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Live Review: Olympia, Sarah Belkner, Saatsuma

20 June 2016 | 1:50 pm | Joey Davy

"A glorious show of charisma and strength."

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While both nights of the Melbourne leg of Olympia's Self Talk album launch are sold out, it's rather a tame beginning tonight since not many have taken heed of the recommendation to get in early for the carefully curated support acts. This is a shame, because Melbourne five-piece Saatsuma's set is well worth a dance. Foot-stampable drums and live drum pad production paired with dreamy, sweet vocals feel like Jamie xx meeting Grimes for a set of grungy electro-pop.

A few more heads trickle in to catch Sarah Belkner's short set. If you closed your eyes you wouldn't know there is only one person up there on stage, with Belkner's pre-recorded drum track, keys and instrumental voice an impressive collaboration between raw human emotion and electronic production. It becomes clear that the theme of the night is storytelling, Belkner draws the small crowd in to feel elated, consumed and shocked, taking us on journeys through song.

A full house of mixed age audience members greets Olympia's signature electric blue stage wash. Curtains are drawn back to reveal the superwoman herself in an '80s-inspired, metallic two-piece with fabric growths on each shoulder. Olivia Bartley oozes rock'n'roll; what might look like set and costume design for another looks just like home for the lead singer/guitarist, alongside Pat Bourke on bass, Simon Braxton on drums and later Sarah Belkner (who returns on keys and vocals).

The crowd is motionless as Bartley looks every punter in the eye and talks directly to us, telling tales of the people around the world who inspire her songs. Without saying what it really was that struck her about these 'characters', Bartley instead leaves us to figure it out for ourselves, creating intrigue and then delivering answers, over and over and over - a true performer.

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Being spoken at by Bartley for so long does make it hard to really let go and enjoy the band for just their music, but you can't possibly gloss over their skill as instrumentalists, songwriters and performers. The sweet overtone to Bartley's belting voice and physical dedication to each bar is a glorious show of charisma and strength. Comfortably at home as frontwoman, Bartley's talent plus cheeky-but-humble nature combine to make a captivating driving force for Olympia.