Bic Runga (05/05/12)
Live at the Powerhouse, Brisbane.
Supported by: Ollie Brown.
We begin with a confession. I went into Bic Runga's performance last night not having heard her latest album, Belle. Or her 2005 album, Birds. Sure, I listened to 'Hello, Hello' and watched her mini-clip for 'This Girl's Prepared For War,' but I really had no idea what to expect from her new material. Did it maintain the same honesty and pop sensibilities of her debut Drive? Would it showcase an artist still growing, still learning and getting better with each step like Beautiful Collision? The answer to both questions is yes, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Australian singer-songwriter Ollie Brown took to the stage first, providing some awkward banter and perfectly acceptable tunes. In-between songs, awkward banter and even more awkward heckling from a drunk Irishman (true, I assume he was drunk because of his heritage... and because he was heckling) Brown won over a large portion of the crowd, even though he couldn't see anyone in the building. Powerhouse, why so dark?
With little fanfare, Bic Runga walked onto the stage, picked up her guitar and started playing for the crowd. Time away has made her look even more incredible and the image of her, guitar in hand and under the stage lights will stay with me for a long time. The darkness in the Powerhouse suddenly seemed perfect as the audience sat in silence, hanging on every beautiful word coming from Runga's mouth. As was to be expected, we were treated to a whole bunch of new material from Belle, performed with full backing band, and I was surprised the most by the risks Bic was willing to take with her vocal experimentation. Title track, 'Belle,' the theme song for an old French television show saw her reach for incredibly high notes while singing in French. Didn't see that coming. Other stand out new numbers that have encouraged me to purchase the album were 'Everything Is Beautiful and New' and 'This Girl's Prepared For War,' with the latter again leaving me impressed with Runga's astounding vocal range. The rest of the Belle tracks like 'Darkness All Around Us,' 'Good Love' and the crowd pleasing first single, 'Hello, Hello,' prove that the past six years haven't slowed Bic down. There's even more depth to be found in her lyrics than usual and she pushes her boundaries by stepping into new genres. Still, she manages to maintain a familiarity with her previous work. Some of the tracks wouldn't feel out of place on either Drive or Beautiful Collision.
Sprinkled throughout the night were brilliant versions of older numbers. The first highlight was 'Drive.' With everyone's attention firmly placed on the magic taking place on stage, Runga delivered a stunning solo rendition of the track. Every solo track was memorable. 'Bursting Through,' and 'When I See You Smile' were mesmerizing, giving you the feeling that it was just you and Bic Runga in a room and she was singing just for you. When the band was out, it was the slightly more uptempo favourites like 'Listening For The Weather,' 'Get Some Sleep' and 'Beautiful Collision,' that left the crowd wanting more. To close out the set came the song I had been waiting the whole night for. I don't mean that in a bad way and I'm sure a lot of people would say the same thing. 'Sway' is one of the greatest pop songs of the 1990s. It's one of my favourite songs of all-time. Seeing it live... yeah, it was fantastic. Ah, the 90s. Rapturous applause, encore, beautiful solo performance of 'She Left On A Monday,' show over, happy crowd. Come back soon, Bic!