Live Review: Mahalia and Jack Gray captivate at Sydney’s Lansdowne Hotel

Fresh from the Falls and Field Day circuits, British artist Mahalia rocked a sold-out show at The Lansdowne Hotel on what could have otherwise been a quiet Monday night.

Opening for her was Jack Gray: the combination of beachy waves, a silk shirt and old school boyish charm. The Sunshine Coast singer had the crowd competing for his attention in the mosh pit as he flitted through his electro-alt-pop tunes (a few fans were definitely excited to hear he’d be having a beer at the bar later). His act was laidback, youthful and smouldering, but nothing we haven’t already seen with the likes of peers Ruel or Alec Benjamin. Regardless, you cannot deny his audience appeal and, considering at the age of 20 he already has a tour with Dean Lewis (who was in attendance) under his belt, he’s one to watch for 2019.

Mahalia, however, is really something special. I’ll tell you that outright. By the time she graced the venue, the room was packed with fans standing on seats and lining the walls, all jittering with a nervous energy and grasping their phones tight. She grooved on stage accompanied only by her bassist, “Charliebear”, and a synth – a no-bullshit, nowhere-to-hide set up. She wouldn’t have needed anywhere to hide anyway, as it’s safe to say Mahalia was born to perform. The soul-pop prodigy, effortlessly natural and intimate with the audience, made the sweeping interaction of facing a crowd seem one-on-one. I would go as far to say that her stage manner and presence is amongst the best I have seen: intimate and delicate.

One notable element is her banter (and ability to take banter) prior to each song. She talked about her various “geysers” from her past and how they each impacted her song writing, giving the audience a luminary insight into Mahalia’s personal life. Not only romantic, she provided stories of her relationship with her mother and coming to a crossroad with her career. Genuinely, by the end of the night I felt like the two of us had had a deep personal discussion over a glass of red.

Her music is a very backbeat, hip-grinding rhythm that made the mosh look like a sea of writhing waves. Although her live song arrangements were just replicas of the singles, she nailed the vocals. For lower register songs such as “Surprise Me”, she retrospectively criticised herself for writing them so low and was honest with the audience about how she can struggle with singing some of her own tunes live. Refreshing.

She finished the night with her popular songs “Sober” and “I Wish I Missed My Ex”, which she prefaced with the fact that there would definitely not be an encore, as she can’t understand artists who sit backstage waiting around before coming back on to perform. Damn refreshing.

Mahalia, thank you for giving one heck of a performance to the point of hyperventilation, for divulging your secrets with an audience and for making each member feel like they stood out from the crowd.

The only thing I can’t thank you for is the envy of being that talented at the age of 20.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Mahalia continues her tour in Melbourne on 8th January. For more details head to Eventbrite.

The reviewer attended this show on 7th January 2019.

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