GIG REVIEW: Thelma Plum + Kira Puru, The Fortitude Music Hall, 11/06/2021

Words by Kate Lockyer {Kate Lockyer Music}

All photos by Elizabeth Sharpe // IG : @ummagummamumma

Full gallery HERE

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This weekend the Fortitude Music Hall was host to a fantastic Friday night of live music, with Thelma Plum finally getting to play the hometown show of her Homecoming Queen tour in Brisbane. Supported by Kira Puru, the show was full of Australian female music talent that had us riveted all night.

The show started with a DJ onstage as the lights twirled. JT Hazard, who went on to play with Puru for the rest of her set, began with some beats to get everyone moving – from Rebel Just for Kicks, to Heatwaves, to a saxophone version of Umbrella by Rihanna. Puru comes onstage grooving to this last track.

With a funky soul-pop sound, Kira Puru made a splash in the Australian music scene when she dropped her debut self-titled EP ‘Kira Puru’ in 2018. Since then, she has released several more singles, dripping with her syrupy, sassy vocals. Puru cheekily introduces herself and her songs – “Gonna play some songs that are basically all saying ‘fuck you’ to my ex-boyfriend… or hello to my new boyfriend”.

The first song, Say Something, has a buzzy bass intro, with Puru’s sultry vocals sliding onto centre stage. The chorus is about trying to work out where she stands with someone – “Say something, anything at all oh just let me be / Say something, quit digging your fingers into me”. She leans on the mic stand coolly for the second verse, confidence oozing out of her every move.

Puru jokes that the next song is “Another for the ex – Everything is Better Without You. Here I am thriving at the Fortitude Music Hall, where are you motherfucker?”. This song is just as catchy as the last, “I’m sorry but I never felt better / Everything’s better without you”, she sings and every word feels like a heavy blow against people who didn’t deserve her time. Puru switches from smooth falsetto to a full-bodied belt like it’s nothing.

She says that the next song is “about stalking someone… don’t do it its fucking creepy, unless you wanna stalk me, respectfully, then fucking go for it”. This song is a low, slow burn – “Wouldn’t hesitate to burn every memory / The second you call my name / Come on and talk with me”, she sings, soulfully. Tension is similarly slow and funky, with a strong, steady beat and a syncopated bass line. She stands, one foot on the foldback, to sing the chorus, and her voice flicks into an “ooh” effortlessly as she struts across the stage. At the end of the track we get a groovy surprise as JT Hazard mixes in Dua Lipa’s Levitating.

Puru says that the next is a new one – “this one’s about being a naughty girl and coming to the realisation that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Bad Things is a tongue in cheek track that shows off her wild side, with plenty of dance breaks. She sings the pre-chorus with an edge to her voice, and delivers cheeky lyrics like “You know I’m a selective forgetter / I’m only good at doing bad things” in the chorus. It may be the first time we’ve heard it, but it’s seriously catchy.

Before Puru sings the next song, she takes a moment to thank the audience. “It’s been a rough year, we haven’t made any money or been able to come out and meet you guys. Thanks for everyone for coming out and buying merch, tickets, songs.” In Why Don’t We Get Along, we hear a vulnerability she hides in her other tracks. She begins sweetly, subdued keys and finger snaps stripping back the toughness Puru usually exudes. Singing “When you speak I feel it in my bones”, she puts her hands on her chest and the words come straight from within. The whole audience is mesmerized in this song.

For her last song of the night, Puru ups the energy again. Molotov is the perfect party anthem, with a cheeky electric guitar riff, fiery lyrics about tearing up the dancefloor, and backing vocals everyone can sing along to. Puru’s nonchalant presence onstage has us all feeling cool and confident.

Then, it’s time for the main act. Thelma Plum has a gorgeous tone, and she shows this off in her first song, the one that first made me fall in love with her music. Homecoming Queen is an iconic self-love anthem as Plum sings earnestly about her struggles as an Indigenous teenage girl, and her eventual self-acceptance. To begin her set, the band stands onstage, playing the gentle, swaying arpeggiated intro, with the stage lights all pointed at the mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling that casts glittering light out across the audience. It is in this atmosphere that Plum walks onstage to start singing, and she delivers a heartrending performance of the song. It’s the bridge that is perhaps the most poignant, reminding us of the continuing efforts of indigenous Australians to be counted as equal in their own country – “Cause in 1967 I wasn’t human / And in 1994 I was born / I am still here / We are still here”.

The next song she sings is Woke Blokes, a defiant song that points out the hypocrisy of some of the people who call themselves woke but are perfectly happy with the status quo. Cool blue lighting complements the sassy lyrics and Plum’s silky vibrato. The rhythm of the chorus is relentlessly catchy – “I’m so sick of these woke blokes / Living their woke lives fucking their woke girls / Not like me”.

