Monday, 11 February 2013

Gig Review - Sarah Blasko (09/02/13)





SARAH BLASKO
and THE QUEENSLAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Live @ Concert Hall, QPAC - Brisbane (09/02/13)
Review by Matt Bond




QPAC's Concert Hall played host to an early frontrunner for performance of the year as Sarah Blasko brought the I Awake tour to Brisbane last night. Accompanied by her band and the always incredible QSO, Blasko held the sold out crowd in the palm of her hand, performing a range of past hits and all of fourth album, I Awake.


Walking on stage to thunderous applause, Blasko launched into a revised arrangement of '{Explain}'; the guitar driving the piece instead of the piano, with the orchestra's strings providing suitably dramatic back-up. Spotlights threw giant shadows of our leading lady on the wall behind her, adding a welcome theatrical layer to proceedings and burning a beautiful and memorable image into the minds of the audience. We were then treated to a mini As Day Follows Night concert; 'All I Want,' 'Bird on a Wire,' 'Lost and Defeated,' 'No Turning Back' and 'Sleeper Awake.' All stunning with their slight revisions to utilise the QSO and Blasko's quirky dance moves and stirring vocals almost made you forget you were there to hear tracks from I Awake. Almost. The opening segment of the show was something of a bridge between her previous material and the new, the exact opposite of the last time I saw Sarah Blasko. On her As Day Follows Night tour she played through that album in its entirety before throwing in some old favourites, mostly from second album What the Sea Wants the Sea Will Have. This time that method was reversed, the past leading into the present. 


A rush of excitement seemed to surge through the audience as the percussion heavy opening track and title number, 'I Awake' began. I've tried to limit my use of the word, but the only way to describe seeing this track live is epic. It builds upon itself to a dramatic finish, with Blasko's vocals rising so incredibly high above the strings, the drums and the horns. 'An Arrow' is a track I admit isn't one of my favourites on the album, but performed live it was easily one of my favourite tracks of the night. There was a greater intensity to the live version that left me captivated. Going into the concert I'm pretty sure everyone would have agreed that 'Here' would be one of the most memorable moments of the night. On the album it provides the best use of Bulgaria's New Symphony Orchestra and the QSO certainly delivered their very best work on the night. It was at this point that Blasko's voice gave out a little, losing the ability to hit some of those striking high notes. I don't think anyone held it against her. She carried on delivering beautiful pieces and adapted her voice to a lower register when needed. 


'Fool' and 'Cast The Net' pick up the pace from the ballads before, with 'Cast The Net' powerfully bringing an end to the pre-encore show. You couldn't ask for a better number to close out a set and it honestly could be her greatest track. Ever. Walking back on for the encore, Sarah sat at the piano to play 'An Oyster, A Pearl' solo. After so many songs full of the rich sounds from the orchestra, hearing only Sarah's voice with the simple piano line was fantastic. The QSO didn't have to sit out for long though, with final track 'Not Yet' bringing them back in a big way. Matching the epicness (epicity maybe? I don't know... just go with it) of 'I Awake' this last number was the perfect way to finish up. Much like 'An Arrow' it wouldn't be one of my favourite tracks on the album, but on this night it was showstopping. 




Sarah Blasko in concert backed by a symphony orchestra, observed from a box seat in a proper performance hall with intricate lighting and a receptive and appreciative audience. I think I'm breaking up with standard gigs. All other shows this year have a lot to live up to.         


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