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Live Review: Montell Fish - Vivid Sydney @ Carriageworks

1 June 2024 | 10:27 am | Jake Fitzpatrick

The night Sydney fell deeply in love with Montell Fish.

Montell Fish

Montell Fish (Credit: Ruby Boland)

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Sometimes, you meet people in places, and for some reason, unbeknownst to you or them, it just works. The conversation flows, you feel immediate comfort, and you become, almost instantly, entranced by this beautiful stranger. While you might never meet each other again, you know that for those few moments, it’s love—or a love affair, at least. 

Last night’s Montell Fish concert at Carriageworks was akin to one of those moments. 

Bringing his Intercession Before Charlotte tour to Australia and New Zealand, Carriageworks was drenched in anticipation for the sold-out show. As I waited for Fish (born Montell Frazier) to hit the stage, I stood amongst a sea of nervous chatter and phone scrolls, each of us just hoping that the 26-year-old Pittsburgh native would live up to our exceedingly high expectations. 

As the lights dimmed, a cacophonous scream ensued, punctuated by mobile phones flying into the air like fish in a sea. A bare stage complete with only a metal prism, the stage decorations really were the instruments. 

Fish then strutted out into the light, wearing what can only be described as a Maleficent-like face mask. I found it immediately intriguing, like something out of a film. I later realised that this was Fish’s other persona, DJ Gummy Bear

“Sydney, what the fuck is up,” Fish said to the boisterous crowd before grabbing his guitar and jumping into the DJ Gummy Bear track, Break From Her Spell. A song about being unable to let someone go, Fish sang the line “I’m so addicted to you” at us like we were his old lover. It felt incredibly intimate from the word go. 

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Next, he took off his mask to perform Pretend Lovers, a deliciously upbeat, guitar-dipped song about pretending to be in love with someone. The song instantly loosened up any stiffness that might have plagued the audience before Fish’s arrival on stage.  

It soon became quite clear that this performance would be a love affair between Sydney and Montell Fish. Where both parties would need to trade the other a piece of themselves. But I could tell Sydney was up for that challenge. 

A self-described ‘communicator of emotion’, Fish has a penchant for writing lyrics that feel deeply personal. The kind of things you tell yourself in your lowest moments. The audience at Carriageworks seemed to really connect with Fish’s lyrics. 

Parroting them back at him like a prophet, the song Destroy Myself Just For You felt particularly striking. “I destroy myself just for you, you”, Fish repeated to himself with genuine earnestness. For the song, Fish was also accompanied by a violinist and a cello player. Their accompaniment managed to ascend the song into an even greater level of mourning. 

I noted the beautiful simplicity of some of Fish’s music here. Songs like Talk 2 Me share sentiments that many artists commonly use, but with Fish, it all sounds fresher and even more heartbreaking. At times during the set, my heart genuinely broke for him. At one point, Fish even became so enraptured in a song that he began to cry. You could hear the heartbreak in him, and you could see that he has used these songs to put himself back together. 

“Sydney, can I show you love?” Fish asked as he jumped onto the piano for his soulful tune, And i’d go a thousand miles. A song about wanting to do anything to keep a lover, the song showcased Fish’s vocal register. He has that enviable ability to jump from high to low like it’s as easy as breathing, which I can assure you, it’s patently not. 

At times, some of the set felt slightly wallowed down in songs of loss and heartbreak that a change of pace was needed. This arrived towards the second half of the set, when Fish jumped into the beautifully heavy track, Exscape, off his 2022 album, Her Love Still Haunts Me Like A Ghost. The song juxtaposes Fish’s high register with a low beat to infectious results. 

“You’ve been fucking incredible tonight, Sydney,” Fish said before jumping into his final song, Hotel, which the entire audience knew the lyrics. As Fish walked off the stage, it was clear he was going to come back. There was one final song he had to play. 

After a brief reprieve, Fish soon walked out again. “Someone leaked my set list, so you knew I was coming out”, Fish said through half a smile. 

“Do you love me?” Fish asked before he played his hauntingly delicate Fall In Love With You. A scream of love ensued, but by this point, he barely even had to ask. The love was as palpable as the sheen of the artist’s sweat that dripped down from his brow. 

“Good, because I love you too”.

While Fish will continue to give love to other cities on a nightly basis, we had him on 31 May 2024. That will always be the night that Sydney fell in love with Montell Fish.