The Jezabels in Melbourne, Live Review
Reviewer Amy Wright and photographer Guilhem Vu checked out The Jezabels:
While peering across St Kilda beach, the Palais Theatre shone from the horizon as the grandiose 1920’s structure it is, with high ceilings and splendour. This building would serve The Jezabels as the perfect reflection to the Australian independent’s spacious and refined sound. Having performed a staggering 200 shows throughout 2012, this location made clear that – following the January release of their second album – the group are sufficiently propped to condense their insurmountable energy into just a few quality shows. And this night would be no exception to their rule.
Through a blue mist, five-piece Gang of Youths came onstage to heat up the evening and – for a gig performed to an entirely seated crowd – they seemed determined to deliver as much of their boisterousness as possible. Remarking that their next rock song would ‘not suit the venue, but what the hell’ the singer went on to shout lyrics openly into the audience, without microphone, while the group built up some booming Arcade-Fire-like crescendos. Though they are obviously a band worthy of exploding onto festival stages, my personal highlight was the soft ballad moment of “Riverlands” where they went low and the room were open for crooning.
Carrying over the suspense, change-over happened behind a massive curtain reading “JEZABELS” – Patti Smith played in the background – and fans abandoned untouched beers so they wouldn’t miss the headliners’ first note. With the crowd still sitting, The Jezabels began with an immediate display of how well frontwoman Hayley Mary owns the big stage. Throughout the opening number, Mary danced alone between her three bandmates, moving like a woman newly expelled from love.
If drama was sought, it was definitely found. But that was that – “everyone stand up” was commanded and the crowd rose unanimously while The Jezabels moved on to their single “Endless Summer”. The night was off, the band jumping around from material of old and new and – having first seen The Jezabels several years ago – it was exciting to hear the audiences’ incredible swell of screams for songs from the bands earlier offerings as proof of the loyal fanbase they’ve been earning from the early days.
Sing-a-longs a plenty throughout, Nick Kaloper (drums), Samuel Lockwood (guitar) and Heather Shannon (keyboards) did not miss a single note. While Kaloper laid the foundations as a continuous rolling of toms, Lockwood expanded with sprawling delayed guitar licks of all the 80s at once. Gluing this together with the sonic diversity that Shannon is able to provide across her two keyboards; dance lead to warm pads and epic piano, the mix of musicians provided a lavish backdrop to Hayley Mary’s prescience.
Half way into the show Mary walked to the edge of the stage “will I jump off? Yes, I do believe I will” – she answered herself and took to the shoulders of a spectator in the middle of the room. Held up, Mary gave a wild-eyed and sweat-covered performance then returned to the stage with as much fearless swank as when she’d left. There was a sense that while the music was rehearsed, Mary gave herself great freedom to dance and play within the songs, reminding me of an un-drugged Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction or a just-as-charming Bruce Springstein-finger-pointing-hip-gyrator. Comparisons aside, Mary has all the moves and gives the audience all the playful permission to have them too.
By the end of the night the band promised a “serious moment” and dedicated a song to the asylum seekers – while calling out Tony Abbott’s bad leadership. It felt risky dropping the A-word at such a feel good night, but they did it and – given the politics of their band name as citing the misrepresentation of women – these guys successfully showed themselves to be as strong minded as their sound is grand.
The constant barrage of “We Love You” continued to pour from the crowd and they closed with the hugely successful “Hurt Me” from their second EP. It was the last chance for Mary to fly around the stage with her arms outstretched; a liberating abandonment before the curtains closed. House lights went up and the incredibly appropriate Aussie hit “Great Southern Land” played to a packed house shuffling out, reminding us that The Jezabels are ‘ours’; born and bred, but (as their track record and trajectory suggest) they are now shared with the rest of the world.