Review: Mia Dyson at Leadbelly, Sydney, 25 March 2018
Fifteen years since her first album and six records deep into her career, Mia Dyson shows no signs of slowing down.
Pulling out all the stops for patrons of the Leadbelly in Newtown on Sunday night, Dyson proved just how impressive she remains as a live performer.
Dyson’s sound is firmly planted in country/folk/pop sensibilities, and while the songs from her latest album If I Said Only So Far I Take It Back don’t sound particularly powerful on the recording, Dyson is much more dynamic live. Despite having fewer instruments on stage (the piano and strings from the album weren’t replicated at all), she was able to make the songs feel fuller and more intense than the album ever gets to.
The night opened softly with ballad ‘Being Scared’, as Dyson revealed to an intrigued audience that she and her band would be playing the entire new album from start to finish. With a jump, they launched into the upbeat track ‘Diamonds’ as the audience grinned and tapped along in delight.
Dyson’s set flowed between the optimistic, driving rock of songs like ‘Full’, and more melancholic, soulful songs like ‘Beloved’ (which built into an unexpectedly powerful shoegazer guitar solo).
Whether the songs were slower or upbeat, each one carried an emotion that was clearly felt by the crowd, thank to Dyson’s evocative vocals and crunchy, layered guitar sound.
Dyson and her band were not scared to pull their songs apart and expand live, and this was where Dyson really showed her skills as a guitarist. Every song had an amazing solo without feeling indulgent or unwarranted. The solos ranged in texture, riffing off her other incredibly tight band members, with a massive sound for a three piece band.
Coming to the last track on the album, ‘Everything is Waiting for You’, Dyson’s soft delayed guitar filled the silent room. No one was talking – even the bar staff paused to listen – and the crowd was hanging off her every word. Her command was powerful and honest.
There was a 10 minute interval before Dyson played some of her older material, which carried a warmer tone. ‘Cigarettes’ started with a straightforward blues sway, then morphed through several tempo changes into an intense breakdown soaked in delay that could have easily passed for a metal solo if the tones were different. Dyson seemed to switch into fifth gear and let out a shredding solo that would give even the most seasoned guitarist chills – and floored an unsuspecting crowd.
Dyson’s set possessed a great mix of styles that she was able to break down to add her own individual flair and tone, and put them all back together cohesively. At various moments throughout the show, Dyson’s sounds suggested acts like The Preatures, Fleetwood Mac and The Jezebels, but never felt derivative – just a melting pot honed on decades of experience and influences.
The Leadbelly deserve a mention here for mixing the show perfectly, managing to balance a varied and dynamic set to never be too quiet or too loud, and every instrument clear at all times – a big ask for a smaller venue.
Dyson was a great fit for the venue, bringing the perfect energy to such an intimate space. Having said that, her show proved that she should playing in much bigger spaces to much bigger audiences, particularly in her native Australia.