Live Review: Lisa Mitchell

16 June 2012 | 6:34 pm | Guido Farnell

Her stage presence retains a certain awkwardness that is kind of cute.

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Taking our seats in the 'dress circle' at St Michael's is something of a surprise as we come to terms with the novelty of catching a gig in a church. Punters have packed out the pews. Local duo Georgia Fair take advantage of the church's acoustics and are gently strumming their guitars to create a soft, low-key ambiance. The folk-pop duo comprised of Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley confidently treat us to a selection of love songs from their album All Through The Winter. Their music draws from the folk influences of yesteryear, but with clear and tender two-part vocal harmonies that distinguish them from the rest of the pack.

Looking divine in a sparkling white satin evening gown, Lisa Mitchell walks to the front of the stage and quietly asks if it's okay if she reads us a poem. Her soft reading gets the evening off to a gentle start. It serves as a prelude before she treats us to a new song, Diamonds In The Rough. Mitchell accompanies herself on the electric piano. It twinkles alongside her distinctive and quirky voice, which trembles with emotion. Melbourne a cappella trio Aluka, resembling angels complete with faux halos, assist Mitchell with their luscious harmonies that verge on the celestial. “That's off my second album,” says Mitchell. “I can say that now because it is about to be released,” she laughs. Although Mitchell has grown up since we first encountered her as a teenager on Australian Idol in 2006, her stage presence retains a certain awkwardness that is kind of cute. She is soon joined by her clean-cut band of minstrels who deliver a full-bodied sound, which never truly takes flight but concentrates instead on keeping their brand of folk pop sounding distinctly polite. 
After a few songs it's time for the door prize, hidden in one of the Spiritus singles Mitchell has gifted to everyone in the audience. Amusingly, when Mitchell pecks the young man who won the prize on the cheek, the crowd “awww” in unison.

Softer and tender moments dealt through songs such as Pirouette and Love Letters wash over as truly heavenly. Upbeat favourites such as Neapolitan Dreams and Coin Laundry are simply heart-warmingly feelgood. The new single Spiritus comes with unexpected Afro influences dancing around us. Moments later, Mitchell's singing a joyously uplifting mantra she learned in yoga class but has lovingly crafted into pop perfection since.

Tonight Mitchell preaches to the converted. Her congregation listens in rapt contemplation. She has given us a tantalising taster from her upcoming album for which most of us are now impatient to hear. Oh! Hark!, which brings down the night, elicits applause and satisfied gasps of “hallelujah” and “amen”. 

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