arrives, one by one: keyboardist Jared Manierka, drummer Nik Pesut, guitarist Tavish Crowe, bassist Abe Nouri and backing vocalists Sophi Bairley and Julia Ross. Finally, Jepsen arrives. Wearing an iridescent aquamarine dress and with her long flowing platinum hair, she resembles a mermaid. An Ariel who found her voice and brought out ours at volumes we didn’t realise we were capable of. For the rest of the opening song, the PA can’t stand a chance when up against our voluble love. Every word of Surrender My Heart, and most subsequent songs, is matched by a choir of fans screaming the lyrics back to the Canadian star.

Pic by Joshua Braybrook 

As if empowered by the love she is receiving, the band smiles, and Jepsen moves from one supercharged blast of pop perfection to the next. Run Away with Me, Too Much, Julien, Talking to Yourself, and we’re already at Call Me Maybe. “I hope you can all help me sing this next one,” she says by way of introduction. The crowd explodes, arms waving in unison as if reinforcing just how timeless this song is. As if fully aware of how she has arrived at a ten and taken us up to eleven, Jepsen brings us back to earth for a while with Bends, a song she describes as being “very close to my heart”.

After an instrumental interlude, Jepsen returns with a new outfit, one that allows her to move with greater freedom, and the slinky, shiny 70s disco of So Nice, the song that gave her tour its name. Staying on theme, we get one of her biggest hits, I Really Like You, from her album of peerless pop, E•MO•TION. Brilliantly deployed by Jepsen and brought to life by her band as a slice of hard-hitting synth-pop, it is one of the best examples in tonight’s set of how a song that may sound like immaculately produced bubble-gum pop is reinvented as something still danceable, but closer to something Chic. Pesut’s drums are so cavernous, and Manierka layers his synth sounds to such great effect that there is a real sense of the songs being played rather than pre-programmed. After asking the crowd whether we would prefer Cry or Your Type (we go with the latter), Now That I’ve Found You and I Didn’t Come Here Just to Dance are two more aural examples of too much sherbet. Jepsen rarely stays still, she uses up every square foot of the stage, setting off wave after wave of phone cameras from fans so in love with the moment they want to extend it. We jump in the air when the chorus of When I Needed You hits; we stay respectfully quiet when she lowers the temperature with the country-ish Go Find Yourself or Whatever. We scream in approval when she says she loves playing in Melbourne so much, “we’re already planning our next trip back down here.”

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Pic By Joshua Braybrook

“We’ve covered a lot of ground tonight,” she tells us, her words barely audible over the screaming. “We’ve sung about falling in love, being in love and being very far out of love, but we haven’t really talked about just having fun.” And so begins her encore of Beach House (“I've got a beach house in Malibu / And I'm probably gonna hurt your feelings”) and the final, undeniable bop, Cut to the Feeling, through which she conducts us using a large plastic sword she took from an especially enthusiastic fan. A final blast of glitter from a show that was essentially a non-stop musical confetti cannon. No notes.