Review: Bliss N Eso @ The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane)

Bliss N Eso played The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane) 21 January, 2022.
With an insatiable passion for live music and photography adventures, this mistress of gig chronicles loves the realms of metal and blues but wanders all musical frontiers and paints you vibrant landscapes through words and pics (@lilmissterror) that share the very essence of her sonic journeys with you.

It's Friday night (21 January) and I am shoulder shifting, like a washing machine agitator, through the swarming clubbers and bar hoppers in Brisbane's Valley Mall on my way to Bliss N Eso's first show on their 30-city Australian tour. Live music, baby!

Tonight Bliss (Jonathan Notley) and Eso (Max McKinnon) with DJ Izm (Tarik Ejjamai) are playing The Fortitude Music Hall to promote their latest album 'The Sun', which they dedicated to the late, great Michael Gudinski.

Aside from catching a glimpse of Bliss N Eso at a Big Day Out many moons ago, this will be my first Bliss N Eso gig as a relatively new fan. Yeah okay, I'm late to the party – but better late than never.

I join the mob of punters lined up in front of the venue. There are so many wearing Bliss N Eso tees, singlets and hoodies. Once inside the venue, I find myself surrounded by friendly faces of all ages and I mean ALL ages!

A young man attending with his mum is striking up a conversation with me and telling me he is a massive Bliss N Eso fan and this is his first concert; saying he is over the moon falls short in describing his pure elation.

With an air of confidence, support act Brisbane's Nerve hits the stage with emerging artist Smak – ('Flying Fresh', 'Goddam'). They zig-zag back and forth across the stage while igniting the atmosphere with their well-received short set, warming up the crowd for the main act pretty quickly.

Nerve - image © Clea-marie Thorne

The dynamic stage presence of Nerve and Smak sets the tone of beats, hype and rhythmic poetry for the show. My standout pick from their set list is Nerve slickly popping off his 2020 banger 'Reece's Peeces'.

After a break, Bliss N Eso receive a booming welcome from punters as they take over the stage. The fans are immediately enrapt with their opener 'The Prophecy' – the fully engaged crowd are thrilled that "Bliss N Eso is back".

Bliss N Eso - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Backing up the first number with 'Family Affair', 'Home Is Where The Heart Is' and 'Act Your Age', fans are singing while the stage lights are set to frantic mode.

Bliss N Eso are quick to elevate the already excitable crowd into a mad frenzy with 'Tear The Roof Off' and from here we are revving on high. The crowd relentlessly sing along with 'Eye Of The Storm' before Bliss N Eso shift into high gear with 'Down By The River' that has us bouncing on the floor adding to the vibrations that are sure shaking the venue's twin chandeliers.

More photos from the show.

Shout out to Sherena, another self-confessed massive Bliss N Eso fan, who verified the titles of the unfamiliar songs for this here newb.

Bliss N Eso continue to pump out a set list showcasing how diverse their catalogue is with 'Send It', 'People Up On It', 'Reflections' and 'The Sea Is Rising' – alternating rapping chants with melodic vocals blended with mixed-up beats, they always keep it fresh for the fans.

Did I mention drummer Dan Kerby? Yeah, well he got those drums set up for 'em and sounding just right tonight and boy, were they played tight!

Bliss N Eso - image © Clea-marie Thorne

There is not one song that doesn't have fans bouncing on their feet and arms raised and pumping throughout the show – they are in constant movement to the music. I swear this legion of Bliss N Eso fans know every word to every song they are hitting us with!

'Tell The World That I'm Coming', 'I Am Somebody', 'Moments' and 'Lighthouse' came next after 'Good People'. The raw, real and relatable, yet uplifting and somewhat reassuring lyrics of 'Good People' has such power delivered live – the words hold emotions that are hitting us in the face and in the heart.

That's the gift of live music – it can turn curious punters into fans, where a recording may possibly miss such an opportunity. Recordings obviously have their place – for me, though, the experience of loud and live wins hands down every time.

During the set, we are instructed to raise our mobiles with torches on illuminating the bobbing wave of heads that are the sea below a sky of artificial stars; we are also told to "raise your islands in the sky" preparing for a call and response to old-skool vibing OGs – "Who's the f...king OGs?" "We're the f...king OGs!", and the energy is elevating by 1,000 joules as they are blazing it up with the crowd.

Bliss N Eso - image © Clea-marie Thorne

They are on fire and the crowd is whipped into a frenzy! An earlier call and response that had punters shouting back as loud as they possibly could was 'Send It'.

Bliss N Eso spit bars like the seasoned performers they are yet deliver with them trill feels that fans adore them for.

DJ Izm, who has flawlessly worked his decks all night got out from behind them to join the relentlessly energetic duo out front. As the lights pulse from the front of DJ Izm and the drummer's riser it adds to the groove of the chorus – and they are killing it with the crowd.

Bliss N Eso - image © Clea-marie Thorne

The crowd went nuts for DJ Izm's rapping and if we thought it was hectic before, with three of them now bouncing the lyrics around and toing and froing across the stage, sh.t is getting wild. After a round of chanting, pleading and begging from the crowd, 'My Life' was followed by 'Addicted' to close out the encore's finale.

Bliss N Eso has had the crowd enthralled from the moment they stepped on stage until the last beat of their encore. Personally I relished in the afterglow of their electric vibe and rode that ambience until my head hit my pillow.

I understand why Bliss N Eso are one of Australia's favourite hip hop acts and why they have also attracted such a big international following. The packed-out venue, the energy in the room, the participation of punters high on interacting with a live and insanely intense performance, dealing out high doses of dopamine and the elated faces of new and old fans, pretty much paints the picture.

Bliss N Eso - image © Clea-marie Thorne

I hear Bliss N Eso fans comment about how great the night was: "That was dope"; "legend gig, mate"; "mad show". I listen to one group exiting the venue ahead of me, tossing about the idea of travelling to 1 of the next 29 shows on this tour. One in the group is even suggesting a road trip to see them all!

Bliss N Eso thanks for such an upscale, emotive and powerful performance – I'm a believer.

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