Dan And Hannah Acfield @ The Empress
Dan and Hannah Acfield headlined an evening of chilled acoustic charm at The Empress on Saturday, supported by much-loved Sydney duo The Falls and locals Indigo And The Bear.
Indigo And The Bear wooed the room with delicate tunes, layered melodies and soft, fluid vocals. Their choice of instruments worked well, especially the creative use of an e-bow paired against smooth, punctuating violin lines. They played personal songs without being self-indulgent, and had a good control of a subdued dynamic.
Anyone who can pull off a Tom Waits cover is awesome, and The Falls were the highlight of the evening; their distinct blend of acoustic-blues-country-folk tickling the fancy of a captivated audience. The clear, sweet vocal tones of the duo were entrancing and the pair’s sparse, open acoustic sound worked well live (even without the added instruments present in their recordings).
Simple instrumentation (stamp box, guitar, melodica, tambourine) drew attention to the duo’s songwriting, which is reminiscent of Beatles-style pop, combined with a storytelling, travelling-country vibe. Skilled guitar work pushed the boundaries of the typical singer-songwriter outfit, with rhythmic chord progressions and walking bass-lines that moved under sparkling arpeggios. The one flaw of The Falls performance was that they fell into the trap of over-harmonisation, which was at times overbearing: this combined with early sound level issues weakened the first few songs of an otherwise perfect set.
Many acoustic musicians lean toward that annoying false bashfulness between songs, and lack simple assertive confidence. Dan and Hannah Acfield broke this cliché as naturally charismatic performers. Their acoustic pop sound was packed with catchy choruses and well-written vocal melodies, involving a doted audience who were suitably tipsy by the later hours of the evening. Additional musicians added colour: particularly the mellow crunch of an electric guitar and a properly played mandolin. Hannah’s clear tremolo voice really shone through the slightly typical chord progressions. The Acfield’s songs were a bit inconsistent – some demanded attention by being amazingly full, convincing and complete, while others felt like café background music. However, their set as a whole was a pleasure to watch, and was complimented by a well-placed Crowded House cover that earned a healthy sing-along from an impromptu choir of audience members. A heartfelt number dedicated to the victims of Australian bushfires was genuinely moving, and the lyrics “we all share common ground” remain in this reviewer’s mind.
In the age of laptops and pretentiousness, it’s great to see that a few people on acoustic instruments can hold the attention of a room with good songwriting and relaxed, natural interaction with an audience.
BY JEREMY MILLAR
LOVED: The genuinely relaxed atmosphere of the crowd and performers.
HATED: That I needed to piss so often. What the fuck, right?
DRANK: Pints of beer.