The fast-emerging songwriter had the audience in the palm of his hands.
Photography by David Harris
Three sold-out nights at The Forum is vindication for Sydneysider Dean Lewis. The rising star found himself relegated to songwriter for hire during the earlier part of his career, but all that changed with the release of 2016 single ‘Waves’. Featured in American TV shows such as Suits and Grey’s Anatomy, the song was a smash, leading to Lewis finally landing a record deal and releasing his debut EP.
Fast-forward three years and Lewis is one of Australia’s most exciting talents. His debut album, A Place We Knew, reached number one on the charts and his first of three shows in Melbourne was jam-packed with an interesting cross-section of fans. Elderly women, cute couples and pissed bros shared the same space in anticipation of Lewis, and when he and his band appeared a touch after 9pm, the roar was deafening.
‘Hold Of Me’ set the mood early as Lewis, dressed in black and armed with an acoustic guitar, got things off to an energetic start. What followed was a wonderful selection of well-received tracks from his debut. ‘A Place We Knew’ began slow before evolving into a thumping guitar-driven pop smash; ‘Stay Awake’ was an upbeat Vance Joy-esque ditty with darker meaning, while 2017’s ‘Lose My Mind’ arrived as a melodic percussion-based number.
Speaking of Joy, the comparisons between he and Lewis are inevitable. Both are handsome 31-year-old’s creating likeable pop songs your Mum will love. But while Joy’s indie-folk creations more often than not focus on the highs of relationships, Lewis is all about the lows. He writes deeply personal lyrics about lost love and broken relationships set against a backdrop of jubilant modern pop soundscapes, helping elevate his songs above the standard break-up fare floating around the top 30.
Taking to the keys accompanied by his bandmember on the cello, Lewis explained how ‘Half A Man’ was written for someone else but he couldn’t part with it – his powerful rendition of the track showcased his impressive vocal chops. ‘Time To Go’ and ‘Don’t Hold Me’ were stripped back numbers centred on Lewis’ vocals and although slower than his other tracks, the audience kept the atmosphere bubbling, clapping and singing along. Lewis clearly enjoyed their participation, soaking everything up and telling the crowd he appreciates their “fucking energy”.
The slower numbers came to an end with ‘7 Minutes’, a boisterous and beautifully crafted three and a half minutes of pop about lost love with an Ed Sheeran feel. Lewis followed that with an inspired take on The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young’ and confused the younger sections of the crowd who weren’t quite sure what to make of this “new” song. Lewis said his goodbyes after ‘For The Last Time’ but returned a few minutes later, much to the crowd’s joy.
‘Straight Back Down’ had everyone up and about and once again singing along before the song that started it all, ‘Waves’, sent the crowd into hysterics one final time. Lewis is a talented performer, proving he’s more than a one-hit wonder; captivating everyone with his heartfelt lyrics and ear-grabbing vocals, this show confirmed his status as Australia’s next big solo artist.
Highlight: Surprisingly rocking cover of The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young’.
Lowlight: Camera phones.
Crowd favourite: ‘Waves’.