I was still in High School when Washington first started making a name for herself with the singles “Clementine” and “How To Tame Lions”. A lot has changed in the decade since those singles put her at the pinnacle of Australian pop. One variable that hasn’t changed in that time is her ability to not only write killer tracks, but also play live flawlessly. On a short run of shows in support of new single “Dirty Churches”, Washington took to the stage at a sold out The Lansdowne and performed a magic set of newer tracks and all her greatest moments.
Main support for the night came from Lovesongs. The new on-stage alias of Johnny Mackay, Lovesongs is essentially what you think it will be based on the title. Playing a 30-minute set of love songs and performing as a two-piece, Lovesongs was simple and classic acoustic music, with a little bit of banter between tracks thrown in for good measure. Speaking about two relationships he had with girls from Western Australia, the set highlight came via his track “Fremantle Girls”.
Entering to a toned down interpretation of 2018 single “Claws”, you got the feeling that while these shows were on the smaller scale of venues she’d once played, Washington was still going to leave the crowd frothing and get them to put their dancing shoes on. Following it up with the masterpiece that is “How To Tame Lions” and “Saint Lo”, the set was off to a smooth and justified start.
I once saw Washington four times in the space of four months, and even back then, she had a way with her words and ability to bond with the crowd. This hasn’t changed. Her wit is still as sharp as it was ten years ago, and the ease she has at telling stories in between tracks is something I’ve always loved about her. Speaking about having not played live in maybe 9000 years, the simply beautiful “Clementine” made an appearance before a crowd induced false start to “Sunday Best” gave everyone a good laugh (‘oh, I know this one’ said the girl, front row, centre stage).
Playing guitar and keyboard as well as vocals throughout the night, you were reminded how great Washington truly is. Managing to mash up Maroon 5’s “This Love” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back In Black” was a prime example of her effortless class, as she changed the arrangement to my personal favourite “Cement”. With an almost country vibe to it, “Cement” was a set highlight.
Throwing it back to her There, There album, “Limitless” got a spin before “Spanish Temper” made one of it’s first ever live appearances. Noting that she had no intention ever of playing the track before the #Metoo movement, it’s sad that it took such a movement to occur for Washington to even consider playing it; let alone the events that must have taken place for her to even have written it.
“Holy Moses” was the night at it’s peak, just as it began to come to a close. Pin drop silence filled the room as the morbid brilliance of “Underground” made you begin thinking about your own funeral. Closing the main set with current single “Dirty Churches”, Washington’s voice maintained its strength, as the five piece brought the set to a close. Reappearing back on the stage just as quickly as she departed, an experimental and tortured version of “I Believe You Liar” got a run, before the night finished on the undeniable classic and fantastic “Rich Kids”.
I’d seen Washington six times prior to this set, and while she has always put on a great show, this set felt different; more complete. Her voice and song writing is still as strong as it’s always been, and her on-stage presence is just as strong as it has ever been. The last time I saw her was in the support of an album of love songs that never quite made it to release. Here’s hoping this album makes it to the public’s ears one day; you just know it will be great.
Review Score: Four stars (out of Five).
“Dirty Churches” is out now.
Header image by Bruce Baker