Image Courtesy of Patrick James
Patrick James with Emma Davis and Zoe Elliot
22nd September 2012, Brighton Up Bar
Is it fair to review a show we (as in Timber and Steel) presented? Can we be objective? Probably not to be honest, but we wouldn’t have presented Patrick James’ single launch tour, and attended the Sydney leg, if we weren’t big fans of his music already. So I guess this should act as a warning – if you were looking for anything other than gushing admiration you should probably go elsewhere.
The first of two supports at the Brighton Up Bar, Darlinghurst’s latest buzz venue, was the wonderful Zoe Elliot. I’ve seen Elliot live a few times recently and I have to say that I enjoy her music more and more each time. Elliot is a storyteller and her music is infused is all sorts of folky goodness which would see her just as comfortable at a small town folk festival as she is warming up a crowd at a trendy inner-city bar. I think what I find most endearing about her live performance is just how expressive she is with her entire performance – there’s constantly an “this is what I love doing” look on Elliot’s face as she sings and you can’t help but be drawn into her music. I liked the way she changed up her singing voice depending on the theme of the song – thick Australian drawl for the storytelling songs, smokey American chanteuse for the jazzier songs – and her between song banter with the audience really connected. I’m really interested to see where this musical journey takes Zoe Elliot over the next few months.
Emma Davis is an artist I’ve seen countless times and is always a delight to watch. Her self-deprecating stage precedence, her easy rapport with the audience and the way she loses herself in her music makes her such a delight to see and the perfect second-support, captivating the growing crowd. Highlights for me in Davis’ set include her cover of Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning” on ukelele and her wonderful “Feel a Thing” which had the audience singing along filling the room with a tremendous sound.
When I’ve seen Patrick James in recent months its always been as a duo – just James and his trusty banjo player Scotty Steven – so it was exciting to see him climb on stage with a bass player and drummer in tow as well. Patrick James is creating some of the sweetest folk music in Sydney and word is obviously getting out judging by the sold out crowd at Brighton Up Bar on Saturday night. And when the music started you could tell every eye in the room was immediately drawn to James.
At first I thought the mix wasn’t quite right and I wasn’t hearing enough of the different instruments – I was right next to one of the speakers which probably didn’t help – but as the set progressed the sound melded and captured the band perfectly. The set didn’t dwell too much on Patrick James’ back catalogue with a number of new songs thrown into the mix – my favourites being “Stay”, which included a sprinkling of Bon Iver’s “For Emma”, and the week old “Something in the Way We Are” that reminded me a lot of Crosby, Stills and Nash with the way the harmonies were constructed.
But the absolute highlight of the set for me was the band’s cover of “Mexico” by The Staves (and not just because it was preceded by a shout out to Timber and Steel). Crowded around a single mic bluegrass-style with just a guitar as accompaniment, Patrick James and his band transformed this sweet folk-pop song into something almost spiritual – the performance was absolutely stunning and I really hope I get the chance to see them do it again.
Finishing the set with the new single “All About To Change” (plus encore) Patrick James wrapped up what would probably have been my favourite gig of his yet. From the packed room, to the choice of supports, to the sound, to the tight band I don’t think James could have picked a better way to launch his new single. And this is just the first new single before an inevitable EP meaning there’s many more nights like this to come.