I’m no stranger to the stained lightbulbs that the Croxton Bandroom has to offer. It’s a marvellous venue which hosts some of best upcoming and established acts who choose to grace Melbourne with their presence. But on a chilly Saturday night, I was left waiting amongst a line of fans waiting to hear the sweet sounds of Dean Lewis.
I’ve seen Jack Gray before, a cool young man radiating a sound of alternative indie rock to a sea of fans. But not at the Croxton supporting Dean Lewis sized crowd. It was great to hear how he has improved since the last time we briefly met, the three-piece played tunes such as his latest single “My Hands” which left some of the members of the crowd singing the chorus back to him. He has established himself a great upcoming act with a unique sound which blends the eclectic electric guitars of The 1975 and sultry, falsetto vocal tone of Jeff Buckley. He really hooked me right in with his upbeat tracks which resemble the distant nostalgia of my youthful summertimes. I look forward to seeing Gray transition from a strong support act, to have a mighty headline show in Melbourne someday.
Next up was one I had not seen before her name had popped up around my Spotify playlists and facebook feed. Robinson, small but mighty had taken the stage with her own two-piece ensemble. Opening with her track “Crave You” I instantly got an impression of her unique electro ambient pop sound was something to not be reckoned with. Her bubbly charisma enticed the audience to sway from side to side and jump and down depending on the mood she commanded through her tracks. Another standout track was her hit “Medicine”, an ode to the karmic backlash of risky relationships. The song was a euphoric trip that allowed everyone to feel what Robinson had throbbing in her heart. Her music is honest, new and refreshing. If I had to describe her sound it would be a crossover between new age Lorde and the LA sound of LANY. Ending her set with her highest streamed track on Spotify “Nothing To Regret” most of the crowd knew her words, which is not surprising since the song was a tribute to all youthful Friday nights spent inside. With the audience chanting back the catchy backing vocal hooks and dancing to the synth-pop banger, it was no wonder that Robinson had booked such an important support slot opening for Dean Lewis.
As the interval had ended, Dean Lewis’ band supplied the stage for the noise what was about to come. Opening with one of his gold singles from his debut EP A Same Kind Of Different “Lose My Mind”, the crowd roared at the familiarity of the song and the energy in the room grew exponentially. The ARIA winner best music video took the time between songs to showcase his laid back and humble persona. Melbourne being one of his first shows in his long sold our Australian tour, you could feel the excitement he had to play shows in his home country. And of course, this excitement allowed the performance to be so much more electrifying. His acoustic styled folk-pop songs translated well from the studio recordings, he continued the set with songs such as “Need You Now” and “Let Go”. I was surprised at how identical his live vocals were to the studio recordings, he is indeed a product of hard work and dedication to the music performing craft.
He gave a taste of what was yet to come in his debut album, most prominent to me was a track called “Stay Awake”. A catchy acoustic guitar riff mixed with a hooky chorus and a Vance joy style shaker routine equated for a more pop-focused take on Dean Lewis’ alternative songwriting. He also told us that opening his album would be a song called “Hold On Me” if I am not wrong. The song showcased a more upbeat side to Dean Lewis’ repertoire. Raging acoustic guitars mixed with lots of Dean’s signature belting vocal tone was a home run with the crowd. Showcasing some new songs was really a great teaser into what we might see from Dean Lewis’ debut album. In my opinion, the album has no intention of staying down below the charts. The middle of the set, Dean Lewis’ decided to take it down a notch. Showcasing a softer side to himself, he played his song “Chemicals” with his band. With dreamy reverb electric guitar and soft percussive takes, the audience was in a trance. I witnessed one woman wipe the tears from her eyes, I guess this just shows the sheer talent and ability Lewis’ songwriting has to offer to its listeners. Able to draw the tears out of our eyes and keep our heels off the ground with his uptempo festival anthems.
The moment we had been waiting for arrived. His ARIA number one hit song was anticipated to be played as he put his guitar down and moved towards his piano. His lyrics sung back to him word for word as he continued to perform his highest streamed single on Spotify with over 200 million streams, “Be Alright”. This was probably the most captivating part of the show, hearing this song many times through my speakers there’s a point in every music lovers mind when something in you just comes alive when you hear it live in the flesh. That indeed happened or me at the Dean Lewis show, a euphoric sensation filled me as I was astonished by the sheer power of what a song could do to me. For me and everyone else in that audience, magic was certainly real for those three and half minutes.
As an encore, Dean Lewis paid tribute to one of his songwriting inspirations Bruce Springsteen. Performing “Dancing In The Dark”, Lewis’ take sure wasn’t as bold as Springsteen’s, but his take on it surely gave the fans a deeper look into what started it all for Dean Lewis. Finishing with his first hit single “Waves”, it was a delight to end the night on such a high note. Back to the song where it all first started.
Being a long time Dean Lewis’ fan, I tried to write this review from the most unbiased point of view possible. But he really just blew my mind, don’t get tme wrong he isn’t the most technically perplexed musician I’ve seen or known, but he is definitely a clear example of a hard-working pop musicain in this day and age. I look forward to what his debut album has to offer in 2019.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Dean Lewis continues his tour around Australia through the rest of the month. For tickets and more details, head to his official website.
The reviewer attended the show at the Croxton in Melbourne on 30th November