Review: Simone & Girlfunkle at The Bird, Perth, 24 March 2018
The Bird was dark and smoky for Simone and Girlfunkle’s big Saturday night. Sure, in 2018 you don’t get real smoke, but tall red curtains loomed through the gloom nonetheless, and furnished a nicely theatrical setting for the launch of Hold On, the group’s second album. Boy, did they had some corkers down to help them celebrate.
Grace Sanders kicked things off with a solo set of intriguing tunes, deploying juicy reverb and rich electric guitar tones to embed her voice in shimmer. Then she turned down the treble and gave us jazz chords that morphed into rock rhythms and back again. The main room fell to a hush as she played love songs written for her dog, but back by the bar you could hear the cheerful buzz of arriving punters.
Leopard Lake raised the intensity level and the volume significantly. Surging guitar lines and haunting vocals washed over the crowd – intense, even dark in places, and hardly meant for dancing fools, but the trio nevertheless managed to get two punters moving. The Bird’s mirror ball hung dark and still from the ceiling, but the man with more boogie in his head than hair atop it swayed on and on… until he had to go get another drink. Never mind, he’ll be back.
An improbable number of people squeezed onto the stage for Salary’s set. The band opened with a throb and a thrum, and gave you so much to listen to that you could hardly help ending up with your eyes closed, nodding, tapping, or otherwise agreeing with the music. Bass lines you could build a house on, harmonies and plaintive cries, and a solid-body electric mandolin doubling as a percussion instrument. Before Salary’s set ended, an invitation to play Hobart emerged from the crowd. No air tickets forthcoming as yet, though.
Finally, a six-piece Simone and Girlfunkle made their appearance – three ladies with smooth hair and shiny clothes standing up front, and three blokes out the back hiding from the lights. Pretty soon the singing starts, and doves are clustering all around your ears, and everything is going to be just fine.
Sarah broke out the big drum, and the room was transported to another time and place. It was a torrent in full sweep when everyone got going. The crowd was treated to fragile swooping harmonies with occasional hints of Motown, hand claps, and just generally joyful noise, and gave their love back to the band. The mood was infectious and irrepressible; witness the giggling mid-song banter during the ‘Tragic Folk Song’.
After the gig, outside, Northbridge was in amiable Saturday night chaos. But no amount of grifters or nightclub strivers, none of the drunks retrieving unlit cigarettes from the filthy pavements, or scooping abandoned chips off the table of the Korean chicken joint, could banish the sense of peace and contentment – the harmony – from your mind.