The Spotted Mallard on Sydney Road was an interesting choice of venue, I initially thought, when Kele Okereke announced a special acoustic show in support of his new album Fatherland. Sitting in the venue on Saturday night, though, it made sense. The shows that had brought Kele to The Old Museum in Brisbane and The Basement in Sydney prior to this final show in Melbourne all offered the audiences to become introduced to this new element of the UK songwriter’s artistry.
Of course, his career with Bloc Party is one that has been followed closely by many for over a decade. Then you’ve got the solo material that has seen Kele dabble in more electronic based sounds, demonstrating a harder edge to his writing. With Fatherland, Kele strips everything back and delves more into singer-songwriter territory than fans had seen before; collaborations with Corrine Bailey Rae and Olly Alexander simply bolster the poignancy and sweetness behind Kele’s material as we have it now.
As he mentioned to me recently, he had hoped that Fatherland would be as much a gift for his daughter Savannah to listen to someday, as it would be a treat for fans. An intensely personal album, it’s come as no surprise that when given the live treatment, Kele would put as much thought into making his settings as inclusive and cosy as possible.
Opening with “Streets Been Talkin'”, Kele wasted no time in barreling through a set of ‘songs I’ve written and songs I wished I’d written’. A clever way of establishing a set that was well received and engaging, Kele put an impressive vocal range on display as he worked his way through Fatherland material (“Yemaya”, “You Keep on Whispering His Name”, “Versions of Us”). Including covers of Elliot Smith‘s “Between the Bars”, Fleetwood Mac‘s “Landslide”, The Temptations‘ “My Girl”; as well as choice acoustic renditions of some Bloc Party favourites in “Blue Light”, “This Modern Love” and an appropriately placed “Sunday”, Kele had the crowd captivated from the jump.
The set wasn’t without the usual banter, marked by Kele’s charming shyness behind the mic when he’s not performing. Upon forgetting his place during “This Modern Love”, he’s beckoned by the crowd to start the song again from the beginning when he appeared slightly flustered at his mistake.
“Take your top off,” a voice squeaks out from the crowd.
“If I’m going to do that, you’re going to have to start throwing money at me,” Kele jokes. “Cash, not coins.”
While this venue definitely offered an interesting and different environment than what I had been expecting, it certainly gave Kele a great opportunity to shine in a different light. The urgency that powers most of Bloc Party’s material wasn’t present tonight, though it wasn’t meant to be. Instead we got to listen to some music that perhaps gives the best insight into the type of musician Kele is now – very in tune with his influences and unafraid to wear heart on sleeve more than ever before.
The reviewer attended this show on March 31st.
Photos by Michelle Grace Hunder.