Gretta Ray has come a long way since winning triple j’s Unearthed High back in 2016. The Melbourne musician has played at Splendour In The Grass and Falls Festival, toured with James Bay, and supported artists like The Rubens, Vance Joy, and Paul Kelly. With so much experience on stage it was surprising to hear the singer admit to feeling nervous, as she played her first show for the Here and Now EP tour.
The night started with Nancie Schipper, another triple j Unearthed gem who won ‘Live At The Steps’ last year. A Victorian local herself, Schipper held her own onstage with no accompaniment. She had the early comers mesmerised with her acoustic strumming and sweet vocals, playing songs like ‘Corner Store’ and ‘Long Fall’.
Next up was singer- songwriter Al Parkinson. She started off with a solo a capella track which brought a hush over the crowd, everyone listening intently to her vocals and the rhythmic clicking of her fingers. She was then joined by backing vocalists, who she fondly referred to as “the three babes” who sung along harmoniously. At one point she even swapped out her acoustic guitar for ‘duke the uke’, playing ‘The One That Got Away’. Parkinson was incredibly talented and utterly hilarious, bantering with the crowd and cracking self-deprecating jokes. She set a light and relaxed tone for the night, a perfect warm-up for the headline act.
Finally, the lights dimmed, and Gretta Ray’s band took to the stage, shortly followed by the singer. She opened with ‘When We’re In Fitzroy’, the first track from her new EP which everyone already knew the chorus for, and sang along enthusiastically. The song finished, and she looked out across the sea of people, remarking on how grateful she was to be playing a sold-out show, but quite nervous as well.
Ray did appear to be slightly uneasy as she broke into second track, ‘Towers’, but it quickly dissipated as she became more comfortable onstage. By third song, ‘A View Like This’, she had well and truly warmed up, creating drama with her facial expressions and moving around more freely.
As well as playing the entire Here and Now EP, Ray also threw in two unreleased tracks, the first of which she’d only played earlier that day at sound check. It was an ode to a recent Europe trip she did with her friends, and during the track her poetic lyricism really shone through. If you were to strip away the melodies behind Ray’s songs she would still be a beautifully crafted writer, an impressive feat for any musician, let alone one so young.
Her instrumental talents were also on display, as she switched from the acoustic guitar and took to the piano for ‘Blue Minded’ and ‘Radio Silence’; her most personal and intimate song. She finished the set with the ever popular ‘Drive’, which really got the crowd hyped, taking us all back to her big moment in 2016. After a brief disappearance and some pestering from the audience, she returned for ‘Unexpected Feeling’, her final song of the night.
Ray has retained a gracious and humble demeanour throughout her blossoming career, which made her all the more charming to watch. You couldn’t help but be in awe of her bold, strong, and full-bodied voice, proving herself to be a truly gifted vocalist.
Highlight: ‘Time’, where Ray got the audience to sing the harmony and wave their arms in the air.
Lowlight: The transitions between songs were lengthy at times, but understandable considering she was switching from guitar, to piano, to no instrument at all.
Crowd favourite: ‘Drive’.