LIVE REVIEW: Story and Song and Angie McMahon
Melbourne based singer-songwriter Angie McMahon has recently exploded onto the national music scene (along with her three-piece band), producing some of the most authentic and moving music to surface in Australia of late. Blurring the lines between folk and alt-rock, singles like ‘Slow Mover’ and ‘Missing Me’ take a gut wrenching, introspective look into relationships and the world surrounding them. On September 14th, McMahon brought these stories to the stage of the Rosemount Hotel, supported by local folk star Helen Shanahan and the acclaimed Canadian singer-song writer Leif Vollebekk.
Walking into the Rosemount main room can be a daunting experience for an opening act, with the enormity of the space often an full display as the crowd is still filtering in. This was not the case on this night. The room was already packed and the crowd buzzing when opening act, Helen Shanahan took to the stage early in the evening. With her first song, voice reverberating of the walls and piercing the crowd, Shanahan set the tone for what would be an amazing night of song writing. Not content to take just the crowd on a journey, she also invited her husband, acclaimed vocalist Matt Allen, on stage to perform. I am consistently blown away by Shanahan’s writing, which perfectly balances honesty, metaphor and story-telling, and her performance was proof that she has found the perfect medium for her voice.
Next up on stage was Canadian singer-songwriter, Leif Vollebekk, who humbly seated himself behind a Wurlitzer electronic piano. Vollebekk jolted with every chord, inflection and rhythmic change of his performance as if the notes were spiraling through his body. He wove through song after song from his 2017 album, Twin Solitude with twists of emotion and technicality. There is a rare authenticity in how Vollebekk’s performs; full of heart and soul, drifting from stories of life in Canada to life on the road to existentialist questions on life itself. As Vollebekk drew the crowd into his performance with jokes and tales of his travels, I truly felt as if I were involved in something greater than a mere musical set. In Vollebekk’s hands, those twists of emotion and technical ability wind together to create soundscapes that carry the listener towards cathartic reflection. I highly suggest catching a set of Vollebekk’s if you ever have the chance. Even if that means you have to fly to Canada!
When Angie McMahon finally appeared upon stage, it was to eager applause from the Perth crowd. Bursting into her upbeat single, ‘Keeping Time’, I was immediately captivated by McMahon’s voice. Ranging from deep, dark and gloomy into thick, soaring high notes, she perfectly conveys the character and emotion within her songs. The audience swayed and sang to every note of the minimalistic three-piece band, as the drums and bass rode the dynamic flow of the vocals. I couldn’t help but draw similarities between these performers and the likes of Margaret Glaspy, Angel Olsen or Big Thief. And yet the combination of her raw vocals, rough, hollow guitar tones and genuine songwriting seem to place McMahon in a league of her own.
After playing through a few unreleased songs (which lived up to the promise of her current catalogue), McMahon brought Vollebekk back up to the stage. Together, they sung another of Vollebekk’s songs along with a haunting duet of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’. Then, at the end of the night, speaking as if we were in casual conversation, McMahon thanked the audience and suggested there wouldn’t be an encore because it’d be awkward. Finally, as she played the first chords of her single, ‘Slow Mover’, a wave of light swept over the crowd as a sea of iPhones materialized in the air.
If I had to sum up the night in one word, it would be humble. There was a pervading sense of emotional honesty; a complete detachment from ego or self-indulgence. I walked away from the Rosemount that night reflecting on the words and stories buried in those songs, thankful to be in the wake of such pure expression.
edited by: Sam Needs