Mike Waters at the Oxford Art Factory

Review: Mike Waters, Oxford Art Factory, 12 June 2015

Heartwarming and intimate.

Many talented local and international acts have played at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory, and now Melbourne’s Mike Waters has added his name to the list following the launch of his debut EP Life last Friday night.

Before the indie-pop singer-songwriter graced the stage, fellow Australian musicians Jake Howden and Ed Wells warmed up the crowd with their original songs and surprising renditions of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe and Chet Faker’s I’m Into You.

Opening with new tracks Shiver and Dirty Bones, Waters’ decision to start with lesser known songs surprised all but worked in his favour, with his memorable acoustic sound immediately entertaining.

Between songs, Waters took in his surroundings, impressed by the overall atmosphere of the place. “[This is] such a cool venue, I’ve never played somewhere like this before,” he said.

For those who haven’t been to the Oxford Art Factory’s Gallery Bar before, it’s a warm and inviting venue with its eclectic collection of vinyl records stitched together on the ceiling like an odd fishing net, large leather booths and dimmed red lighting – perfect for an intimate gathering on a cold winter’s night.

Looking relaxed in his beanie, tee and jeans, Waters hooked the crowd with Daisy, a light-hearted jam featuring wistful whistling and brutally honest lyrics about unrequited love, before slipping back into unknown territory with unreleased number My Own Worst Enemy and Set Sail.

A fan of English band Daughter, Waters executed a stripped back version of Youth – just a man, his vocals and guitar – an ideal arrangement for the cosy room.

Delivering an emotionally driven performance of Dreams, Waters revealed, “I wrote this song about my mum before she died.”

With grief and irrefutable hope, he sang, “Don’t be sad just think of me and smile / Go live your dreams as I’d been living mine”.

Continuing on with the deeply personal theme, Waters launched into Heavy Hand, a song about helping a friend through depression. His use of a loop pedal however reminded everyone of another famous ginger with an attachment to his guitar and layered arrangements.

At times, Waters’ vocals were in jeopardy of being lost in the overall chatter of the crowd, but he effortlessly pulled rank with buoyant well-known track Gambling Man before closing the night with ballad Girls Like You and homesickness-infused Feels Like Home.

The humble musician has an nonchalant approach to his stage presence, letting the music lead you to where you need to be, generating deep sentiment with his lyrics and a joyous thrill with his impeccably strummed guitar.

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