The Pierce Brothers had no trouble commanding the large stage at the West Gippsland Arts Centre bringing tremendous energy to a seated show. Multi-instrumentalists, brothers Jack and Pat play and move with a seamless connection that brings fluency and rawness to their live performance. Broken drum sticks didn’t slow them down with a bit of duct tape and a coat hanger helping the performance continue. The Pierce Brothers left the stage to a standing ovation from some of the crowd, their high energy folk music clearly impressing.
When Dan Sultans towering frame walked onto the stage he was met with loud applause followed by a call and answer of “Oowws!!”, some clearly happy with the man before he even struck a chord.
Opening with ‘Under Your Skin’, the song still held it’s edginess with Dan electing to play electric guitar. It took a few songs before you saw him relax into his songs and surrounds, at this point the full talent and intensity of his voice rang through. Playing songs from his now Gold Album Blackbird and tracks from his latest EP Dirty Ground including ‘On the Leffy, ‘Mountaintop’, ‘Man on TV’, and ‘Dirty Ground’, the striking opening track written with Paul Kelly.
Playing without a band leaves you constantly in the spotlight, there are no chances for a quick breather before the next song only the expectation to entertain. Dan managed well as the solo man, engaging with the audience after every song, sharing stories, making jokes, sharing a part of himself. In these moments of sharing stories about when his cat had more furniture than him, relationship insights shared with Paul Dempsey over a beer (or several), the hidden sides to lives we think we know, and the influence of family and life, the chairs almost felt like they edged closer a metre or two.
Mid-set Dan parted with his Fender and moved over to the Electric Piano. ‘It Belongs to Us’ was his opener and was played to a level I personally had not expected, tender with bursts of soaring vocals, a highlight of the night. This was followed up by ‘Mountaintop’ a track written with Paul Dempsey.
Dans performance only got stronger as the evening went on, his choice of songs translating well to a stripped back tone. Leaving the stage to rapturous applause playing a heart rendering Kimberley Calling, a song that explores him finding his grandmothers resting place whom he had never met due to the disastrous policies that created the Stolen Generation. A standing ovation soon saw Dan Sultan return for one final song bringing on more “Owwwws!!” from the audience.
Watching Dan Sultan perform live felt like watching someone balancing on an imaginary shelf between vulnerability and strength. Raw, perhaps a little broken, but still commanding an undeniable presence and strength. An accolade of awards has assured his strength as a songwriter and performer but the true rewards (perhaps for both Artist and Audience) come from the personal connection that only a live performance can give.
Photography and Review by Lauren Murphy