Dan Sultan’s star has gone from the shooting to meteoric variety over the last few months, being capped off with an ARIA award for Best Male Performer a couple of weeks ago. Playing the last night of his Up Close & Acoustic tour in his home town (save for an extra gig supporting a certain L Cohen at Hanging Rock the next day), Sultan has shed the big band and is accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and collaborator Scott Wilson on an electric six string.

Before considering Sultan’s music, it’s also hard to ignore the elephant in the room. Yes he’s an indigenous artist but this is not what makes him stand out in addition to the music. Be still beating hearts ladies, he’s a sex symbol – perhaps the first Australian performer to whip the female populace in to a frenzy on such a level since Michael Hutchence at INXS’s peak. Therefore tonight’s setting at the elegant Thornbury Theatre seems at odds with reports of the previous night’s show which entailed an array of female underwear being thrown on stage at the Hi Fi Bar by amorous fans.

Yet amongst all this, slightly vulnerable sitting on a stool, he introduces a song about unrequited love, saying ‘ you know how when things are going well and you want something to happen, but after 18 months, two years, you guess maybe not? It’s heartening for us mere mortals to know we aren’t alone in such delicate matters of the heart.

Sultan acknowledges the swag of awards he’s picked up over the last few months while remaining ever humble, but can’t resist pointing out that his compadre Wilson is possibly the first white fella to win a Deadly [Australia’s Indigenous Music Awards].’Old Fitzroy’ shares the phrasing of Bob Dylan but rather than a gentrified inner city Melbourne suburb populated by wealthy professionals, it evokes the vast spaces of Springsteen and even The Triffids.

Sultan explains that the nature of this acoustic show is just like the times he and Wilson shared when starting out, jamming and writing songs in his lounge room, while Wilson recalls his work at the time, acting as a semi trailer jockey. He explains that while doing runs across the Nullarbor, he would down slabs of beer with the other truckies while their rigs were parked at rest stops. “Get Out While You Can’ is introduced by way of explanation that Sultan’s album of the same name was dubbed as such to give the song the importance it deserves. Sultan explains that ‘Nyul Nyul Girl’ was a song he learned in Broome while making Bran Nue Dae, and the tenderness he renders it with makes it a highlight of the night. The spaghetti western stylings of ‘Come Home Tonight’ is an appropriate penultimate offering, prompting a woman to jump out of the crowd on to the stage to hug Sultan, while ‘Bring Your Sweet Loving…’ as an encore leaves the crowd rejoicing. While no knickers were seen on stage tonight, Sultan would have left many with their undergarments in a twist.

Jim Murray