Hot on the heals of the release of his debut EP in early April, EJ Worland hit up Mary’s Underground in Sydney on Saturday night to showcase the best of the EP to a keen and loyal home town crowd.
With the release of No One Left to Blame still fresh in the mind, and dance floors now back for live music, everyone in attendance at the show were in the mood for a quality time and relished the opportunity to let their hair down at a gig for what feels like the first time in forever.
Opening up the night were The Hunnies, whom also doubled as Worland’s backing singers. The three Hunnies out the front lead the way with their smooth harmonies, ukelele skills and all-round quality vocals.
Playing a mixed set of covers and originals, The Hunnies opened the night with a cover of The Bee Gees classic “How Deep is Your Love”. Taking the time to introduce themselves, The Hunnies moved forward with a jazzed up, ukelele cover of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong‘s “Isn’t This a Lovely Day”.
Whilst not relying too heavily on it for every song, The Hunnies’ strength as a trio was evidently their three-way harmonies and ability to let their voices and individual skills come to the front when needed, and sit in the periphery when not. A set highlight came in the form of the funk driven “Come in to Love”. With lead vocals from Ellen Mara; a sneaky gem hidden in an otherwise completely great set.
Entering the stage just before 9:30, Worland eased his way in by opening the set in solo mode, before welcoming his band (and the return of The Hunnies) on to the stage as they swiftly busted into “Do Better (Make Me Want to Scream)”. Seemingly doing what the song title asked, the crowd were quickly up on the dance floor and begun to ease themselves into fifty minutes of dancing, singing and pure joy. The vocals of The Hunnies complimented the husky vocals of Worland, as the atmosphere of “Do Better” built up before its crescendo really allowed the set to truly kick into gear.
Toning things down just a little on the near six-minute masterpiece of “Poison Lies”, Worland began to take the time to talk to and with the crowd. This not only built the rapport between the band and crowd, but also allowed the show to flow with a natural progression. This flowed into the vibe in the rest of the room, as a genuine ease and community began to filter through. The first song written for the EP, “Drown in You” made an appearance as Worland spoke about how great it was to finally be able to play the song in a live setting after more than two years not being able to.
The set moved through it’s middle stages with the fluency you’d expect from an act who’s played a hundred shows this year, not one whose shows you can still count on one hand. Saving the best of the night for the last three tracks, Worland welcomed out Tony Buchen, the producer of No One Left to Blame.
Getting Buchen to absolutely crush the jazz flute on “Take it Easy” proved a masterstroke as this was the pinnacle of the night to this point. Welcoming Buchen back on stage to close out the main set with lead single and EP centre-piece “Hard To Find”, the main set culminated in a series of all-band claps, boisterous musicianship and what felt like an almost coming of age moment for Worland.
Returning to the stage just as quickly as he left, Worland completed the night with an encore of “Over The Pond”. A sweet, silky and smooth ending to the night, there was a level of gratitude and satisfaction in the room that I haven’t seen at a show in quite a while. Backing up one of the year’s best debut EPs with a live show to match wasn’t going to be an easy feat, but EJ Worland and his band managed to pull it off. Get around the hype; it’s real!
FOUR STARS AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Forthcoming Tour Dates
15th May | Eltham Hotel, Eltham NSW
29th May | Shake It Up Fundraiser @ Factory Theatre, Marrickville – from 3pm.