“Welcome to the show that’s not really a show,” laughs Dan Sultan as he casually walks on to the stage and takes a seat at his piano. “This is me just kinda playing songs, so yeah, no refunds,” he jokes. The Memo Music Hall in St Kilda is filled with people eagerly waiting to hear some magic, the dimly lit room nicely setting the mood. This is the final show for the Pop Up Evening With Dan Sultan tour and his playing to a sold out crowd, which is impressive within itself considering the tour was only promoted solely through social media.
The first part of the set comprises of Dan, his voice and a piano. “I’m playing an instrument I don’t know how to play, so if the songs all sound the same it’s because I only know four keys,” Sultan jokes. He starts with a new song that will be on his upcoming record, only using his bellowing voice which instantly slices through the room and echoes through the hall, showering a mesmerizing hush over the audience.
As he dives into the next song, “Nobody Knows”, he becomes more comfortable with the piano and the intensity of his voice vibrates through the piano keys, as though the two are connected by veins.
The intensity of the songs can get a bit heavy, so Sultan breaks this up with light banter, mostly making fun of himself. “Good comedy should be based on truth,” he laughs. His awkward charm and larrikin wit make the audience feel comfortable, and it almost feels like we’re all just chilling in his lounge room, watching him experiment with sounds.
He continues on with some more new songs including, “Hold it Together”, before finishing the first part of the set with, “Magnetic”, which leaves a lingering warmth as the audience enjoy an intermission and Sultan goes to, ‘Comb my hair.’
For the second part of the show Sultan waltz on stage wearing his Rockdogs scarf, supporting the Reclink Community Cup, and picks up his guitar. For those in the audience who are familiar with his live shows, there’s an automatic squeak of glee. If there is one man who knows how to work a guitar, its Sultan. He kicks off with one of my favourite tracks, “Dirty Ground”, and his fingers move so fast along the strings that it almost looks like he has several hands.
He boasts that the guitar, which his mum bought for him twenty years ago, recently got ‘rejuzzed,’ and so he has fun showing it off; effortlessly jumping into deep, cut throat riffs. What follows is a string crowd favourites, including, “Same Man”, “Under Your Skin”, and “Kimberly Calling”, which sees the audience joining in for a sing along.
Finally, and sadly, the show comes to a close and Sultan wraps it up with two of his most gut wrenching songs. First is “Rattle Snake”, which absolutely destroys me. It feels like the guitar strings are my heart strings, and he strums them with such power that the words leaving his mouth pinch through your skin like snake fangs, and the passion feels your blood stream like venom. The last song is “Old Fitzroy” and though it has an air of sadness, it stills leave that lingering hearty feeling that we were left with at the end of the first set. And so as the show ends you walk away feeling warm, cosy and content.
The laid back and intimate setting of the Memo Music Hall provided a comfortable atmosphere which matched the style of the show perfectly. The way in which the performance was split into two parts also worked perfectly with Sultan’s style, the first part was a steady slow pace that nicely eased the audience into each song and the second part woke us up a bit with the harshness of the guitar, but still had that heartfelt ease.
Whilst I do enjoy Sultan’s records, I think that this man was made to play live. His songs are completely transformed when heard in person and he has this way of making you feel like you’re the only one in the room. Unfortunately, this was the last show of the tour, but keep your ears open for new music at the end of the year.
You can keep up to date with all Dan Sultan news by visiting his website: dansultan.com.