GIG REVIEW: Benny Nelson & Selve + Support, The Milk Factory, South Brisbane, 05/12/2019

Benny Nelson

Words by Tracey Moyle – Music Maven Events

Thursday night and The Milk Factory at South Brisbane is buzzing.  Tables are mixed with musicians and fans patiently waiting on a night of music that each person in that room knows will be worth the tired eyes at work the following day.  Tomorrow is Friday anyway right? Thursday is close enough to the weekend for a night of great music.

Those gathered have come to see local rock blues musician Benny Nelson.  Once you see Nelson live, it’s hard not to go back again and again. 

Tonight’s line up includes pop/rock/indie guitarist James Bartlett under the moniker Flamingo Blonde, his solo project.     He takes to the small stage with his electric guitar looking comfortable in front of the crowd.   He opens the set with a smooth pop rock number, Think You’re Coming Around.  It’s definitely the right tone for the night with everyone giving him their full attention the moment he starts singing.

He continues through the set with his alluring tone capturing those punters gathering early.  His music at times has a cognitive dissonance, with emotional lyrics paired with an upbeat pop melody.  His narrative resonates around the room and has a surprise in the mix with probably the best ever cover of Stop by the Spice Girls adding wistful emotion to the usually pop driven tune.  The only way I ever I want to hear this song again.  His voice has a very Rae Thistlethwayte feel, with that easily likable timbre.  He finishes with the story of Hotel Gloria, an actual hotel between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and his own imagined tale of the older style mustard hotel, surrounded by newer and more modern buildings.  A great upbeat way to finish getting the crowd warmed up.

A reprise from the very warm, very cozy room, as those gathered grab a drink and heading to the bar area or outside for a hit of cool air, or nicotine.

Following up the night we had Selve come out to entertain the growing flock of music lovers. Their own description on social media reads;

When the face upon the mirror fades, 
A sea of silver takes it’s place,
Alone it leaks through every name, 
We all become the Selve again.

This is Selve.  As a music reviewer you see many bands over time and finding one that is like no other is truly a magical thing. This six piece, psychedelic – electronic rock (and that’s an over-simplified explanation) outfit, were unlike any band I have seen.  With a line up of Loki Liddle – Vocals, Reece Bowden bass, Harry Edwards drums, James Pendrith guitar, Rafe Shola keyboard and Creation Saffigna on harmoic-vocals they come together in a way that stimulates your musical senses.  The room filled up fast once they started and this funky 60’s inspired six piece seemed to take up every spare bit of floor space on the stage but it was somehow a perfect fit. Their music I find hard to describe but would say, imagine a blend of The Doors, Blue Oyster Cult and Jimi Hendrix with a dose of Jeff Buckley, laced with ethereal feminie vocals (think Pink Floyd) and you have Selve.

I’m sure others may hear it differently but I feel their music is definitely open to interpretation.   It’s was a melting pot of musical flavours assaulting your senses and it was amazing.  The way Saffigna uses her vocal range as an instrumental accompaniment rather than a backing vocal is brilliant.  They continue through their set with that 60’s psychedelic rock feel of an era full of war protests and welcoming peace love and music.  Their music seems driven by a deep affiliation to music of a bygone era but with an electronic feel providing the doorway to 2019.  As interactive and visually entertaining as they are musically creative, Liddle had everyone crouched down while down on haunches singing directly to crowd.  Having them completely encapsulate with the performance.  Carrying on the set Liddle and Saffigna come into the crowd and dance with the party happening all around us. Their final song, they announced, was all about friends and with such a high vibe running through the room I’m sure friends are in abundance for Selve.


Another break for some cold drinks and cool fresh air on a steaming night in Brisbane gave the main act time to reset.

As the crowd trickled back in, the room warmed up.  It was a great turnout for the intimate venue, around 60 punters. Nelson and his band came on stage to a very enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Starting off the set with a blues-rock feel emanating through his compelling huskiness he sung I Wanna Be Something.  The force of the lyrics are pushed to the forefront with so much passion in the delivery.  The room was mesmerised from the first note. Nelson followed up with his first single release from 2018 Talk.

A steady groove slowly built to an emotional peak with a desperate plea “you just gotta talk about it” making you believe every word.   Each song is like a insight into the vulnerabilities of Nelson’s life and his mastery of expression in his performance makes you feel you know or at least can completely relate to the man.  Re-ignite My Fire talks about hard times in life and who can say they’ve never had hard times right?  At Stake and In Store has a beautiful riff complimentary to Benny’s painfully harmonious vocals as he portrays his life experience through his music asking  “Am I ever going to realise what’s at stake and what’s in store”. He makes you consider your own life choices.  The ability to evoke your own reflections within his words is his superpower.

The latest single Bad Man tells a raw and honest story of an inner struggle to be a better person.  His conviction had every empathetic fibre of my being on alert.  The song moves from a melancholic heartfelt statement to a musical crescendo, a desperate plea riding a wave of emotion as heartfelt as the tale behind the lyrics. The ability to relay his music with such vulnerability is spellbinding. Taking us into What If This Never Gets Better?  Nelson brings the musical mood up with the room dancing along to, again, a song of that so many can relate to, from some period of their lives. No one escapes this world without a struggle of some kind.

Nelson, the band and the fans were simultaneously completely carried away by the song.

The band left the stage alone to Nelson as he tells the story of an accident that could have ended his career. After falling and cutting his wrist he lost feeling in his right hand. Although he was told it was his end as a guitarist he worked through it. With love and support he made it back to where he needed to be. He takes us into Another Bottle of Wine as a solo and the emotion in this number is heartbreaking. Just the melody from the guitar is sorrowful on its own. Story telling at it’s emotive best and Nelson speaking his own truth.

A cover of Paul Kelly’s, How To Make Grav next was a great choice and popular with the crowd.  Perfect choice. Not another ok cover but perfect. The band re-join him on stage after the second verse. 

The Phoenix closes the set. A song about rising up from the fire – an appropriate closing.   Drums carried the song through to a faster pace with Nelson taking the crowd out on a high with his vocal power shining through in the chorus.  

It’s never enough when you’re listening to great music.  So at the crowds insistence they were back with a great version of Never Tear Us Apart  which has just been released on YouTube.    

Not one person left disappointed this Thursday night out in South Brisbane.  Another amazing night with Benny Nelson and his band and everyone left on high spirits.  If you see his name on a gig guide don’t hesitate, get along to experience the man and his music.

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