Bonjah @ The Corner
Melbourne blues and roots outfit Bonjah have got the world in their sights, but before setting off on a European tour the New Zealand four piece played a farewell show at The Corner in Melbourne to say a heartfelt goodbye to the city that has become their second home.
Kicking off the proceedings was Sunshine Coast five-piece Mitch Davis & The Dawn Chorus, who played a short but powerful set, led by the bluesy riffs and soulful vocals of Mitch himself, and backed up by The Dawn Chorus’ tight rhythm section. They may have been the first on, playing to a thin crowd, but they still played with passion and potency. So much potency that according to Buckley Ward frontman Jimmy Allen, “we’re all pregnant" after their set.
While Buckley Ward were a little more thoughtful and subdued, they were no less enchanting. Their lush melodies and ethereal soundscapes were a pleasure to behold. Maybe Allen and co. were slightly nervous about playing to a larger crowd than they’re used to, as they seemed a little stiff and lacking in stage presence, but this can be forgiven as their emotive pop songs are lovingly-crafted and were played with controlled deftness. Sonically, they reminded me of a cross between The Cure and Empire Of The Sun; pleasant and tuneful yet with underlying tones of heart-wrenching pathos.
By the time Bonjah hit the stage The Corner was absolutely bustling with people who were all there to see the headliners play what could be their last Australian gig in a venue this modest. There was a sparkling atmosphere in the place, an understanding between band and crowd that this wasn’t just any gig, it was the start of something special.
The hot-blooded funk rock of opening track Colours got the crowd moving early on, and showcased how much soul the Bonjah guys have, especially singer Glen Mossop, whose gravelly tones are almost sultry in their delivery.
The gig itself was put on in association with The Make A Wish Foundation, with $1 from each ticket sale being donated to the charity. Not only that, but at one point they brought on Tilly Aires from the foundation to sing a cover of Amy Winehouse’s Valerie and my god – that girl can sing!
Bonjah treated the crowd with a set that showcased their full range of eclectic abilities, from the aforementioned funk, through the quiet, contemplative blues of Go Go Chaos, to the campfire sing-along of Bring Back The Fire and the rousing indie rock of crowd favourite The White Line.
The band were on superb form throughout, playing with energy and passion, and the sound was thick and full, with extra emphasis given to the pounding drums. Years of busking have shaped Bonjah into a solid and versatile live act; a fact which is accentuated when, halfway through Fly, Mossop left the stage and the remaining band members seamlessly broke into an impromptu Jam. Little moments like this made for a special and memorable night, and left the adoring crowd beaming at the end. If they can put on performances like that every night while they tour Europe, they’ll be returning a much bigger band.
BY ADAM ROBERTSHAW
Photo credit: Nikki Lam
LOVED: The atmosphere inside.
HATED: The rain outside.
DRANK: Carlton Draught.