Saturday, 10 May 2014

Gig Review - Hayden Calnin + Eliza Hull

Supported by Eliza Hull
Live @ Northcote Social Club (03/05/14)
Review by Lou Endicott

When I recently heard that one of my current favourite Australian artists, Hayden Calnin was performing in Melbourne at The Northcote Social Club I immediately jumped onto a computer to buy myself a ticket. Good thing I was quick, as this event sold out pretty fast!

I was first introduced to Hayden Calnin’s music when he supported Asta live last year. I was struck by the passion and power in his voice and the emotional landscape brought about in his songs. Earlier this year I reviewed his beautiful EP, Oh Hunter giving it five out of five. Oh Hunter has been a bit of a staple for me while working at my desk, going for reflective walks, as well as being played when I have friends over for a vino or two. I was doubly excited to see that Melbourne singer Eliza Hull was the support for this performance. I have seen Eliza play live twice – once as a support for Lester the Fierce and another time randomly at a Raw artists event. Both times she has knocked it out of the ball park in terms of delivery and the music itself.

Due to unforseen circumstance, I unfortunately missed the first part of Eliza’s set. When I arrived, I quickly settled into a spot near the back of the sold out squeeze and took in as much as I could with open ears. This was the first time I had seen Eliza perform with more than just one other musician. I had previously seen her sing accompanied by a synth/drums player. This gig featured another backing vocalist as well as a guitar player. This meant that the sound had a fuller sound - but it never lost the sparkle and the intimate heart that Eliza brings to her live performance.

As the show was sold out it meant that the audience had to stand super close to each other and crane necks to see the stage. Due to this closeness I overheard a lot of whispers as Eliza sung: “She’s amazing isn’t she?” “How come I’ve never heard of her before now?” “Wow. I think I’m in love”. These kind of comments really underline the power that this dreamy ambient electro folk pop songstress has. I could only wish at this point in the gig that we were all sitting in a forest clearing somewhere under a starlit sky (perhaps lying on ridiculously comfortable lounges.) Eliza’s music is one that penetrates the heart first with her voice, secondly with the sparse arrangement, delicious builds and lastly with visuals created lyrically. It’s also a deep let go of breath and soul. This is music to be savoured in a very chilled environment. Her EP, The Ghosts You Never Catch is also on high rotation in my studio office for its gentle, almost hypnotic lull. If like me you work in front of a computer and love music to join you on your work journey, this album is a great companion.

The set featured a lot of songs from The Ghosts You Never Catch, which being a fan of the recording created much delight for this little music lover. An absolute favourite of the set was the song 'Christopher' – which is one of my favourites from the album. Eliza’s high soaring, warm and earthed vocals balancing so sweetly with the backing vocals, guitar and gentle synthy sounds couldn’t help but make me feel like my soul got a bit of a cleansing.

Although I’ve seen her play three times in the last six months, I would go see Eliza Hull perform again. And again. And if the comments and the crowd numbers are anything to go by, obviously others are thinking the same as me.

Hayden Calnin took to the stage firstly by himself. His first song reminded me instantly why I love this artist. If you haven’t heard Calnin’s voice, you’re missing out. His sound is perhaps the masculine version of Eliza Hull’s to me. I perhaps would compare his vocal style to Matt Corby in terms of power and honest delivery. But then again, it’s something entirely different. It’s ethereal yet intimately real and authentic. He sings his lyrics with clarity, heart and what feels like a deep personal connection to the story behind the words.

After the opener Calnin was joined by a full and capable band for the track 'You are not Good for Me'. This track from his Oh Hunter EP is one that reels me in like the fragrance of fresh rain. It’s bittersweet in sentiment and all encompassing. Performed live it was just lovely. Calnin’s ensemble provided the heart achingly beautiful harmonies that bring an added layer of heart penetration. This little “man choir” featured throughout much of the set and added such a wonderful element of performance camaraderie as well as a goosebump worthy effect on the ears and warmth in the heart.

There were truly too many highlights to pick an absolute favourite of Hayden’s set. I was transfixed from the start with the calibre of musicians that Hayden Calnin draws around him and his music. His band is almost an extension of himself as an artist. The sound was tight and thrilling in its fullness and passionate yet precise in delivery. And Calnin himself is a true talent. His songwriting is first class. And to match this, his grounded yet warm stage presence holds the stage with humble power.

If I had to name some moments where I was utterly transfixed during the performance I would start with the track 'Coward'. With its firstly soft sections that lead head on to an almost collision of call outs in the chorus, this song truly found it’s magic live for me. I think I might have been singing along to this song too loudly before I realised that those around me probably wanted to hear the actual artist sing this - not some chicky babe who had pushed her way through the crowd to be closer to the music makers! Another melt-my-heart moment was the song 'Comatose' from the Oh Hunter EP. The strength in Calnin’s voice -with his ability to draw out the softer more intimate phrases as well as the soaring warmth in sections such as,now look at the dirt in my toes and tell me that I’m less of a man for leaving you," was beautiful to witness live. The backing vocals complimenting Hayden’s lead vocals with ethereal “oohs” is one of my favourite moments on the EP and live was exquisite. The other moment I couldn’t help but want to join in the singing was the matra-esque song 'Forever a Traveller' which features last on the EP. There was a point during at the end of this song where the lights at the back of the stage flooded onto the audience and left the unaccompanied chorus of singers holding the moment of delicate harmony in silhouette. Pure magic.

I have been listening to the Oh Hunter EP all week since the gig. And I can’t help but think I would like to see Hayden Calnin play live again. If you get a chance, snap up any opportunity to see him. And if you like your music to penetrate the heart deeply with wonderful craft and authenticity then do yourself a favour and purchase his incredible EP.

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