Deadly Hearts @ Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Famous Spiegeltent, Adelaide 14/6/2021

A celebration of music, culture, identity, and connection, from the hearts and mouths of Australia’s deadly Indigenous artists, lies at the core of Deadly Hearts.

A year after Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 Deadly Hearts event, The Famous Spiegeltent was dusted off and played host to this memorable one night only performance. Comedian Steph Tisdell acted as the night’s MC and did a spectacular job to unite and uplift the audience while sprinkling her comedic talents in between sets. Tisdell exuded an infectious positivity and warmth, making her the glue that unified Deadly Hearts.

After a brief welcome to country and Yidaki performance, seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter Aodhan opened the show. He highlighted what the world can expect from the next generation of First Nation’s artists. The winner of the triple j Unearthed High Indigenous Initiative in 2019, Aodhan overcame nerves and the excitement of performing in Adelaide for the first time (I mean, who wouldn’t be excited) to put on an entertaining nine-song set. With a limited back catalogue to draw upon, he ensured original songs were interwoven with covers. His mentor, Josh Pyke’s, Middle of the Hill, Alexander Biggs Madeline and Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams peppered songs including Fortune Cookie, Flies in My Room, Daily Meditation, Twelve Again and his Unearthed High winning When Your Eyes Speak. Aodhan’s talent was obvious, but his genuineness was a refreshing surprise.

Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal, Zenadh Kes song woman Kee’ahn was next on the bill. Releasing her debut single in May 2020, her short set was a testament to her short time in the public eye. But what she lacked in quantity was made up for in quality. Her smooth and soulful voice transported the audience to a place of wonderment as she sang a range of originals and covers. Hearing songs including Smoke, Games, Reckless and Sweet Spot gave everyone insight into Kee’ahn. But it was her final song, Better Things, where the planets seem to beautifully align. As she sang, the sun streamed through the Spiegeltent windows. They generated a golden glow to complement her golden voice.

With covid still wreaking havoc, three of the four Deadly Hearts’ acts couldn’t bring their bands with them due to ongoing restrictions. But for Tia Gostelow, that thankfully wasn’t applicable. With Izzy on the bass and keys, Jordan on guitar and keys and Sebastian on drums, Tia burst onto the stage with an energy that prompted the audience to get on their feet and get dancing. Highlighting songs from her two albums, 2018’s Thick Skin and 2020’s Chrysalis, Tia and her band delivered some indie-pop goodness commencing with Two Lovers and ending with the delightfully sounding but lyrically angsty, Always. For an audience not used to GA standing at gigs, they definitely found their groove with this set.

After a fabulous few hours of experiencing Australia’s finest emerging Indigenous talent, it was time for the headliner. Established singer, songwriter, author, actor and six-time ARIA award-winning musician, Dan Sultan took to the stage in his now-familiar all-black garb. With only a borrowed guitar to play with and a stool to sit on, his carefree demeanour veiled the reality of what was to come.

The following hour was a versatile mix of Sultan, the comedic bloke bantering with the crowd and a vulnerable, passionate performer. Sultan freely admitted that he was performing on the fly with more time allocated to banter than songs, and he wasn’t lying. Opening with his current single Tarred and Feathered, the audience was immediately captivated by his sheer talent. With a distinct country/ bluegrass sound, Tarred and Feathered paved the way for a handful of unreleased new songs of a similar genre including, Boats. Originally written in collaboration with What So Not in 2020, Boats has been reworked and is set to be eventually released. A few old songs also made the cut including, Kimberley Calling and a stunning, goose bump-inducing Old Fitzroy that closed out the main set. Sultan’s final song, an encore of his first – Tarred and Feathered – was however a noticeable stoke of laziness, unfortunately.

Sultan, three years sober now and proud of it, wore his heart on his sleeve in this intimate and unique acoustic performance. He spoke candidly of his passions, faults, frustrations, and the meaning behind his songs. This forthrightness made for a captivating evening of entertainment that is unlikely to be paralleled.

Deadly Hearts was a unique yet remarkable event to be a part of. Despite being affected by the restrictions of a global pandemic for a second year, the artists rose to the occasion to create a once in a lifetime experience for audiences of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival Review By Anita Kertes

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