The Jezabels‘ latest record SYNTHIA struck a chord early on, I remember. It had, admittedly, been a little while since I had revisited the Sydney band’s music (The Brink had a few striking moments, but wasn’t quite my bag), but this was an album that completely drew me back into the fold. There’s always been an unabashed sense of honesty within the lyricism that is unavoidable as a listener but on SYNTHIA, there was something almost visceral and heated about it. I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them play the material live.
Arriving at The Gov as Ali Barter was hitting her stride on Wednesday night, I was so happy to have gotten there in time to see her play. The Melbourne artist has become one of my favourites this year and I can’t wait to see where she heads in 2017. “Girlie Bits” and “Far Away” are two songs that, live, showcase her flawless charm and ability to work a crowd – the perfect two-punch to finish a set on. Her band is also great to watch; seeing Oscar Dawson outside the Holy Holy mould was a nice little surprise for those perhaps not expecting it and as he and Barter played off each other, it was plainly obvious what a great partnership these two make.
I could dedicate many more paragraphs to how much of an Ali Barter fangirl I’ve become but we’ll be here all day. In short: come back to Adelaide soon, please.
Scooching nearer to the stage for the headline set and taking a look at the wide ranging demographic of Jezabels fans in attendance, I tried to remember the last time I was this keen to see a show; it’s a funny sensation. I see live music all the time and even though I love it and have been lucky enough to make it a job; there are a small portion of shows these days that give you that rush that is generally reserved for seeing a band for the first time. With The Jezabels, I couldn’t count how many times I’ve seen them play over the years but tonight, I felt like I was about to see a brand new band.
And that’s honestly the type of show we got.
Having spoken with Hayley a few times prior to the tour, she was open about how excited and nervous she was about re-emerging into the spotlight with the band. Obviously, Heather Shannon‘s recovery was the band’s main priority and as we all watched them play, it was clear that they simply would not have been able to tour without her. A replacement keyboardist would have been an insult. While Hayley stands out as a provocative, take no prisoners frontwoman throughout the whole night, it’s Heather’s performance that had me hooked; she undoubtedly is the beating heart of the live show. This isn’t to discount Nik Kaloper and Sam Lockwood any at all – it just shows that it wouldn’t have been a Jezabels show if they’d decided to tour without Heather in the fold.
The set list spoke to new fans and the longtime Jezabels followers alike; with “Smile” and “My Love Is My Disease” being matched with harks back to 2010 and 2011 with “Mace Spray” and “Rosebud”. Hayley’s lead vocal always throws me when I see the band live; though when she breaks to talk in between songs, you can hear her straining ever so slightly, her range soars as she kicks back into performance mode.
Ditching the leather jacket after an impressive amount of time under the glare of the stage lights, Hayley (white wine in hand) continued to dance her way around the stage, feeling each drum rhythm and guitar progression. Leaning into the crowd, she became hoisted up into the air by the first few rows of fans at one point, with one leather flared leg, high heeled boot sticking up in the air triumphantly.
I left my cosy spot down front to head to the back of the crowd near the end of the set, taking in the full view of The Jezabels’ production; even though The Gov has been one of the smaller venues the band played on this tour, they didn’t hold back in delivering a show well worthy of a venue like HQ, say. Watching “Disco Biscuit Love” and “Endless Summer” roll out and being met with hungry applause reminded me of the actual first time I saw this group play; I would’ve been 19 or 20 and they became the soundtrack to a huge chunk of my uni days – that show was at The Gov.
Some of the younger fans around me looked to be around that age during this show as well – I can only imagine the impression they were left with.
Header image by Gwendolyn Lee.