Upon entering the grand ol’ Forum Theatre last Saturday there was an genuine ‘vibe’ in the air; I know people sometimes say wanky things like ‘vibe’, and I’m usually the first to say ‘Jog on, mate’, but there really was a special kind of atmosphere. Perhaps it was the heady mix of an expectant, excited crowd and a local star on the rise all coming together in the perfect venue.
Supports were ideally chosen: The Cool Calm eased us into proceedings with their loose, jazzy take on indie pop (latest single Moving Forward is well worth checking out). We were then treated to bluesy balladeer William Crighton and his powerful songs of Australiana. Crighton’s tracks and his stage presence certainly made a lasting impression and may have even come dangerously close to stealing the show. Until…
Dan Sultan arrived onstage to thunderous cheers, looking every bit the rock star. Sporting his now almost ubiquitous leather biker jacket, he lapped up the love – as he rightly should. Arms outstretched, he encouraged his devotees to involve themselves and get even louder and looser. Any other performer and it may have seemed self-aggrandising, but Sultan is equal parts humble, homespun storyteller and brash, chest-beating entertainer. It’s this delicate balance of attributes that helped make this show the roof-raising event it was to be.
A man next to me in a wheelchair was so moved by the music he climbed to his feet about halfway through the show! I suspect he may have already had the ability to walk, but an impressive advertisement for the power of Dan Sultan’s music all the same
Kicking off with Magnetic from his recently released (and aptly-titled) album Killer, within moments it’s clear Dan Sultan Live is a very different beast to that on record. Sure, the rockin’ songs still rock and the softer ones still emote heavily, but in concert it is apparent that Sultan is a man writing big songs. Big, big songs. Backed by a super tight band, these tracks are given added life not only by Sultan’s many talents but by the people he surrounds himself with: the swoon-inducing Wolfgramm sisters on backing vocals breathed added soulfulness and authenticity into everything, helping transform this evening into less a rock concert and more a gospel revue of sorts.
(A man next to me in a wheelchair was so moved by the music he climbed to his feet about halfway through the show! I suspect he may have already had the ability to walk, but an impressive advertisement for the power of Dan Sultan’s music all the same. It was a definite crowd highlight.)
The night’s collection of songs would make for a pretty fabulous ‘Best Of’ compilation. Spread generously across Sultan’s rich and already enviable back catalogue, it showcased his versatility as a performer and as a songwriter. Hold It Together (from Killer), with its isolated vocals, piano and driving drums is somehow reminiscent of the gospel-inspired, Detroit house music of the early 1980s. Not something you’d expect from a Dan Sultan show, but breathtaking to witness nonetheless.
After a 15-song set that honestly could’ve left punters leaving satisfied, our hero returned to centre stage and serenaded us with a solo rendition of 2014’s moving Dirty Ground, and closed with crowd favourite Old Fitzroy. All in all, a brilliant night full of soul, rock’n’roll, passion, fun and surprises – and further proof that Dan Sultan is well on his way to becoming our greatest musical export.
Killer is out now via Liberation.