Paddington RSL, November 20
Dammit, who does she remind me of?, I kept thinking. It should have been obvious from the start. Maybe it was the presence of shoes which threw me.
A diva entrance – having let the band plug in, start up and prepare the way, she finally emerged as The Star Of The Show - was a nice touch for someone whose charisma, whether with her regular band, The Jezabels or now solo, is star-quality and who controls the stage without need to shout it out.
Though it was slightly marred by Hayley Mary, to her great amusement, and ours, colliding with guitarist Johnny Took (her occasional co-writer, moonlighting from DMA’s) and spilling her drink.
The flower-festooned stage had a touch of decadence and a strong whiff of style, her first outfit - changed half way through a show which didn’t make an hour - presented her as a kind of slightly androgynous Carnaby St dandy. And the band was guitar-strong (two electrics, one acoustic, but almost defiantly, no keyboards), kept in line by a strong drumming hand, and tuned to assertive jangle more than power.
Then songs such as Like A Woman Should (“wish that I was born in another time”), with its melodic charge that like The Piss, The Perfume, brought a mix of melancholy and resilience, and Holly, with its built-in wistfulness and offhand elegance, offered almost a classicist take on mid-‘60s pop.
Best of all, confirming the new batch of songs are a significant step up from the good first EP released early this year, The Chain was happy/sad, bright/bruised, punchy/solemn, like a teen drama given adult overtones.
That’s when the penny dropped: Sandie, that’s who it was. Sandie Shaw. All doubt was removed by the cover song of the set, especially knowing that Shaw had a late career re-entry into youth culture in the mid-80s when devotees, Johnny Marr and Morrissey, of The Smiths, convinced her to record a couple of their ‘60s-inspired songs which paired her blend of light insouciance and real feeling, with their patterned-pop intensity.
While she is at the other end of her career to Shaw (nee Goodrich) when that revival hit, Mary (nee McGlone) makes similar effect with her cover of The Libertines’ very Smiths-like Can’t Stand Me Now, lightly stepping with regret disguised behind a smile, as the band, hand in glove, spin out joyfully around her.
She takes that song and makes it her own here. Just as she did this politely seated but enthusiastic audience. I reckon this solo career has legs. (And shoes.)
A version of this review was published in the Sydney Morning Herald.