In the hectic nature of big city life, everyone can appreciate the importance of making the most of our precious weekends. Friday evening allowed the delightful Bobby Alu to set the tone for a lucky few in Melbourne; busy brains were wound down after a long working week, forming positive mindsets to enter the weekend with.
After releasing his latest album, Flow, in October 2019, Alu is currently touring Australia, showering the nation with positive vibes, sweet harmonies, Pacific beats, Samoan log drums and a big dose of ukulele. His performance preached a reminder to luxuriate in the little things; those seemingly insignificant but important moments in life that we often forget to take notice of.
The venue was the spectacular Chapel off Chapel. Being a converted 1800s Christian church located near Chapel Street, it proved a fairly unique and memorable setting for live music performance. The audience were seated in staggered, theatre-style positioning, gazing from above whilst the stunning stained-glass window backdrop trickled the last light of the sunset over the stage.
Opening the set with “My Style” and “One To Wait”, Alu stood alone, singing only with the accompaniment of his own ukelele to the silent crowd. The evident choice to build layers within his set by gradually adding musicians or instruments formed an intriguing performance. Alu invited his two bandmates on stage for three-part harmonies during “It’s Time” before finally each picking up a guitar during “All The Way”. The friendships between the three men translated in their synchronisation as musicians and evident joy that circulated between them throughout the show.
Whilst referencing the reggae-influenced songs in Flow, Alu informed the audience that they were all connected by the same theme. “One thing I love to do is people watch – I love seeing people in a trance”. He continued to list architects, ballet dancers, basketball players, a person at a coffee machine, etc. “There is nothing in their head at that moment, except what they are doing – it’s our version of meditation. It’s their flow. What is ours?” Throughout the whole performance, bobbing heads and tapping feet did not cease. In fact, they only became more exaggerated as the evening continued. Visualise it: people breaking the “no standing” rule, wine glasses swaying in the air, you know the sort of thing.
Discussing his Samoan heritage, Alu told the story of how his parents met then thanked audience members for their “multicultural flavour”. The band played one of his mother’s traditional Samoan songs followed by “Lima” – a percussive track featuring nothing but log drums. Unsurprisingly this gained the strongest verbal reaction from the audience in the form of frantic cheering and vigorous applause.
In the show’s final moments, the audience were spoiled with a cover of the legendary soul classic, “Two Of Us” (Bill Withers). After a standing ovation, the three men returned to the stage for an encore which was a highlight of the whole set. One last traditional Samoan song that involved call & response style singing from the audience and more log drumming, even more impressive the second time around. Alu’s departing message only reiterated what the entire evening had encouraged:
“Enjoy life, be good to each other, listen more and I’ll see you real soon”.
Bob Marley would be delighted.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Bobby Alu’s album Flow is out now! You can catch him on the Flow Tour at these upcoming shows:
More about Bobby Alu & ticket info HERE.
The author attended the performance at Chapel Off Chapel on Friday 7th February 2020
Header photograph by Katey Shearer