Emma Swift’s opening set and one of her last in Australia for the foreseeable future was a stark contrast to what was to follow. In a slowly filling room she kept the audience enthralled in eerie silence as she played songs from her debut mini-album plus a cover of Gram Parsons’ Brass Buttons. Over 30 minutes she sang sad songs of heartache with that voice that mainlines heavy emotion before concluding with a devastating take on Rowland S. Howard’s Shivers, transforming it into a wholly believable personal torch-song.
Robyn Hitchcock has been immersing himself in the culture of Sydney’s inner west in recent times and hooking up with local group The Holy Soul proved to be a masterstroke. Bringing just the right amount of virtuosity and grit to the music ensured the songs never sounded like covers. It’d be hard to find a more appropriate band to tackle the pop, rock and psychedelic shapes of Hitchcock’s music. The man of many colourful shirts went with the classic polka dot design and took us on a trip through his musical back-lot, from the Soft Boys to The Egyptians, solo tracks and onto The Venus 3. The common thread to all the songs was Hitchcock’s uniquely English voice – that pitched accent reminiscent of Bowie, Syd Barrett and Bolan – and the way he weaves surreal and eccentric lyrics into eminently catchy songs. The Soft Boys’ Kingdom Of Love was a tumbling collision of riffs and melodies over a glam groove, Full Moon In My Soul was one of the more beautiful and tender moments and Adventure Rocketship was pure power-pop interstellar adventure. Swift returned to duet on a couple of songs including a captivating Nietzsche’s Way before The Holy Soul rounded out a night of music that respectfully celebrated the music of one of music’s great underground geniuses.
this review was first published in The Music