Fremantle was yet again privy to witnessing the magic that is singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist/musical godlike entity Tash Sultana live. And Fremantle Oval as the venue did not disappoint. It was was easy to access, there was clear sound and strategic, clever use of space. There were no lines for the bar, which was great, but the choices were really limited. There was no wine for the older demographic attending the show, and before the show’s end, the bar had run out of most of the already limited variety they had on offer. Otherwise, it had a great selection of food vans, more than enough bathroom facilities and a really nice open space. They even had a section of glow cube seating which was a nice touch. The crowd was huge, but at no time did it feel crowded.
The opening act were Ocean Alley who I can only describe as psychedelic surf-reggae sprinkled with soft rock. They opened with The Comedown, and everyone in the audience was singing word for word which virtually continued throughout the entire set. Yellow Mellow upped the ante with everyone whistling and cheering. The definite crowd favourite that had people clutching their hearts and closing their eyes while singing their hearts out was their triple J Like A Version rendition of Player’s Baby Come Back. It felt like a more mature Sticky Fingers. The entire playlist tasted like smooth summer foreplay and was studio perfect. The only downsides to the performance were the videographers and lighting. It was as if the cameras were dropped off and the camera men left. During Ocean Alley the screen was blank for several minutes, or you could only see an arm or a microphone for long periods of time. The camera work didn’t follow the musicians at all. If I wasn’t at the front I would have been very disappointed watching an empty screen a lot of the time.
Tash Sultana walked out on stage barefoot in jeans, white tee, beanie, no makeup, and likely stands less than five foot. Yet despite their tiny physique, and being completely alone surrounded only by their extensive repertoire of instruments, they are mesmerising, and the energy they emit is palpable felt by anyone honoured to be in their presence.
Sultana began with a slow melodic guitar riff that merged with the aid of beat boxed percussion into a bespoke rendition of Big Smoke from the Notion EP. The crowd were transfixed. Sultana is a visceral performer and to watch them evokes feelings of synesthesia, it was more than sound, it was a two hour tapestry of tantra for the ears and mind. The music interweaved and merged so seamlessly that it was hard to discern a track’s start and end, instrumentals spanning up to 20 minutes at a time, the audience completely hypnotised.
The chilling ethereal keyboards, guitar harmonics and sprinkling chimes creating a dripping liquid ethereal sound, reminiscent of Bjork’s Vespertine. Again the camera work during Tash Sultana was unfortunately just as dismal, the delay between the sound and the video made it appear as if Tash was lip syncing – I was close enough to see they weren’t, but I wondered how that impacted the crowd and their impression of the performance. Lighting on stage also made it difficult to see the faces of performers, and particularly for Tash; being that the meditative transcendent bliss on their face while they perform is such an integral part of the piece, it was really disappointing.
Sultana addressed the crowd explaining that they no longer play Harvest Love live as it was written for a family member who had passed away but tonight was making an exception as they had family attending in the crowd and wanted to play it for them. They played a slow acoustic version and by looking at all the lighters swaying in the air it was clear everyone was was moved and transfixed.
Notion was a crowd favourite and had everyone clutching their hearts and singing along. Perhaps the highlight was watching Tash slay a mandolin. Never has a mandolin been so rock and roll, and yet sounded so poignant. If the crowd weren’t already blown away, Tash then completely blew their minds by merging panpipes with beatboxing over the top. So much talent in one human. This night alone Tash played several guitars, trumpet, mandolin, keyboard, various percussion, chimes and tied it all together with an incredibly talented smokey voice. The show’s climax was the hit that made them famous – Jungle, and they encored with an incredible 12-string performance. I could not fault their talent. Looking around the crowd their were mouths open in awe – while there were thousands of people at the venue the music was so immersive, the crowd disappeared like I was a solitary voyeur.
Photos by Adrian Thomson