Words by Eden Campbell
The 21st of September marked the last leg of swirlingly rhythmic three-piece, Safia’s Australian and New Zealand Tour. The Tivoli was playing host to Safia, as well as their distinguished support acts, Eilish Gilligan and Boo Seeka. I was privileged enough to be able to tag along and go sink my teeth into some of the most tantalising names in Australia’s indie-electronica scene.
Eilish Gilligan set the tone for the evening with her ethereal vocals and fragile synths. The Melbourne-based producer/songwriter has repertoire to boot. Her ability to hone into the full spectrum of emotions in her lyrics and composition bring the auditorium to her whim. Gilligan played on space by shifting dynamics between sparse piano-led tracks and delightfully effervescent pop numbers.
Aside from her incredible production and passionate song writing, Gilligan’s impressive vocal range drove her performance home. Powerful contrasts between her high and low register only amped up the emotional resolve of her lyrics, and the audience’s attention didn’t wane for a second.
The electronica duo, Boo Seeka were the next palate teaser. Boo Seeka go from strength to strength with every new tour they embark on, reeling in new fans with every performance.
In the early stages of the night, chatter amongst the punters seemed to almost completely revolve around the anticipation for Boo Seeka’s set. Their stand-alone album, ‘Never Too Soon’ has been on my high rotation for the last couple of years and it was surreal to see them perform live. Boo Seeka was an entirely immersive and transformative journey from the moment the boys stepped on stage: Like Eilish Gilligan before them, the way Boo Seeka harnessed sonic dynamics was stellar and seemed to effortlessly weave a narrative: Delicately balancing a kind of fragile and fuzzy escapism, against a full-throttled, rolling expansiveness. These ebbs and flows build up to an almost overwhelming spectrum of shimmer and texture. Conjuring up feelings of haunting melancholy, and quickly contrasting them with floods of joy. The only negative thing I can say about Boo Seeka’s set, was the absence of my favourite song, Argo Misty.
When Safia took to the stage, drenched in violet light, the Canberra trio were quick to announce that this would be the last show of their Australian and New Zealand ‘Story’s Start Or End’ tour. Lead vocalist/producer Ben Woolner disclosed to the full capacity auditorium, that he “thinks we’ve saved the best [show] until last!” with a kind of candour that made it sound as if it were a precious secret between friends. As the two opening acts, powerhouses in their own rights, gently lulled and lifted us into the atmosphere with equally gentle as they were soaring melodies, Safia hit the ground running. Their signature brand of post-dubstep electro pop was cranked up to 100% from the first note they played, and only seemed go up from there.
Woolner, every inch a born performer, optimised the stage’s space, expertly weaving around each corner in a commanding, yet playful steeze. The crowd was absolutely lapping it up, as the choruses were sung out in unison by the screaming sea of people.
The second song of their set, Starlight – one of Safia’s biggest singles of 2019, had me feeling full-blown synesthesia as the lighting pulsated between strobes of indigo, violet and white gold. A more perfect visual could not have been conjured to accompany the song.
It is worth mentioning that Safia’s performance should be regarded as audio-visual. Emphasis on ‘visual’. The elaborate videos accompanying the songs were larger than life and insanely intricate. Safia’s amazing form and tight playing was only made richer from the increasingly trippy and theatrical video and lighting display.
As Woolner’s unmistakable falsetto swelled through Make Them Wheels Roll, guitarist/producer, Harry Sayers straddled a speaker and churned out an impressive solo that rang through the last chorus – giving the song a fresh rock vibe that had been previously untapped. This was the case for a lot of the set, Sayers would effortlessly roll out feverish licks and riffs that are otherwise lower down in Safia’s mix
A personal highlight of the set was the anthemic and gospel-esque rendition of Resolution – the bands latest single to date. Certain sections were highlighted by bandpassed radio affected vocals lending a grand feeling of light and dark to the live vocal production.
Another personal highlight was the tongue-in-cheek lead in to Counting Sheep, which saw a quick homage to Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again.
As the night wrapped up, the feeling of contentment and fullness was palpable amongst the audience. What we witnessed here tonight went above and beyond the parameters of indie-electronica, or pop. Eilish Gilligan, Boo Seeka, and Safia all encapsulate their own brand of passionate and emotive production that very obviously resonated with the crowd.
Each act was so en pointe – each line, each note, each nuanced and pregnant pause was delivered with stark clarity and reproduced perfectly for live performance.