Live Review: Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders, Emma Russack

7 August 2017 | 1:12 pm | Hannah Welch

"The power of Ladder's baritone bellow is undeniable and infectious."

More Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders More Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders

Opening act Emma Russack has an incredible, comfortable presence on stage and emanates confidence and connectivity with the audience.

Her set is tempered with almost comedic introductions, which bleeds into the songs themselves and are delivered like well-thought-out material from a seasoned stand-up performer. Second song If You Could See Me Now tells us a deadpan story of getting it together ("I rode my bike, no more taxis/'Cause I'm saving money for a house one day"). While she sings with physicality and shakes her head, Russack's delivery is as important to a song's meaning as the lyrics. The flip side to Russack's performance is her ability to sing incredible, strong, often sad ballads that nail a knife-edge articulation on what it's like being a woman in Australia.

Russack is accompanied by a drummer and a bass player, and together they deliver an entertaining set that includes Bonnie Price Billy and Radiohead covers, and one the saddest and most beautiful a cappella finales we have seen in quite some time. Russack's songwriting is formidable, her articulation is spot-on.

Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders bring a different confidence and connectivity altogether. The big band, light show and smoke machine bring the attitude we're waiting for, despite constant audience chatter throughout.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

The band open with contagious pop ditty Come On Back This Way that Ladder (born Tim Rogers; a joke not lost on him that he admits during this set) recorded with American singer-songwriter, Sharon Van Etten. The crowd seems to react the strongest to Ladder's sensual, beat-driven, '80s-inspired, Depeche Mode-esque song Her Hands. The power of Ladder's baritone bellow is undeniable and infectious, his voice is strong and calls to mind artists such as Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen and Mark Lanegan but with his own stamp. And The Dreamlanders are a band de force, with crowd favourite Donny Benet at the helm. Newest single Susan builds on the vibe of Her Hands breaking through to disco. Ladder's heart-validating song To Keep & To Be Kept winds down the set in beautiful form before a two-song encore seems to loosen Ladder up a bit, as he talks to the crowd and admits he suffers from stage fright, which is something we would never have guessed after such an incredible performance.