Photos by David Harris
Sunday night welcomed the anticipated return of Canberra electronic trio, SAFIA, for the second of two energetic nights at the theatre.
Melbourne singer-songwriter Eilish Gilligan kicked off the night, performing an array of singles released over the last few years. The night wasn’t sold out, but the crowd was encouraging and enthusiastic all the same, which made for a great atmosphere for the next act, beloved ‘soul-tronic’ duo Boo Seeka. Their set didn’t fail to deliver the high energy performance and infectious spirit they’ve become known for, with songs like 2015 single ‘Kingdom Leader’ and their 2019 release ‘Rush’ equally well received by everyone. Both opening acts for the night did a commendable job energising the crowd and preparing us for the night ahead.
SAFIA hit the stage to a very warm welcome from the crowd. The shift in ambience and energy of the room was palpable and it was hard to ignore the surge in the moshpit as the band entered from stage right. The group, made up of Ben Woolner on vocals and keys, Michael Bell on drums and Harry Sayers on guitar and keys, were unassuming while taking their positions, but once the lights turned up and the show started it was a very different story.
It was a hypnotic set. Dipping between songs from their earlier releases and songs pulled from Story’s Start or End, it was a cathartic experience watching Woolner move around the stage as he sang, pausing for moments to let the show’s mesmerising visuals silhouette himself and the rest of the group on stage.
‘Make Them Wheels Roll’ appeared early on in the set, getting everyone moving, from the front of the mosh to the back of the theatre where many punters decided to enjoy the show in its entirety. ‘Think About You’ provided the perfect opportunity for Woolner’s vocals to soar. Through the shuddering bass and the aforementioned visual and light-show, Woolner did an incredible job showing off the true strength and dynamics of his voice.
‘Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues’ reignited the crowd, with Bell pulling out an acoustic guitar to allow for the song’s slow burn to really take shape. ‘Resolution’ and ‘Starlight’, two of the most popular releases from the latest album, were both equally as atmospheric and emotional for many in the crowd. At this point, punters were on shoulders with no hesitation – a great reminder of the joyousness SAFIA manage to capture with their music and with the audience.
‘Vagabonds’ took a different form, with Bell sitting behind the keys and Woolner singing the lullaby version of the song to an enamoured audience. The only hiccup in the show came when Sayers’ guitar strap came unstuck and he was left without sound for the first half of his guitar solo. When he eventually did come soaring back in, it was a sweet indication of what had been missed.
‘Counting Sheep’ and ‘My Love Is Gone’ were thrown into the encore to tie it all together and not a single person was standing still. Before they continue their gallivant around the country, this dynamic set showcased perfectly why SAFIA have solidified their reputation as an indie-dance powerhouse.
Highlight: ‘Think About You’.
Lowlight: Missing half the guitar solo during ‘Vagabonds’ because of technical difficulties.
Crowd favourite: ‘My Love Is Gone’.