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Little Birdy

w/ Oh Mercy




Taking refuge from a blustery autumn night in the city, I find warmth in the HiFi Bar for this evening's show. Upon entering, I am immediately met with the pleasant croons coming from the suavely dressed quartet onstage. Melbourne's very own Oh Mercy are already warming the crowd up with their preppy take on alt-country rock. Undeniably, they've got pop sensibility down to a tee. Dreamy, hushed vocals telling tales of unrequited love and reminiscence are convincingly delivered by the youthful Alexander Gow upfront. At times, his seemingly harmless vocals can be likened to those of The Panics' Jae Laffer, as he makes use of his boyish good looks to charm his way from song to song.

  

On side is Thomas Savage on his trusty six string, who commands a fair bit of attention himself with his energized stage presence, whilst behind the skins is the ever-zealous Rohan Sforcina. This drummer's endearing eagerness, respectable attire and side-parted hair make him the sort of lad you would take home to meet mum and dad. Providing the basslines for the sunshine pop melodies is Eliza Lam, whose technique forges her own position amongst the boys.

  

Disappointingly, she remains rather unenthused throughout the majority of the set, concentrating unwaveringly on a particular spot on the floor. She only relinquishes this and begins to appear more engaged toward the end when they belt out their radio-friendly tunes Seemed Like a Good Idea and Lay Everything On Me. I notice a few of the girls about me singing along to the latter, which could be accredited to the extended radio play it has received of late. It only dawns on me during the next track Get You Back that Gow is indeed left-handed – yet still plays a right-handed guitar, just turned upside down and restrung accordingly.

  

Rather resourceful if I may say. I noticed this per chance when he used his harmonica to play the strings midway through the song. For the final number, Sforcina collects his beer and departs the stage to leave his counterparts to make do with just their strings. Slow acoustics carefully fill the double-storey venue as Needs a Woman plays out. My friend mentions to me the commercial potential this song holds for the soppy romantic television series Farmer Needs a Wife, which gives us both a bit of a laugh. Initially recorded on the black and whites, the reworking of this track has made this one another standout of their show; perhaps Savage has taken more of a fancy to his guitar in recent times. Whilst it may have been a slow note to end what was ultimately an up-tempo set, it was no less commanding.

  

With the venue selling out for tonight's show, the last few remaining spaces between bodies were quickly assigned to the late arrivers, as the crowd stood in anticipation for Little Birdy to take to the stage. Whilst born and bred in Perth, this outfit now call Melbourne home and have returned from touring around the country to play their first gig here in some time. As the kooky introductory music rang out, Katy Steele and her cohorts marched onstage to be met with animated applause from around the room. They chose to start off the set tonight with the opener to their latest album. The little leading lady, in a black number with ripped stockings, began Brother on her lonesome with her acoustic guitar and brooding vocals. When she was joined by the rest, the thumping drums kicked in to match her equally forceful voice.

  

Come On, Come On amply demonstrated the production-like quality to their live sound together, as they delivered a flawless version of the popular track. Tonight's The Night saw Scott O'Donoghue on bass making the most of the ample stage room, moving about in marked contrast to the bassist from the act prior. Likewise, Simon Leach on guitar maneuvered his way up and down the frets fervently. The long instrumental breakdown to conclude Please Don't Lay Me Down was met by a unanimous clap-along from the audience. I was pleased to see the eccentric song Relapse from their first album Bigbiglove made its way onto the set list, which the chirpy songbird delivered with vocal precision. As one of their more difficult songs with regards to pitch, it just goes to show the outstanding capabilities she possesses as a vocalist.

  

Showing their versatility, the band play musical instruments for Better Off Alone; O'Donoghue produced a melodica whilst drummer Matt Chequer opted for some shakers for this one. On the keys next, Miss Steele shows her ‘Dusty' side with ‘Into My Arms', which has everyone hugging and swaying to and fro, a ballad-like song which isn't too far reaching from Springfield or Otis Redding. Their present sound does seem to hint more toward older, classical influences rather than young pop. Another hit from their first album, Beautiful To Me, is thrown into the mix, although a little different from the original. This time, the track is stripped back to its raw essence, as Katy is left onstage to fend for herself with the microphone and a Kate Bush sample serving as the backing beat. Apparently, this was how she initially wrote the track years back, sitting in her bedroom listening to Bush. Steele engages the crowd to join in with her for a good whole-hearted sing-a-long.

  

Latest single Summarize, Bodies and a rendition of Split Enz's Six Months in a Leaky Boat finish off the set nicely, but the people want more. As the crowd pleasers they are, the quintet reappear to play a few more, including the emotive, heart-wrenching I Should've Known and appropriately winding up with the closer to their recent release, Confetti. And as cliché would have it, confetti began to fall from the ceiling and fill the room with a rainbow of various colours.

  

Within the last few years, it seems they have ambitiously stepped out of the genre of cutesy pop-rock and stepped into a more refined classical, country-tinged rock sound that is distinctively their own. This little birdy has found its wings.

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