In the country for Golden Plains and Panama festivals, Natalie Prass brought her indie-pop stylings to Brisbane (4 March).
The night began with support act Julia Jacklin. Despite her sun-kissed skin and long blonde hair, the Sydney songstress' songs dwell far more in darkness than in light.
Armed with only a Fender Telecaster and her elegantly mournful voice, Jacklin breaks all of our hearts with tales of failed relationships and drifting families. Black Bear Lodge is still rather sparsely populated by the time she finishes, but Jacklin draws deservedly warm applause from those in attendance.
A few more people file in, some taking the remaining chairs, or sitting cross-legged in front of the stage. As she and her three-piece band take to the stage, Natalie Prass is clearly disheartened by the fairly modest turnout. “What's going on, Brisbane?” she asks, before answering her own question: “Not much.”
Beginning with 'Your Fool', Prass runs through all but one of the songs from her self-titled debut album. Backed only by her three-piece band – albeit a clearly accomplished one – the set feels sort of like a jazz band playing covers of her songs.
Some songs suit this dressed-down treatment better than others. Livelier songs like 'My Baby Don't Understand Me' and 'Violently' build to dazzling climaxes and showcase the musicians' significant chops, while gentler songs – 'It Is You' and, especially, 'Christie' – miss the orchestral flourishes that helped make her album stand out, and start to drag.
Prass is surprisingly potty-mouthed onstage, even slightly passive aggressive. This is at least partly due to Sufjan Stevens, who's playing tonight at QPAC and appears to have a monopoly on Brisbane's indie singer-songwriter fans. “Sufjan Stevens, you motherfucker!” she cries, mock-despairingly.
But Prass and her band loosen up as the show progresses, even throwing in a funky, upbeat-lounge version of Simon and Garfunkel's 'The Sound Of Silence': the sort of move necessitated by being a touring musician with only 39 minutes of recorded music to your name.
After just under an hour, Prass puts down her guitar and declares the next song will be the last, before a spirited and soulful rendition of The Supremes' 'You Keep Me Hangin' On'. It's the most fun Prass has had all night and it's enough to convince us to see her again when she has another album under her belt.
Hopefully next time Sufjan won't be playing as well.