Opening the evening is June Jones performing solo on keyboard and pre-recorded backing tracks commencing with a song so lyrically downbeat I don’t know if (psychologically) she was actually going to even make it through this first song. In-between songs with inventive lyrics (“I had a mentor like a centaur / too much horseplay to get the job done”) she voiced enjoyable potentially self-deprecating witticisms (“I’ve never heard music. I write songs in a vacuum” and “thank you for spurring on the spruiking spiel”). Unfortunately, with her deep, post puberty, brittle vocals (a suitable sample lyric: “my voice was cracking like an egg”) mixed too high in amongst the muddy mix of the music, the full potential of the performance may have been lost although the audience were certainly appreciative of being able to experience June playing songs from recent album Diana.
Seeker Lover Keeper arrive onstage, Sarah Blasko flanked by Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann in matching plaid outfits augmented tonight by Laurence Pike on drums and James Haselwood mostly on bass commencing their set with Superstar which opens their latest album. Towards the end of this first song there is a sudden unexpected bass note blow-out which has the band smiling uncomfortable to each other before Holly Throsby acknowledges, “that’s the last of my hearing” and she continues by describing what we had just heard as “the brown note”. Along with another later comment made in humour, “We’re professionals. We aim to give a homely experience”, this banter gives an indication as to how the overall feel of the gig plays out tonight.
Sarah acknowledges that she’s singing “at half mast” but that is not noticeable and towards the end of the evening Holly praises her as a “mofo”, commenting that she has fallen short of using the potentially inappropriate less sanitised phrase but this doesn’t stop a further shout of appreciation from the audience at this time which lacks her self-censorship and subtlety.
The whole of the album Wild Seeds is given an airing tonight although slightly out of order and broken up by a sequence of songs from their self-titled debut late in the set. These newer songs seem to be the band deliberately exploring a different sound than that of their first album and of those songs in the live context, Time To Myself is the most classic, retro sounding, More Women is funky and could be described as a disco Supremes, while Two Dreamers is almost Motown with Sarah playing tambourine, a diversion from the synth-led songs where you can really appreciate the backing by Laurence and James.
Maybe it is her being unwell but tonight Sarah appears more playful than usual, at times briefly, randomly heckling people at the front of the stage. As Holly strums her guitar on the intro to I’m An Island, she is put off by Sarah looking at her and has to restart the song while Sarah comments, “I’m an audience member and band mate”.
Following Dear Night Time, Holly states, “We’re going to play you some old songs now” and they continue with a song they call their “theme”. The near muted, reserved backing instrumentation almost seems like an extended interlude or intro for most of the song, the simple repeated motif slowly building before the band accomplish a successful live fade-out. During On My Own, Sarah’s stage presence seems to have rubbed off on Sally as she commands her side of the stage in this performance of Sarah’s song. There is certainly more familiarity with the songs from the first album which is fair given the time passed since it was released and those songs receive the most appreciation from the audience. I was disappointed though that the joyous mood did not result in an audience sing along of Even Though I’m A Woman during this latter part of the show leading into the encore.
For the encore they return without their rhythm section and Holly says, “We’re going to play a really quiet song now”. With only acoustic guitar accompaniment and Sarah sounding like an old woman (but in a good way) they perform the faux country folk of Bring Me Back. James returns from backstage for Let it Go and then Wild Seeds is performed with Laurence completing the band line up. During this last song, Sarah seems to be almost channelling a soul singer and the band goes all Memphis-soul. Although lacking a horn section they achieve sounding like there is one.
Sarah may not have been on peak form according to the band themselves but this was a dearly anticipated show that came through with the promise of something special. It would be a cliché to ask them not to take so long between releases and another tour next time but after this show there is nothing else I can really ask for.
Live Review by Jason Leigh