When the stagehand comes out to bring her water, Plum introduces us to Darcy who is on the road with her and mentions that at every show so far there has been a Darcy chant. Sure enough, people start calling out his name, and he very awkwardly and endearingly gives her a hug. Plum laughs then, saying “okay, now back to me”. Soft pink and yellow lighting fades in for Don’t Let a Good Girl Down. She sways her hips as she starts the song off with quiet confidence – “It’s kind of icky / The depths that you’ll go / To bring a good girl”. As the song continues, the mood heightens, and Plum’s voice is sharpened by her emotion. Singing “Where do you get the nerve?”, her vocals swing smoothly through the notes and she stamps her feet.

Plum tells us that she has been writing a new record during lockdown. The next song, I Don’t Play That Song Anymore, is an exciting peek into the upcoming release. The guitarist switches to an acoustic for a slow, sentimental start. Plum sings her song gently, and in its vulnerability I feel like the emotions in this song are like fine China, delicate and easily cracked. It is a song full of a quiet energy, about choosing who you give yourself to, wanting to save her song “For someone else / Who loves me better than before”.

She jumps on the keyboard then, to play another new track, that is maybe even more full of emotion. Plum tells us that she used to live in Brisbane, in Fairfield, in an old Queenslander housing commission house that “my mum made so beautiful and perfect for me”. She wrote the song about the house and her old neighbour Dorothy, who loved to gossip with her. With just a spotlight shining behind her, all we can see on stage is her and the keyboard. Playing understated, soft chords throughout the song, Plum sing us a song about her childhood, almost like a nursery rhyme. Oh I wish that I had a baby blue bicycle / And I ride it back to you”. Her voice is consumed by melancholy notes as it glides up into her higher register.

The next song is also new, and Plum confides that she is not good at setting her own boundaries – “there was a guy… and, you know, boring”. For Bars on My Windows, there is a delightful electric riff, and the song is sung with resolve. “You had a hold on me / But now that I’m in therapy / It’s not my job to set you free”. A rumbling descending bass line at the end of the chorus finishes the song off.

Another one of her most popular tunes, I’m Not Angry Anymore fills the audience with electricity. Plum admits, laughing, “I’ve gotta say, sometimes I’m still a liiiiittle bit angry”. Lit up with red and yellow lights, the stage is full of her powerful presence and we are treated to her simmering vocals. The upbeat mood has everyone grooving along, including Plum.

Next up she sings a remix of an old track, How Much Does Your Love Cost?. Plum tells us that Pete (Peter Covington) made this version (“Fuck yeah Pete!”, she says). It begins with luxe strums across the electric guitar, and by the chorus she is crooning sweetly the question, “How much does your love cost?”

Plum was inspired to write another of her new songs, When it Rains it Pours, by a boardwalk in her neighbour’s backyard (“I have really bougie neighbours”, she explains). The icy blue lighting frames slow acoustic chords and rain sounds seeping onto the stage. Then, drums kick in and Plum’s heartbreaking words have us all entranced. “When it rains it pours / Dinner’s been served and you’re next to her / There’s no place for me”. Her voice shifts from sultry and low to high and otherworldly. The last line of the chorus, “there’s no place for me”, is repeated as a descending synth riff chimes in behind it. Monica on bass struts down to where Plum is standing, and they groove together with an electric guitar solo to finish.

Backseat of my Mind, her next song, features low, bold lyrics, and an upbeat, powering chorus. This new track is about moving on, with shimmering imagery of travelling, “Driving forward to the beautiful place unknown”. Hazy backing vocals are the highlight of the chorus as Plum sings “I leave it behind /In the backseat of my mind”.

Better in Blak is Plum channelling all of her rage about the discrimination and abuse she has faced into yet another empowering anthem. Her presence is pinpointed in the moment, as she belts “You took the colour from me / But I look in blak”, and the whole audience shouts the last line of the chorus “Maybe I would take it back / But fuck that / Fuck that!”. It’s a super powerful and at the same time fun way to finish the set.

Of course, the crowd calls for an encore, and we get whole three more songs from Plum. Her friend Monica this time comes back to play keys, and they play another of Plum’s new songs, Golden Touch. Trickling arpeggiated keys back her exquisite tone as she sings “I put my life in the hands of someone I can’t trust / Be careful of the ones you love too much / The ones with the golden touch”. By the second verse Pete has joined in with sparse electric chords and Plum’s wavering voice rises and falls in an almost hymnal fashion.

Then, we get a cover of These Days by Powderfinger. Considering that the venue is owned by JC Collins, a former member of Powderfinger, a cover of such an iconic band being played by a new generation of Australian musicians in the Fortitude Music Hall was nothing short of magical. Clumsy Love, her last song for the night, has the whole place bopping around and singing at the top of their lungs.

Thelma Plum is an incredible First Nations artist, tackling her experiences in her songs with humility, resolve and fantastic talent. I can’t wait for here to put out her next record, which I can guarantee will be played on repeat!

Follow Thelma Plum HERE

Follow Kira Puru HERE

With thanks to Warner Music Australia + Fidelity Corp

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