Rising star Sophia Brous filled the Grace Darling Hotel in Melbourne to capacity with the final week of her month long residency, and combined with stellar supports, tore the roof off. Jim Murray reports.
Daisy M Tulley is best known as the violinist in Sydney’s precocious wunderkinds Bridezilla, but unsurprisingly she is a formidable talent in her own right. Playing solo and switching between acoustic guitar and violin, her voice betrays a prodigious individual talent hitherto yet highlighted in her work with her band mates. Her finale – a song about her father’s year long posting to Iraq – could have fallen down the path of mawkish in the hands of someone so tender in years. However, her deft lyrical ability and the impressive manner in which she loops on a sequencer her acoustic guitar, violin and vocals to interplay with each other and forge something both epic and simple renders the performance simply haunting.
Geoff O’Connor of Crayon Fields and Slyhats renown takes the stage accompanied by bass and keys to play largely new songs accompanied by sequenced drum beats. Those fans of his bands who appreciated the previously organic nature of their music may have been initially perturbed by the programmed beats, but it quickly becomes apparent that the new format is welcome, with breezy harmonies straddling a strange but curiously attractive mix of 80s beats and US West Coast rock paying equal debt to Fleetwood Mac and The Carpenters.
The room is heaving as Sophia Brous takes to the stage, and the crowd is a remarkable one. On stage and off this evening, the venue has hosted members of 2003’s class of up and coming bands; with members of Jet, Ground Components, The Rumours, Riff Random, The Casinos and Treetops all crowded in to the room. It almost feels like you have stepped back in time to the seminal club night at 161 in Melbourne’s Prahran, Shake Some Action, where so many Australian musicians cut their teeth, fought, played gigs, got drunk and formed life-long friendships. While Sophia was a teenage schoolgirl sneaking in to such venues in those days, many of those in attendance tonight were in no doubt of her talents even then.
Although eliciting massive critical acclaim and a wide following with her initial studies and forays in to jazz performance, Brous bravely chose not to rest upon her laurels and formed a far more contemporary outfit, the results of which defy description. Backed by a team of crack Melbourne musicians, her voice soars above a soundtrack which has this scribe struggling for references. There are the spaghetti western stylings of Giorgio Moroder, there are kraut rock references to Can and Neü. Elements of Regina Spektor come to mind, but as her voice cloaks the room it’s hard to not recall the vocal dramatics of Shirley Bassey. Coincidentally, Brous appears to have found a firm following in Melbourne’s gay community, with many of the men here tonight swooning over her impassioned delivery and arch vocal expression. There’s a cinematic quality to the songs, but as the final number finds her accompanied merely by acoustic guitar, it’s clear that the song craft and her vocals are what drive this phenomenon. It is clear as you look around the packed room calling for a further encore that Sophia is no longer a precocious talent – rather, a star is born.