Live Review: Mia Dyson + Jep & Dep - The Factory Floor, Sydney (03.04.14)

When Mia Dyson walks on - cutting a lean figure in tight blue pants, short brown hair flopping rock-star like across her face – and launches into the rolling “When The Moment Comes”, a great wave of warmth comes pouring off the stage. It’s bluesy and bruising, pushed forward by Dyson’s muscular guitar chops and the snare rolls of drummer Danny McKenna. The sound is eminently comfortable, so rooted in the traditional that it all feels familiar. Or perhaps Dyson just makes it so.

The first song to come might be a cut off her last record, 2012’s The Moment, but tonight is only one of a couple of shows that Dyson is doing previewing her new album – as yet untitled, but scheduled for a June release. The Factory Floor may be the perfect setting – small and cosy, a number of chairs and tables taking up the front space, with staggered steps heading up the back. Most people sit casually on the steps, cross-legged, which gives everything a rather communal feeling, as if the gig is taking place in somebody’s living room. The big splays of murals on the wall and the hanging lights only add to the homely feeling.

Earlier, Sydney duo Jep & Dep had chilled the room with an harmony laden acoustic set – including a crisp cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Confide In Me”. But now hot blues is sliding off the stage, with Dyson wrenching a quick and singeing slide solo from her guitar.

Unusually for a set list mostly comprised of new songs never played live before, it never feels stilted or unorganized. The band is tight and locked in, Liz Stringer edging Dyson’s vocals with creamy harmonies. The new tracks feels bigger than previous releases – more emphasis has been placed on chunky chorus hooks, the beat is pushing forward instead of the typical blues hang back. There are also some new sounds getting a look in: “Only Three Chords” is a slice of timeless country, while the standout encore track (presumably called “Lovin’ You”) is a simmering soul blues. Current single “When We’re Older” is a nod to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. She throws in a couple of old tracks for good measure: “Jesse” comes like a bolt gun to the brain, and Dyson flexes her formidable guitar muscles on “Cigarettes”.

Vocally, Dyson remains untouched this side of Lucinda Williams. Rich and dusty, it anchors and pins every note – giving as much to the sound as any other instrument. There’s a rasp to it as well, a brittle–velvet fragility that only becomes apparent when she ricochets up the register in songs like “Tell Me”. Way up there, it cracks slightly, but soon falls back with pillowy softness to the lower notes.

For a while now, it has seemed like Dyson has always been hiding in plain sight – delivering quiet masterpieces of records and touring with a relentless dedication afforded only to blues artists. At the end of tonight though, after finishing with the swaggering The Moment off cut “You And Me”, you get the feeling that this relative obscurity might end pretty soon.