Live Review: Iris EP Launch @ the Bella Union (23 January 2014)
Crowds milling outside the venue are always a good sign and for this gig, it quickly filled up with a friendly crowd. First up on stage to warm everyone up was Tom Tuena. A cute boy with a harmonica is always a crowd pleaser, and with Ben Harper as an influence, you know its going to be a step outside the mundane. What Tom gave us was a big sound for one guy, with shades of Mumford and Sons and even Whitley at times (without the melancholy). Uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable. However, it would have been more enjoyable if the venue wasn’t understaffed and I didn’t have to wait for two or three songs, while stuck at the bar waiting for a drink. Lucky I got my beer in time for the first crowd singalong of the night. The audience, in typical Melbourne style didn’t exactly respond with full enthusiasm, but there were a few foot tappers and mumblers, to their credit.
Host for the night, the dreaded (but not dreaded) Joel McKerrow popped up in between acts for a quick poetic tribute to redheads. I think you’d be hard pressed to match this rapid fire wordsmith, once he takes flight. It was a nice little interlude ramping up to the bigger band sounds of the night, Who is Zoe? and headliners, Iris.
When Who is Zoe took the stage, I was surprised to hear such an anthemic sound from the diminutive lead singer. They really pack a punch, with many tunes you could easily sing along to. Their set was a chance for the sound man to turn up the dial on the volume. You know it’s a good rock gig, when a woman (someone’s mum perhaps?) asks the bar staff for earplugs. But this band were more than just noise, they have a great rapport as a unit, with a tight sound and a drummer who has chops but doesn’t need to advertise the fact. They had a fair bit of support from the audience, indicating they have a growing fan base.
The stars of the night, Iris came on stage on time (shock, horror!) at around 9.45, which I think people appreciated, being a school night and all. The lights were dimmed and Richelle and her band of merry (and good looking) men started their set. Resplendent in blue, Richelle lit up the room with her high wattage smile and gentle charm. This gig marked an occasion for her away from the intimate acoustic settings of previous incarnations. It gave her a chance to really rock out and put some weight behind some of her more poppy and radio friendly numbers. But the best part for me was when Richelle’s vocal was left hanging in the air at the end of a tune, just like the sparkly fairy lights behind her. Very nice. When it comes to vocal comparisons, Lisa Loeb and Holly Throsby come to mind. But not all her songs were gentle poetics. Many were rock/pop soundtracks, comfortable on any ipod.
One crowd member has been a regular at Richelle’s acoustic gigs and prefers her in a more stripped back setting, which would also suit her very well too. There is something to be savoured in the lyrics that can be missed behind the high voltage. But it didn’t detract. Another audience member likened her to Missy Higgins, but with more “raw energy”. It was a bit hot in the hall, but there were still lots of smiles from the crowd, with an encore request at the end and enthusiastic applause. By this stage the danceable mood was there, but few took the opportunity to really let their hair down. There was time for another cute singalong, “You’ll bring the ocean, I’ll bring the motion, and together we’ll make a love potion…”, followed by a video preview. The encore was an unexpected acoustic rendition of Michael Jackson’s Beat it. Overall, a very tasteful and enjoyable night, from a group of people who are definitely going places.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.