“Honest, brave and dedicated”: Camp Cope and Birdz shine at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre

The artist, known as Birdz, a proud Butchulla rapper, original from Katherine in the NT, arrived on the expansive Enmore stage to a smattering of early arrivals. It didn’t take much encouragement for the main floor the start filling as he introduced himself and dove into a visceral highlight from his 2021 Legacy album, ‘Aussie Aussie’.

“Ooooh, We just want our fuckin’ land back”, is one of the more powerful openings to a set you’ll ever hear! It was this same energy that Birdz continued throughout the set. Alongside his cousin, Fred Leone, DJ Danielsan and drummer, they took cuts from his debut album and presented them to an attentive and receptive audience.

Telling stories from an Indigenous perspective is at the core of Birdz’ delivery. He rapped songs about Aboriginal deaths in custody, his family, his land and culture all with a passionate but purposeful pulse.

During his powerful track, ‘Black Lives Matter’, there was a visible pause, a fist in the air and a quiet and reflective recognition of the sad death of TJ Hickey, “just around the corner”, 18 years previously.

Finishing with his hits, Fly and the masterpiece that is ‘Bagi-la-m Bargan’ were big, punchy songs to finish a success of a set which would surely have new fans seeking him out in future.

Birdz belongs on the big stage and there is a feeling that his journey has a long way to go and will see him grace the same Enmore stage many more times after a successful debut.

Time feels very fluid when it comes to live music. Cancelled, postponed and delayed shows have become such a norm that it can be hard to remember which gigs we were going to go to at any one time, which is why this Camp Cope show at The Enmore Theatre, which was a very belated postponement from the cancelled Metro Theatre show of 2021, almost came as a surprise that it’d actually arrived!

Ultimately and conveniently, the show came just six weeks after the drop of their third album, Running With The Hurricane, an album that shows a distinct maturity alongside a sonic sidestep whilst retaining the essence of what Camp Cope are all about – emotional descriptions of life and love with a fierce determination to be better.

With only a small delay at a school-night friendly set-time of 8:30, Camp Cope graced the Enmore stage to a huge cheer. The trio had expanded to four, with Jennifer Aslett on guitar, giving lead singer, George Maq, the opportunity to dance to their opening track, ‘Keep Growing’, one of their oldest but most beloved tracks.

“We didn’t know if anyone would come,” declared Maq at the start of the set, the tongue-in-cheek statement a common theme throughout the night as she was in fine form with stories behind their new songs, tales of the last few years and humorous observations – “Power to anyone that does fisting!”

Despite a few overall sound issues early in the set, it was clear that the bass of Kelly-Dawn Helmrich drives the band, and always has. Particularly in new tracks, ‘Jealous’, ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Caroline’, the visibly pregnant Helmrich’s bass line danced and stood proudly front and centre.

Of course, the rock of a drummer, Sarah Thompson should not be underestimated. As consistent and reliable a drummer, you will not find elsewhere – even if it’s tricky to find her face!

‘Caroline’, the opener of the new album was certainly one of the highlights of the set and confirms that any new direction the group has taken has been a successful one.

The set traversed through old classics, ‘Done’ and ‘Lost’ before returning to new tracks, ‘Sing Your Heart Out’ and ‘Running With The Hurricane’. The old songs sat neatly alongside the new, but there was something distinctive about the performance and this was the crisp clear and powerful nature of Maq’s fantastic voice. Especially once the audio issues were the resolved, hearing the older songs with a new-found sense of expansive depth and pristine long-held notes, showcased just how much work Maq has gone into developing her voice over the last six years.

With just a small mention of the impending election, it was noticeable that Camp Cope were looking to provide an escape from the pressures of the outside world and also a safe and accessible place for their fans. The inclusion of Auslan interpreters was a welcome and entertaining addition to the performance.

“We’ve never done an encore and we’re not going to start now!”, announced Maq. You will not find a more honest, brave and dedicated band in this country and as the strands of ‘The Opener’ closed the show, it was with a big breath out, a warm glow and a knowing smile that we ventured out and back to the real world which – despite its faults, distractions and stresses – suddenly felt a lot easier to deal with.

MallratMallratJameson House of Rounds

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Camp Cope appeared at the Enmore Theatre on 12th May 2022. Camp Cope’s Running With The Hurricane tour continues in Melbourne and Castlemaine on the 13th and 14th of May.

Mick Radojkovic

I like to consume stuff. Music, comedy, TV, films. Also, nachos and doughnuts. Thank you for your time.

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