Los Angeles chanteuse Nite Jewel – aka Ramona Gonzalez – makes music filled with intimacy, including on her latest album ‘Real High’.
Returning to Brisbane for the first time since 2013, Ramona performed a sold-out show in the 50-person capacity Junk Bar (22 October); slightly bigger than the bedroom she began recording her songs in.
With fans seated on the floor, Ramona tiptoed around them to join touring member Gabe on stage.
Bathed in neon projections, the pair launched into the '80s pop of ‘In The Nite’. Ramona’s voice is distant and bathed in reverb on early Nite Jewel albums, but live it is revealed to be a full, sultry croon, somehow simultaneously being icy cool and warmly inviting.
While The Junk Bar is a small venue, Ramona and Gabe didn’t hold back. The opening handclaps of ‘The Answer’ made a fan squeal: “I love this song!” Filled with squiggly synth leads, deep funky bass and Ramona’s vocal hooks, the rest of the room enthusiastically bob to their grooves.
As if things couldn’t get any funkier, the duo played ‘Let Me Be Me’, a track from Ramona’s collaboration with modern-funk master Dam-Funk. It’s an irresistible swirl of synths including an understated synth solo from Ramona filled with bounce.
The crowd spent much of the time sitting, swaying their bodies to the tunes. But when the same enthusiastic fan commanded everyone to stand and dance, we all happily obeyed, much to Ramona’s delight.
After the banging house music of ‘I Confess’, Ramona’s collaboration with producer Omar S, the room was treated to a special moment. Ramona and Gabe stripped things down for a cover of Janet Jackson’s ‘Let’s Wait Awhile’.
Featuring just Ramona’s voice and Gabe playing synth chords, they turned the ballad into something beautifully intimate.
Playing maximalist electronic music in such a small setting should’ve been awkward. Nite Jewel’s music is made for big spaces full of people lost in the music. But everyone was completely present in the room, taking in Ramona’s dazzling performance.