THE ZOO, FORTITUDE VALLEY
WEDNESDAY, MAY 3RD 2023
ADMITTEDLY, ANY SKEPTICISM WE HAD HEADING INTO THE ZOO, realising Laurel wasn't performing with a band tonight and was to essentially sing over a pre-recorded backing quickly diminished from the moment the lights lowered. Perhaps, weirdly, this is actually the future, a way for international indie musicians to tour Down Under without breaking the bank or, quite simply, a post-pandemic utopia for the musician themselves. Of course, not everyone can be as engaging as Laurel is - she's effortlessly personable, funny and honest from the get-go and tends to wear her professional ambition quite visibly. Take the extra lights, the overall stage production or the rumbly intro she has in lieu of a walk-on soundtrack, it's bizarre, to say the least and lands as a bit curious, at least at first. Later she reveals that she fills awkward gaps between songs with "tuning birds" that she created for Australia and that seems to offer clarity on the opening ambience - they are Aussie forest sounds, though that doesn't explain the crying babies. Perhaps she Googled "Australia" on her way over and stumbled upon Lindy Chamberlain?!
Regardless, she's an icon to these kids, one clearly worth frothing over for tonight's audience - a diverse combo of young, polished up #sadgirls with their #boyfriendsofinstagram in tow, the gay boys from two doors down (The Beat) and older, more serious and broad music lovers. It makes sense really, her songs glisten and are clearly from the pop ilk, but they land as intelligent when coming from Laurel. She watches every one of of these audience members from the stage as she plays, opening with the choice 'Wild Side' and sliding into 'Life Worth Living' and 'You're The One'. Toting a wild-shaped electric guitar (she hasn't named her yet), Laurel is part Danaerys Targaryen (the look) and part Florence Welch (the voice), yet somehow 100% her own creation. When she sings, it's easy to forget just how young she is, yet when she introduces each song, she offers up explanations that feel like spoken diary entries, but in saying that, they do nothing to endear her any less. Her songs string together wonderfully in a setlist, revealing what a seriously tremendous canon of songs she has now. It's curated from the excellent debut album Dogviolet, her most recent EP offerings, Limbo Cherry and Petrol Bloom, a brand new single and a high profile collaboration - all of it seamlessly sitting together like it was always destined to.
She reveals 'Sun King' is about her now-fiancee and it shines in one of tonight's rawest performances - just Laurel and her unnamed guitar. 'Same Mistakes' is another confessional bop that preludes a dancier last stretch. New single 'Change' with it's panflute led production already sounds like a classic, while 'Obsessed' and 'Best I Ever Had', with one of the most infectious hooks around, close out the main set. She admits encores are "silly, but also kinda fun" which might be the most refreshing take on the pointless exercise yet. A cover of her collaboration with Flume - 'I Can't Say' - appears in the encore first in shortened form and it's introduced as "different, it hits hard!" It does indeed, its fractured trap production sits oddly next to Laurel's finely tuned pop mini-masterpieces, but her performance largely in silhouette gives the singer time to flex some different stage prowess. In contrast, 'Scream Drive Faster' is extended and is, quite simply, sonic dynamite. Imagine being an A&R rep at a meeting and getting handed that one - it's perfect. In fact, most of what Laurel does is perfect. There's no doubt that she'd be phenomenal fronting a band, but there is also no denying her enchanting performance in this current form, honestly her extraordinary voice could carry any show of any kind. She mentions a new album and that is one of the more exciting prospects of late - it could literally go anywhere, be it deeper into indie pop stardom, or will she eventually be in Taylor Swift-sized arenas?! Anything is possible in this story.
Sidenote - seeing Laurel sign our exclusive pressing of Petrol Bloom / Limbo Cherry at the merch desk post-show was a real buzz.