When was the last time you were given snacks on the way into a gig? That’s right – never. At spirited Melbourne singer-songwriter Shelley Segal’s EP launch, however, no-one went hungry.
Personalised popcorn and brownies with Shelley’s face printed on the plastic packet were handed out on entrance to the Northcote Social Club, so it was clear from the beginning this was going to be a warm, homely and inviting gig.
I spied the girl of the moment early in the night, darting to-and-from backstage. A glittery, beaming body of bouncing curls, Segal made sure every friend and family member got a pre-performance hug, her proud dad Danny by her side.
She introduced each support act, kicking off with Sydney-sider Lorenzo La Cava (aka LLC). Usually a multi instrumentalist one man band, LLC went solo at the Social Club, sometimes utilising an electronic device for back-up.
Often described as “retro modern pop rock”, it was hard to get a sense of the music machine that is LLC in a solo setting, but the guy’s enthusiastic expressions alone were entertaining enough. Each song was accompanied by dramatic eye rolls, grins and head tilts, much to the bemusement of the older folks who’d gathered early to nab bench-seats.
Perth popette Bloom was up next. Looking broody and polished with towering, skinny stilettos and a blunt black fringe, the soaring front-woman was also armed with back-up recordings and a smartly dressed keyboardist.
Drawing her musical influences from the likes of Banks, SIA and Adele, Bloom’s voice culminated in a powerhouse performance. She confessed a fascination with love, loss and death, and her booming, ambient backing certainly set the pensive pop mood. “What are ex-boyfriends for!”, she chuckled as she introduced her track ‘Cheating Heart’. You can get a sense of Bloom’s soothing vocals below with her recent cover of ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac:
Up-and-coming Tasmanian queen of quirk Heloise and her mismatched band were third on the bill. The eccentric 20 year-old redhead brought her unique brand of kooky folk to the NSC, setting a funky groove with original numbers including ‘The Rabbit’, ‘Donkey’ and the particularly weird and wonderful ‘Frills Van Der Ville’. (For more details on Heloise, check out my review of her own single launch here).
Then, looking like a beautiful Jewish gypsy in a shocker-sequinned top, musk pink mini and heels, Shelley Segal took to the stage.
Flanked by her full band, she kicked off with ‘Wiggle Room’, one of three songs she performed from her 2013 album Little March, co-written and recorded with famous American guitarist Adam Levy. The other two – ‘Stuck In The Memory’ and ‘My Word’ splintered the set.
Typically described as an artist, an activist and an explicit storyteller, Segal has never been one to shy away from making a point. She played one particular punchy protest number from An Atheist Album entitled ‘Eve, in which she questioned the woman’s role in The Bible.
The new EP, however, Strange Feeling, was the reason behind the launch show, and Segal played all five songs in track-list order. Recorded at the iconic Birdland Studios (Kate Miller-Heidke, The Living End) and produced by Robert Upward, the themes are poignant but varied and can range from musings about falling in love to going to the movies (‘Cinema Chair’).
The popular lead single, ‘Sidelined’, is an optimistic (some may say feministic) reflection of a romantic liaison when the other person wanted Shelley to change her appearance for them – i.e loose weight. The repetitive verse of “you want a skinny lover, so I find I have the wrong body, even though I have the right mind” resonated strongly with the women in the room who bopped with pride and bristled with anger for said ex-boyfriend.
Defying genres and stereotypes, Segal – a seasoned performer both here and overseas – flirted confidently and merrily with elements of jazz, folk, pop, blues, reggae and electronica, all with little effort but with plenty of joy.