LIVE REVIEW: Electric Empire @ OAF, Sydney (18/03/11)

written by Chris Familton

Fantine was a great choice to open Electric Empire’s gig with her impressive soul, funk RnB and hip hop sound with some subtle indie sensibilities stirred into the mix. What sets her apart from many in the same market is her live band that makes the performance feel like a group effort, even though she is the undeniable centre of attention. Fantine’s look was a mix of art chic and soul diva topped off with a voice that never missed a note. Her single Rubberoom was fun and catchy as hell without descending too deep into the pop shallows. Immensely marketable, the bonus is she has the songs and the charisma to be successful on the world stage real and witnessing her set felt like seeing a star on the rise.

The crowd were well and truly ready for Electric Empire when the OAF curtains parted to reveal the trio (plus bassist) looking resplendent and slick in their jazz/soul threads. Having your drummer as the centre of attention is a weird thing to get used to but Jason Heerah pulled it off with a mix of unbridled enthusiasm, exceptional drumming and what came across as a real joy just to be up there playing with his friends. Though he was the focal point of the band he was flanked by Aaron Mendozza (keyboards/vox) and main songwriter Dennis Dowlut (guitar/vox) who both possess equally impressive voices and playing abilities.

Electric Empire play music that sounds instantly familiar and comfortable. It felt like you were being transported into classic Al Green, Stevie Wonder and James Brown albums but totally devoid of nostalgia or recycling of those artist’s sounds. Songs like Baby Your Lovin’ was sweet and sultry,  Have You Around was all understated funk while other tracks hinted at 80s influences like Terence Trent D’Arby and Michael Jackson. Special mention should also go to their bassist Marcel who has to be one of the best players around at the moment. He could play hard or soft, totally riding Heerah’s killer grooves.

Electric Empire were smooth and slick, warm and positive without being cloying or overly saccharine and they showed charm in spades. The perfect mix for the type of soul music Electric Empire do so well.

this review first appeared in Drum Media

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