Review: Angie McMahon @ Hindley Street Music Hall (Adelaide)

Angie McMahon
Jason has been reporting on live music in South Australia for several years and will continue to do so while interest remains.

The long awaited return of Angie McMahon to Adelaide is welcome and with a well-received album in tow, this near sold out last show of the Australian tour (7 June) did not disappoint.

It was no surprise that Annie-Rose Maloney was announced as support for the Australian leg of the greater tour, Angie having spruiked her bestie when given the opportunity in the media.

This self-described "school teacher from Collingwood" arrived onstage acknowledging her status as a relative unknown. Opening with 'You Will Cry', she played an accomplished set of delicate country although competing with background audience chatter, potentially winning over a respectful portion of the audience that were actually willing to give her a chance.

She was accompanied by Jess Ellwood on guitar who we were informed has played every single set (support and main) on this tour, even playing drums for Ruby Gill subbing for Annie-Rose at an interstate show.

Ruby actually joins the duo on vocals for the last half of the set before the final song on which Angie and her band came onstage to contribute further vocals to 'Forever With Me'.

At the beginning of her set, Angie lets us know this is a safe space and during the next couple of hours she bares her soul as we are graced with a performance containing nearly the whole album 'Light Dark, Light Again', a selection from her back catalogue and some choice covers along with a couple of unexpected turns including an impromptu marriage proposal and possibly some oversharing from Angie herself.

Following the statement "we're gonna play a rock & roll gig but a chill one," Angie invites the audience to take a big breath before she begins.

'Fireball Whiskey' starts gradually, the audience joining in to sing the chorus along with Angie while she accompanies herself on a low slung electric guitar with a menacing rumble recalling her rock & howl beginnings.

Since the release of 'Light Dark, Light Again' last year there has been enough time for the audience to familiarise themselves with these new songs and there are cries of joy from the audience recognising album opener, 'Saturn's Returning' the second in a string of slightly out of sequence songs from first half of the album.

The "break-up song" 'Fish' is as fine an example as any of the timeless, classic feel of these songs, while the distorted vocal of 'Mother Nature' and catch-cry "hi-ya" echoes Florence Welch's idiom, and it is not a bad thing that 'Divine Fault Line' brings to mind the vocal melody from the '90s Donna Lewis hit 'I Love You Always Forever' (overheard being played over the PA earlier during the intermission).

After 'Soon', Angie introduces the band, Jess Ellwood returning on guitar, Alex Gorman on bass, Stella Farnan on keys and finishing with Lachlan O'Kane drumming the intro leading into 'Keeping Time', the set diverting from the latest album.

Angie's cover of 'Reckless' with updated lyrics continues the theme of climate change previously explored in 'Mother Nature', inspires audience participation and briefly segues into a rendition of the chorus of Neil Young's 'After The Goldrush'.

At this point, a napkin is passed via the audience to Angie and she subsequently reads a proposal of marriage for Eliza and George. Appropriately, the next song is 'Slow Mover' (sample lyric: "So maybe you'll get married") and you could be forgiven for thinking that Angie might have moved it up from a later position on the set list.

The War On Drugs-like 'Letting Go' contains a closing refrain perfect for audience participation: "It's okay, make mistakes." The pulsing, life affirming 'I Am Already Enough' is followed by 'Black Eye' with a gentle vocal, Angie almost breaking into a bleat.

Angie quite possibly overshares in her introduction to 'Serotonin', as it is already all there in the lyrics. In contrast to the lyrics, it is rendered as a near acoustic lullaby with Lachlan using a Nintendo DS for percussion.

While the rest of the band leave, Annie-Rose Maloney returns to the stage to duet with Angie on Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' In The Wind', a song that Angie reminds us has never lost its relevancy.

When the band return, 'Staying Down Low' is a welcome late set addition, requested via a handmade sign in the audience, but the inclusion is bittersweet given it was exchanged for the new, unreleased 'Just Like North' originally on the set list. "If you don't ask you don't get," Angie comments.

Angie asks for birdsong participation before 'If You Call' and there is an initial cacophony of seagull and magpie squawks from the audience prompting her to ask Lachlan to demonstrate a more appropriate example, to which the audience adhere within the song itself.

The anthemic slow build of 'Exploding' maintains the late set dynamism and includes another audience sing-along but is over too soon before the contrasting album closer and the song from which the album takes it's name, 'Making It Through'.

There is no encore as such but the rawness of early "hit" 'Pasta' feels like an addendum, and shows just how far Angie has come.

She is a singular talent but she is still finding herself, personally and musically and it is journey she is taking us along with her and one on which her audience is more than grateful to be passengers.

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