Ocean Alley kicked Cairns Summer Sounds 2022 off in style with two nights of iconic hits and psychedelic rock energy.
Taking place throughout the month of February, Cairns Summer Sounds attracts some of Australia’s best live acts to tropical Far North Queensland. That’s why it made sense that Ocean Alley, one of the country’s most persistent and beloved touring bands, kicked the series of concerts off in style over two nights on Friday, February 4th, and Saturday, February 5th.
There were no signs of fatigue when the Byron Bay-based seven-piece took to the stage for their second consecutive night on Saturday; as the band made clear to the audience, they’d waited two long, long years – due to COVID-19 – to play an event like this again.
A red carpet led everyone into the Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) beforehand and such an unexpected touch of glamour was appreciated after the pandemic had caused so many nights like this to be postponed or cancelled entirely.
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Once inside the 900+ capacity CPAC – it only opened in 2019 but has already won several major awards for its architecture – support for Ocean Alley was provided by local rising star Jelly Oshen. Exuding confidence as if he’d been doing this far longer, Oshen bantered winningly with the audience and unveiled a remarkably powerful voice. His very contemporary style of bedroom pop should make him a triple j favourite in the years to come.
Afterwards, there was an amiable mixture of the initiated and the uninitiated: pockets of impassioned Ocean Alley fans couldn’t bring themselves to sit down once, bellowing every word of the band’s infectious tracks back at them, while others sat back and appreciated the simple joy of seeing live music in an excellent venue again.
Five members of the band arrived onstage first, followed by lead singer Baden Donegal to resounding screams. An effortlessly charismatic presence throughout the set, he knew when to belt the songs and when to croon them; there was little chat between songs but there didn’t need to be.
Judging by the light show, Ocean Alley had put those two absent years to wise use: the kaleidoscopic colours wonderfully matched the zip and shine of their bright brand of psychedelic-meets-surf-rock. The lights alternately intensely illuminated the band on stage and the audience, as if they wanted to see the faces of fans after going so long without that connection.
As the band had gone so long without steady touring, the show had the air of a greatest hits night. A lot of their most famous songs were played, with a main focus on their previous album, 2020’s Lonely Diamond. ‘Confidence’ and ‘Yellow Mellow’ elicited huge responses from the audience, but new material (the band are currently preparing their follow-up to Lonely Diamond, expected at the end of the year) was also pleasingly given its moment to connect.
A twin cover of Pink Floyd – clearly a massive influence on Ocean Alley’s modern psychedelia – went down well in the middle of the set, the band removing some of the dark undertones in favour of a more melodic sheen. They struck a decent balancing act throughout, knowing when to pull out the mammoth riffs and pulsating energy whenever a slower song lagged. The whole thing had the air of a compelling 60s jam session, Donegal letting his formidable vocals waft over his bandmate’s grooving.
As the band departed the stage, ready to head to Brisbane, you felt that many of the audience on Saturday night would be returning for the rest of Cairns Summer Sounds. It was the sort of night that reminded just how huge a loss live music was since the beginning of the pandemic.
Cairns Summer Sounds will then finish in style with the renowned touring event, RocKwiz Live, taking to the stage on Friday, February 25th and Saturday, February 26th. A unique blend of music trivia, comedy, and live music, hosts Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis know how to put on a fascinating show. Tickets are on sale for both weekends now via ticketlink.com.au or by calling 1300 855 835.