Following a short ‘computer performance’ of ambient music by the enigmatic artist Lawrence English, Dan Kelly took to the stage and immediately pulled the crowd to attention. With the mirror ball bathing the room in tiny pinpoints of light, and people lounging on the floor while enjoying an ale or two, the setting and the timing was right for Dan Kelly to spread his own special kind of magic. Demonstrating his wry sense of humour Kelly sings about real social and political issues but lightens the message through clever use of cultural references and touches of comedy.
Taking to the stage as a solo performer, he admitted that ‘it was a little scary without the band’, but you wouldn’t know it. Opening with ‘A Pregnant Conversation’, the audience instantly responds, repaying his efforts with much laughter and applause. Drawing the material for his songs from real life he is an accessible and instantly appealing storyteller, who pauses often to explain the inspiration for each song. The audience joined in for a sing along on the incredibly catchy ‘Bunk Lovin’ Man’, and the politically impassioned ‘Drunk on election night’. With songs that focus heavily on the Australian way of life, it seemed fitting that his set ended with ‘Summer Wino’, a song about drinking and wasting time on a hot summer day.
With the venue now at capacity the sublime Holly Throsby quietly took to the stage with Jens Birchall on strings and Bree van Reyk on percussion, and opened with the honest and heartfelt ‘I Worry Very Well’ from her album Under the Town. With her entrance she brought a feeling of calm to the stage, casting a dreamy and peaceful spell on the audience. Moving then to ‘Shoulders and Bends’, Holly draws parallels between driving at night and the twists and turns of life and love with her own unique poetry. While her band provides a full-bodied musical experience, it is when she stands alone before us such as during her performance of ‘If We Go Easy’, that her spine tinglingly beautiful lyrics and the unaffected simplicity of her performance are highlighted. At these times the audience is quiet and still, completely captivated by her voice and poignant music.
Later rejoined by Jens and Bree, Holly closed her set with the jazz and bluesy toned ‘Making a Fire’. However we didn’t have long to wait for the stage to come to life once more, with Holly returning for a solo performance of ‘We’re good people but why don’t we show it?’ from her 2004 release On Night. Sweetly sorrowful and yet coloured with hope this hauntingly beautiful song with its uncluttered arrangement shows off Holly’s voice to full and stunning effect.
Saying that she couldn’t really leave it there ‘because it’s Saturday night’, the band returned and performed a beautifully evocative rendition of the Otis Redding classic ‘These Arms of Mine’. While her entire performance was entrancing, soulful and delicately reflective, she truly saved the best to last.
I originally wrote this article for ‘The Dwarf‘.