On album number five, Sarah Blasko shimmies and struts to the language of love. Her recent show at the Sydney Opera House for Graphic Festival saw the world premiere and official preview of her latest offering. It was worlds apart from her previous concert at this iconic venue where she was backed by the Sydney International Orchestra. This time around it was about taut, indie pop tunes and celebrating a crazy little thing called love.
The evening started with track one from Eternal Return, “I Am Ready”. One thing that was immediately apparent was that this record is a synth-laden offering that was no doubt influenced by its producer, Burke Reid, formerly of the band Gerling. Sarah Blasko was also a little nervous about presenting it because it is so different. She was dressed in head-to-toe black and backed by no less than three musicians on keys (David Hunt, Neal Sutherland and Sarah Belkner) as well as Donny Benet and Laurence Pike (PVT) on bass and drums, respectively. The music shared more in common with the likes of St. Vincent and Bjork than her previous pop songs and ballads.
Sarah Blasko was funny and self-deprecating between tracks. She also showed a real assertiveness during “I Wanna Be Your Man”, but the clear highlight of the new material was “I’d Be Lost”. The song was absolutely beautiful, with some New Order-like keys (think of “Elegia”) and Blasko’s vocals that straddled the line between soaring and lilting. It was such a raw, strong and impassioned plea and it’s one you can definitely see doing well from this album.“
“Beyond” was a sprawling and atmospheric tune, while “Luxurious” was dark and broody and similar to her older material. Some of the songs had a tendency of blending into one another in terms of texture and tone, but it will be interesting to hear these mixed in and integrated with Blasko’s amazing back catalogue at other shows in the future. The new album definitely appears to have its fair share of incredible moments but it is a very strong stylistic change for Blasko so it’s hard to know how her fans will react.
The main set finished with the record’s final track, “Without”. This also saw the end of artist Mike Daly’s visuals, which had been full of lots of metaphors and symbolism throughout the evening. They really supported the new material brilliantly. But it was clear that the audience still held a candle for Blasko’s older material. An encore featuring the quiet, “Here” from I Awake, as well as that record’s title track were brilliant. These older songs provided a better springboard for Blasko’s amazing voice while her new material seemed to support her cute, Deborah Harry-inspired dance moves a lot more. The audience were also treated to a magical, “All I Want” and the fifties-inspired, nostalgic pop sounds of “We Won’t Run”.
The Graphic Festival was ultimately a place where Sarah Blasko made a welcome return to the stage after a busy year making records, taking part in different collaborations and becoming a mum. Blasko’s voice remains as beguiling and wonderful as ever and her songs are still very relatable and complex, even though this time around the prevailing theme is lightness and love (leaving behind the darkness of some of her previous work). Sarah Blasko is a fabulous performer and songwriter and it was a real joy to preview her new album and share in a little slice of heaven with her.
Photo Credit: Dan Boud.