For his second sold out show at Sydney Festival this weekend, Los Angeles based musician Moses Sumney moved from the ethereal church to the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent (a circus tent of sorts), with crowds spiraling around the Meriton Festival Village well in advance of his arrival.
Opening with his vocal only Hebrew prayer “Incantation”, standing in front of the crowd as a sillouhette against a backdrop of red lights, Sumney arrived on stage to respectful silence from the eager crowd; just a man and his voice who would go on to show just how many musical intricacies one person could create on stage – often without any instruments at all.
These Sydney Festival shows mark Sumney’s Australian debut following the release of his second EP Lamentations, with his popularity recently buoyed by his guest vocals on the phenomenal track “To Believe” by The Cinematic Orchestra; a track sadly not featured amongst hit 75 minute set. His set did, however, traverse both EPs, with tracks like “Seeds”, ” Worth It” and “Lonely World” proving highlights of the night, as he jumped between guitars and vocals. “Everlasting Sigh” closed the night in a brief but powerful encore, as he apologised for not having more music amongst his repertoire.
But the high point of the night came in the form of a song that hasn’t even been released yet – “Rank and File”, which relied solely on his vocals, and summoned a bit of Beyoncé (think: “Formation”), in a track that was as powerful musically as it was lyrically, with Sumney spending part of the track on the ground, adding to the inensity of his voice and the song. If this is a fair example of what we can expect from his debut LP – due out later this year – it’s going to be one of the best releases of the year.
Spacing the set out with witty and entertaining banter, Sumney reflected on the juxtaposition between playing in a church one night and a circus tent usually occupied by burlesque performers the night (he assured us the trepeze artists were on their way), while he gave some background on his self-described ‘slow and boring music’ that is oft inspired by his favourite topic, death (see: “Ascension”). He also reflected on the irony of one of his most popular tracks, “Plastic”, becoming a popular wedding song, in spite of being a lyrically dark experience.
Though the Spiegeltent doesn’t have quite the aural splendour of St Stephen’s Uniting Church, it nonetheless felt like his music was bounding off the tent’s flexible cocoon; buoyed by his vocal loops and enagging performance. For an artist still so early in his career, it was spellbinding to see that much talent and confidence exuded – even if he quipped that he loved the crowd far more than he could ever love himself.
In short, it was a night to prove why Sumney has been lauded as one of the finest emerging artists of the last few years. Still relatively early on his career, it was a joy to experience it in such an intimate setting – a rare opportunity for us in Australia. I for one can’t wait to see and hear what comes next, and given the standing ovation, I daresay the entire crowd feels the same.
Moses Sumney continues his Australian tour this week with two shows in Melbourne and an appearance at Mona Foma. For tickets and more details head to his official website.
The reviewer attended Sumney’s performance yesterday, 15th January, at the Magic Mirrors Spigeltent in Hyde Park’s Meriton Festival Village.
Photo Credit: Prudence Upton