Few artists have gained such momentum as Melbourne’s Vance Joy.
In less than a year, the humble James Keogh has gone from unassumingly uploading one (very catchy) song to Soundcloud, to getting signed to Liberation music, wowing crowds at SXSW and signing a five album deal with Atlantic Records, all while breaking hearts across Ausralia in his packed live shows.
His first of four sold out gigs at the esteemed Northcote Social Club did nothing if not reaffirm his position as one of the brightest rising stars in the country.
Before his fans got what they came for however, two equally impressive acts were to warm up the room.
The first of which was the relatively – and surprisingly – unknown, Roscoe James Irwin. Playing to a near-empty venue, it’s a shame that so many missed out on this extraordinary talent.
A multi-instrumentalist whose voice was at times reminiscent of Jeff Buckley, Irwin calmly sat down at his Nord and treated the lucky few to his modern one-man-band style of music.
Don’t let that put you off – it’s nothing but a testament to his talent. Looping everything from synth, horns and xylophone to his voice (singing and tongue clicks alike), he is a sight to see.
The quirky lyrics of “Boy Meets Girl, Girl Kills Boy” almost go unnoticed within its cute melody, and his multi-part harmonies draw comparisons to Mika.
His huge vocal range is evident on “Silver Light”, ably accompanied by Ben Edgar on guitar and then on lap steel in “Angels In New York”.
An audience member cheers when he announces their last song, and when he quips that she’s glad his set is over, she replies, “No, it’s the complete opposite of that!” It’s safe to assume she wasn’t the only fan he won that night.
The first thing that may strike you about Ali Barter is her beauty. The demure young woman has a presence that demands attention, but she’s not just another pretty girl with a guitar.
Joined on stage by the equally attractive Oscar Dawson, Barter’s voice is captivating. She seamlessly shifts from a fragile birdsong to a dark, husky whisper and incorporates elements of folk, blues, and even pop.
New song, “Community” has a somewhat dark lyrical bent – “I drank myself to death on a Saturday night” – driven by a bluesy rhythm.
Building rapport with the crowd, when she sees someone holding a newly bought EP, she jokes, “I can eat tomorrow.”
Her most well known tune, “Run You Down” emphasises her vocal range and leans more towards the dance genre, which suits her well.
Another new song, “King Of The Night” touches on country and shows her diversity as a songwriter. “Marigold” could easily be mistaken for a traditional folk song, and as her low, almost gravelly voice rings out, the gradually swelling crowd is mesmerised.
Even though the punters are eager to see the headliner, when Barter and Dawson end the night with another brilliant new song, “At Peace”, there is a feeling of disappointment that they’re finished.
It doesn’t last long. The capacity crowd erupt in cheers as the man mountain that is Vance Joy graces the stage with an ear-to-ear grin that doesn’t leave his face all night. Opening with the heartstring-pulling “Emmylou”, the scene is set for an incredible night.
Slow burner, “From Afar” is heavy with emotion as he passionately throws his head back in the build-up, earnestly remarking at its conclusion. “That was awesome,” he bleats.
Always endearing, he tells the room that he wrote the uplifting alt-country number “Get Out While You Can” when he learnt what the Red Eye was. The organ adds to the country/rock vibe and he shows off his falsetto in the verses.
“Wasted Time” is simply a ridiculously beautiful love song. Even though it’s missing from his EP, the recognition from the crowd shows that he already has many loyal fans. Lyrics such as “I don’t think you know how you changed all my plans” make every girl in the audience wish it was written for them.
Joy jokes about having “all these crazy ideas” for the recording of “All I Ever Wanted” that got knocked back, so he threw in some “da da das to make it more catchy.” Mission accomplished. His soaring voice in the final refrains sends collective shivers down the spines of the audience.
The song that has catapulted him here, “Riptide”, ignites such reception that he doesn’t even need to sing – the crowd takes care of that for him.
As Joy calls it a night, it’s hard to tell who is more chuffed – him or the fans. Either way, everyone knows that they were a part of something special. Next time he’s in town, you’d be a fool to miss it.