"The Lubitz sibling harmonies are lush and Emily's falsetto steals control, weaving in and around all the delicious space they leave."
Seth Henderson opens with a particularly yearning solo set tonight.
Having seen this performer play a similar set dozens of times we wonder what's happening for him right now that makes this particular performance so direct and visceral. Listening through the cackles of those dining off to the side of the room, the seemingly innocent choirboy's voice gives way to a surprisingly dark sense of humour revealed in his stage banter between songs. Breaking through people's inability to see past themselves feels like an impossible task when you see this guy play to five people. His latest single Saints is particularly fierce and as he bellows out "goodbye" to close off the song he keeps repeating it in loops for much longer than he usually would. He's working things out, and channelling a sense of loss through a roar that's so intense that finally those cackling over their rib roast stop, look up to listen.
It feels like time sucks away around us for a few minutes, such is the power of his performance. It's a shame that most of the audience cling to the perimeters of the room, clutching their drinks suspiciously, refusing to give Henderson the attention he deserves until the very end of his set.
Returning for Tinpan Orange, there is an unexpected and very civilised population of carefully placed chairs in front of the stage, filled with what appears to be a frothy contingent of Tinpan Orange fans. They're so proper and respectful that it's terribly endearing and encouraging after the lack of attention spent on Henderson's support. Tinpan Orange open with a gentle, almost tentative Love Is A Dog. The Lubitz sibling harmonies are lush and Emily's falsetto steals control, weaving in and around all the delicious space they leave. In Like Snow violinist Alex Burkoy busts out a plush solo that sounds impossibly rich for a single violinist and leaves us all scratching our heads as to how he's just seemingly tripled his output.
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As they begin their cover of The Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning, a group of four sidle up to the sound desk and take the opportunity to drunkenly bellow in conversation about the new car one of them just bought. The bellowers seem to multiply and what initially appeared to be a captive audience gets cleaved apart. Hobart's apathy to the yelling group makes frontwoman Emily work hard. At least two excited punters decide to have a little twirl together during new single Wanderers. Before Cabarita, Emily playfully serves up, "Hobart, most of you are so quiet it's lovely. I can totally hear your conversation over there. You can fill me in on the details later." But the head bellower misses the gentle subtext and takes it as licence to yell even louder. Just as we're beginning to wish the walls would absorb this punter, Emily's killer falsetto rings out and slices through the confusion before Burkoy's violin solo blazes, refocuses intent and whips us all back, demanding the full attention of everyone in the room. By the time the band's final song Barcelona begins, the bellower pipes up for a final time and another audience member inevitably loses their shit completely, telling her off and beating us to it by a couple of seconds. She instantly disappears to the beer garden with her friends.
Despite their delicate and powerfully focused performance, Tinpan Orange have definitely had to compete for the centre of attention tonight. As the final lines of Barcelona ring out, we can see — through the window directly behind the stage — a woman in an elaborate red dress holding two gold balloons in the shape of a two and a one. A formally dressed, disconnected gaggle of friends stumble into view, seemingly disagreeing about what to do next in order to have fun. They're arguing audibly and tripping over one another. It feels like a powerful reminder that tonight everyone seems to be looking for something real, but no one is able to get out of their own way in order to see that it's already standing right here in front of them.