Skip to main content

With its allocated seating and ushers directing patrons to their chairs, The Tivoli’s feeling incredibly grown up tonight. Sure, it might not be rock’n’roll, but this reviewer is all for it. Who wouldn’t prefer to get off their feet after a long week? Sitting back with a glass of red wine and digging on some folk pop seems just what the doctor ordered.

The soundtrack to the smooth ride into the evening gets off to pretty great start as Melbourne indie quartet Brighter Later do their thing. The band’s spot on the tour is an excellent chance to spruik the quirky electronic/acoustic instrumentation and delicate, involving melodies of their debut long-player, The Wolves. Numbers like Magnolia are captivating in the lush theatre surrounds; it’s just a shame that Brighter Later don’t accord more responsibilities to their amplifiers. In a scene reminiscent of Portlandia’s Battle of the Gentle Bands, throughout their set, conversations in the crowd are louder than Brighter Later.

Sure, tonight is a mature affair, the wine is in those funny little plastic cups they have at art galleries and the house music is low enough to not impede upon any of the presumably serious conversations being committed to with a grown up fervour in the break between the two bands, but Miss Martha Wainwright is no Barry Manilow. And when the singer takes the stage, she makes it painfully obvious that she’s not your grandparents’ folk act. When she’s not in the middle of a song, she’s telling the crowd about her experiences with psychedelics and what it’s like to have your name printed on the underpants which are being sold from the merch desk. When sometimes all that crowd interaction can just seem like an asinine means to pass through a set, it’s central to Wainwright’s show. After all, the crowd is attached to Wainwright through her songs that capture the trials and triumphs of her life in such an honest way. We already know tonight’s headliner, so it makes sense that she would so graciously offer up more of herself for the crowd’s enjoyment.

What’s more, this tactic works; the chanteuse’s every anecdote is met with appreciation, even when they accompany almost every song. Then there’s her music. Drawing heavily off of her latest record Come Home To Mama, tonight Martha Wainwright and her band hold The Tivoli to stillness, captivated by the fragile intonations of the singer’s voice on numbers like Proserpinaand an absolutely powerhouse rendition of Jesus & Mary. In fact, Wainwright holds the crowd’s attention from the moment she steps on stage to the moment she bids farewell, and then everybody’s off to bed. After all, there are chores and IKEA trips for early tomorrow morning.

Written by Tom Hersey