Live Review: Paul Kelly and the Merri Soul Sessions - Taronga Zoo, Sydney (05.02.15)

Paul Kelly was joined by a group of talented Australian singers to play songs they performed together on the Merri Soul Sessions album.

Paul Kelly appears on stage but doesn't take to the microphone straight away. Instead, he lets the lovely Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan and Clairy Browne start the night with "What You Want" - taken from The Merri Soul Sessions album.

The weather was questionable and there were clouds overlooking Taronga Zoo, what better way to tempt fate than to sing a song called "Smells Like Rain"? Kelly prefaces it by saying they're going to bring the rain, a statement that didn't seem too far from being true. Lucky for us, the sky held it in and the set was uninterrupted. The display of talent on stage was simply amazing and with so many big voices, Kelly barely has to open his mouth. Clairy Browne sang "Keep on Coming Back For More" solo and while she managed to depress the hell out of us - which prompted Kelly to ask 'Everyone okay out there?' when she finished - she showed off her strong vocal range and her classy performance style.

The familiar chords of "How to Make Gravy" caused a mass rush to the front of the stage, prior to that everyone was comfortably seated or lying down on the ground. This song means so much to so many people, and it was evident in the way everyone sang along. Kelly changed some of the words around - as he has done for some time now - and sang 'What was the last one, what was his name again? Never did get Nina Simone,' instead of, 'Just a little too much cologne.'

Clairy Browne and Dan Sultan delivered a strong, heartfelt performance of the classic, "When Something is Wrong With My Baby"; this was one of the standouts of the night and the crowd showed their appreciation with cheers and claps before the song even finished. The set showed off the talent of everyone on stage, however, in some places felt like it lagged because of the slower song choices. When Kelly announced it was all dancing music from now on, you could feel the relief in the air.

Kelly's hits started to appear one by one, with "Song From the Sixteenth Floor", "Give Into My Love" and "Look So Fine, Feel So Low". But it was Linda Bull performing lead vocals on "Sweet Guy" that really stood out; she moved around the stage confidently - for want of a better word, one that isn't 'fiercely' - and it felt as though she'd struggled and asked someone in her own life the age-old question, 'What makes such a sweet guy turn so mean?'

"Beggar on the Street of Love" was a great inclusion in the encore and I'm slightly embarrassed to say I thought it was a song by Jenny Morris, not Kelly himself. "Dumb Things" made everyone dance and it was obvious we'd all been hoping they would play it. While it was slightly slower than usual, and some of the words were faltered over, Kelly's ability to make people move cannot be denied.

The night ended with a beautiful version of "Meet Me in the Middle of the Air". All performers gathered on stage, and sang into one microphone completely a cappella. The harmonies were perfect and suited the dark setting of Taronga Zoo with the harbour in the background completely. The night was filled with old and new Australian talent, and a showcase of excellent, classic songwriting and emotion.