Photography by Elspeth Anderson
Fremantle Arts Centre
Saturday, January 17, 2015
It was a none-too-shabby opening to these much looked-forward-to proceedings, with the Grammy-nominated Hiatus Kaiyote taking to the stage. Led by guitarist/singer, Nai Palm, the band’s experimental neo soul meets hip hop grooves often led into extended jams that certainly suited the sunset. Those that dug most certainly did, but much of the audience was talking through most of the set, which may-or-may-nor have led Palm to walk offstage during the last song as the band jammed out. Folks, it’s nice to support the support act.
Touring behind the release of the very excellent Merri Soul Sessions album, Paul Kelly and his band eventually sauntered onstage and took to What You Want, featuring Vika Bull on lead vocals, echoing the multi-vocalist nature of the LP. ‘You know what show you’re gonna get with all these singers up here’, Kelly noted at song’s end, ‘They’re all gonna sing a song’. On cue the band launched into Smells Like Rain with Linda Bull taking lead vocal. The song, co-written with Kev Carmody and Dan Sultan, featured Ash Naylor (Even and a longtime Kelly cohort) on tasteful baritone guitar.
Kelly sang the third song, Righteous Woman, but in seemingly no time was welcoming to the stage ‘the very righteous woman, Clairy Browne’ who wailed in a painted-on dress, as Naylor played an Ennio Morricone style whistling spaghetti western solo.
Merri Soul Sessions colleague Dan Sultan was also present, and Kelly acknowledged his vocal contribution and song co-writes, before leading the band on Thank You. Linda Bull sang Lead Me On as Sultan played guitar with Maestro Paul on tambourine before they took to the classic, How To Make Gravy, which made the crowd very happy.
‘May I present to you now, Kira Puru’ Kelly (under)stated as she took to the stage to sing Don’t Know What I’d Do. Kelly graciously exited the stage, before later returning to duet with Puru on James Carr’s The Dark End Of The Street. Sultan and Clairy Brown then duetted beautifully on Sam & Dave’s When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.
‘You can sing along to this next song even if you don’t know the words’ Kelly stated, leading into 16th Floor, a statement that was duly noted by the crowd.
Give Into My Love and Keep On Coming saw Piru and Browne on lead vocals, respectively, while Look So Fine featured Sultan singing lead with the Bull Sisters as Kelly left the stage. The crowd loved it and sang along. It was a testament to his songwriting – it’s the song, not the singer.
The point was heightened when Vika took her mighty turn on a soulful version of Sweet Guy.
‘It’s great singing with these great singers’, Kelly said, then introduced each one by one, before ending the main set with the Sister Rosseta Tharpe-like tune, Hasn’t It Rained?
With a besotted reception, it wasn’t long before they were all back onstage. ‘We did prepare a few more songs just in case’, Kelly joked before an encore of Down On The Jetty, Love Letter, Dumb Things and Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air, the latter ending the night with all the singers gathered around a single microphone.It felt like a very special event watching a bunch of musicians with an obvious respect for each other having so much fun. Paul Kelly just keeps on giving.