By Matt Tay
Sarah Blasko rolled into our sleepy south coast town for two intense and cinematic style sets at Milton Theatre on Friday the 25th of January. After quickly selling out the 8pm show, management graciously opened up a 4pm matinee slot.These were the first shows of a prolonged national and international album tour for I Awake which includes a backing orchestra and venues such as the Opera House in Sydney, Art Centre in Melbourne as well as venues in Paris and Berlin.
A cynic might say she was just here to tighten up a band or to re energise before the ardour of the tour proper. Yes the later set improved on the matinee and I can only imagine that the Candelo shows on the Saturday and Sunday were even better but this was no rehearsal.
Darren Hanlon was a surprise support act. His lofi story telling was a perfect foil to the intensity which was to follow. Word is that he and Ms Blasko shared a house in the post millennium. He brought a beautiful 100 year old guitar and charmed us all. Hopefully he will be back, perhaps with some of his old Candle Records’ stable mates or Mick Thomas of Weddings, Parties, Anything fame whose last album Darren recently produced in Portland, Oregon.
I Awake is Sarah Blasko’s fourth long player. She produced and wrote the album [co writes and added orchestral arrangements] by herself. Composed initially on a piano in a house that Sarah lived in by herself in Brighton UK in the first 6 months of 2011 the album was then recorded in Sweden and Bulgaria. I Awake has been receiving steady airplay and acclaim since its release late last year.
Sarah’s lilting and fragile voice belies the power and intensity of her performance. There is a dichotomy at the base of her music. Light but dark, open yet closed.
Honorary local bassist David Symes combined well with Swedish drummer Frederik Rundqvist and allowed David Hunt on keys to draw and lead these songs. Long time band fellow Ben Fletcher was flawless on guitar, uke and banjo.As the warm night progressed the beats became almost trance like, with Sarah singing, dancing and channelling her Baptist church upbringing. The audience was privy to what are very personal stories of self-revelation and then, hopefully, shared in the epiphanies of understanding and acceptance. It is heavy-duty subject material wrapped in Kate Bush like cotton candy vocals and though I felt honoured that she had chosen Milton Theatre as one of only two small venues on this tour, I was still jealous of the major cities, as it would have been even better with a backing orchestra.