Live Review: Bernard Fanning’s Brutal Dawn tour brings out strong numbers to Melbourne’s northside

Piling into the Croxton Bandroom on Thornbury’s High Street on Thursday evening, an audience representing a broad demographic of music fan take in the tones of two of Melbourne’s own, Oh Pep! – a long anticipated return to home turf gigging for Olivia Hally and Pep Emmerichs, who have spent a good deal of the past two years on the road cultivating a strong international standing.

Musically, Oh Pep! are as charming as ever, though the sound let them down considerably; for a room as big as The Croxton’s, the volume was way too loud for the act, performing this evening as a two piece. It would be a problem that would continue through into that of the headline set but for the majority of the crowd, it didn’t seem to hamper proceedings much at all.

So what do we make of Bernard Fanning‘s current slew of solo shows? Our recent interview with Fanning saw him delve further into double album project of Civil Dusk Brutal Dawn and the shows that have brought the songwriter closer to fans right around the country. This recent batch of live shows has seen Fanning return to more pub-like venues and bring his brand of folksy-rock to life with flair.

What is perhaps the most obvious takeaway from Fanning’s first show of two in Melbourne is that this is an artist feeling possibly the most comfortable in his own skin in quite some time. Civil Dusk and Brutal Dawn were adventurous moves for Fanning to make and had they been released in place of Tea and Sympathy, say, I highly doubt they would have landed with the same impetus. Fans of his wouldn’t have been ready for it, I’d wager.

Now, however, it is clear that the journey Fanning has taken from Powderfinger frontman to solo artist well in charge of his creative direction has been an organic one and with this calibre of show, it was great to see the culmination of such a solo journey be realised on stage like this. The crowd was right there with him throughout, too.

“Shed My Skin”, “Reckless”, “Songbird” and of course, “Wish You Well”, were received particularly warmly – though it’s clear that Fanning’s blockbuster single from Tea and Sympathy still remains a beast of its own, even if it might be to Fanning’s slight chagrin.

Having not seen Fanning perform since last year’s Falls Festival, it was interesting to see him perform headline in this type of setting. What we got was a show by a performer who knows exactly the sort of show he wants to put on and follows through strongly. Moving from the acoustic to the more rock stylings Powderfinger fans were more drawn to was an easy one for Fanning to navigate, even if it seemed slightly out of place to have a totally electric ‘encore’ to explode as it did at the end of the show. Still, it’s no surprise shows have been selling out for Fanning – fans streamed out of the Croxton looking well satisfied. That’s the least you can hope for, right?

Photo of Bernard Fanning from Sydney, by Gwen Lee.