Darren Sylvester opened the show with a solo set that felt a little dwarfed by the expanse of the Town Hall and the slowly arriving punters. With the aid of backing tracks he hit similar territory to 90s Suede and 80s dream pop but would be a much more interesting proposition with other musicians around him.
John Murry’s The Graceless Age (2012) has been a slow burner of an album, spreading via word of mouth to the extent where it has brought Murry to Australia. One man and a guitar was all that was needed for him to play a set that cut right to the core of his songwriting ability. Sadness, pain, despair and redemption populate his songs and he communicated all of those brilliantly on stage. His voice at times coarse and abrasive, other times contemplative and optimistic he silenced the Town Hall on a number of occasions, particularly with the devastating Southern Sky and Things We Lost In The Fire. Murry’s performance highlighted an exceptional writer, just on the cusp of realising his talent.
Like Murry, John Grant has had his share of personal demons to deal with and his show was a wonderful example of how to do that via humour and song. With a band predominately comprised of Icelandic musicians, Grant focused on tracks from last year’s Pale Green Ghosts album. The electronic slant of that record lent itself well to the live setting with most songs sounding warmer and more alive than their recorded versions. Grant’s voice sounded exceptionally good, high and confident in the mix and never missing a note. Glacier, Pale Green Ghosts and Vietnam were highlights before the main set concluded with an explosive quiet/loud rendition of Queen of Denmark. Tonight showed how Grant has finally discovered and is reveling in his own unique take on synth-pop, soul and literal Nilsson-esque pop.
this review was first published in The Music