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Jen Cloher’s hometown return was as powerful and uniting as you’d imagine

Jen Cloher’s show at The Croxton felt significant for a number of reasons. 

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Sally Townsend

For starters, it was her first hometown show since a whirlwind American and European tour, but it was also her biggest headline show to date. A sell-out home crowd is always going to be that bit more special, and this feeling permeated the entire evening.
 
Machine Translations delivered a perfectly balanced set of high energy rock and mellower moments. The band’s frontman Greg Walker had an integral role in the creation of Cloher’s incredible self-titled album as its producer, and he took a moment of the set to extend his gratefulness at being involved in such a well-received record.
 
Marita Dyson of The Orbweavers took to the stage with conviction, the singer introducing the first song by dedicating it to the creek it was inspired by. There’s an undeniable magnetism and charm about this band that will no doubt have made new fans of those in the crowd that were not familiar with their music.
 
Next, Cloher and her band made a sudden appearance on stage to a rapturous crowd and launched into the atmospheric love letter to the Australian country that is ‘Regional Echo’. It wasn’t until two songs in that Cloher took in the crowd, with a wide grin across her face she extended her arms to tell everyone how “wicked” it felt to be before the sold-out room.
 
The slower ‘Sensory Memory’featuring guitarist Courtney Barnett on some heart-aching backing vocals was particularly poignant, while ‘Analysis Paralysis’ was a show stealer. The track reflects upon the impending marriage equality plebiscite going on at the time of its writing, and watching it performed now some months after the ‘Yes’ result was a joy, particularly as Cloher tweaked the lyrics to proudly state that she now can, in fact, have a wife.
 
Cloher interspersed older tracks ‘Toothless Tiger’, ‘New Age Brain’ and ‘Needle in the Hay’throughout the set, absolute proof that Cloher’s songwriting genius has always been there. She became an imposing force during ‘Great Australian Bite’, a song that pays homage to the lineage of Australian acts that paved the way for artists like herself to launch their career overseas. The expression on Cloher’s face as she belted out the sustained notes of the song was an incredible sight to witness, it was as though every ounce of energy was being poured into the performance.
 
The empowering ‘Strong Woman' closed out the main set – the final lines of the song bellowed with impressive gusto – before the inevitable cries for an encore came. Cloher returned to the stage solo, to perform the sublime ‘Dark Art’ which rendered the crowd silent. Cloher was then joined by her bandmates to close out the set with the sprawling ‘Name In Lights’.
 
As the band took a bow before the crowd it truly felt like we were all part of a historic moment. That Cloher had been met with this kind of acclaim 14 years into her career is proof that powerful songwriting will always find a way to unite masses of people. She has never shied away from the struggle of trying to find that audience, but now that she has, it’s comforting to know that more and more people are discovering the music of such an inspiring Australian figure.
 
Highlight: ‘Great Australian Bite’.
Lowlight: A particularly chatty crowd during The Orbweavers.
Crowd favourite: Seeing someone fist pump along to ‘Forgot Myself’.