The grand old Odeon Theatre in Hobart has Chameleon like qualities: changing its colours and nature according to the artists who play there. I’ve seen the place pulsating and exploding with a vibrancy and an atmosphere befitting a stadium ten times its size, and I’ve seen it exuding an intimacy and closeness befitting a private audience in a fireside chat. The Paper Kites and their illustrious support (Hollow Coves and Kat Edwards) somehow managed to combine the best of both worlds.
It must firstly be acknowledged that in the current climes, it was great to see this gig take place: adding Tasmania, as an island, to an Australian tour schedule is immensely challenging, both logistically and financially. Compounding this, the anxieties caused by COVID created even more uncertainty (Odeon staff told me that many people bought tickets to gigs but were too anxious to venture out on the night). The very fact that the gig took place was a minor miracle made all the more magical by the thrilling performance of the three acts.
Opening act Kat Edwards, with the voice of an angel, put on a bravura perfomance despite her self-confessed nerves. Her songs were beautifully crafted observations on the minutiae of everyday life, expressed with an extraordinary delivery. Her recent single, ‘Safety’ provided a fine example: detailing the anxieties and challenges faced doing a simple activity like queuing at the grocery store with an acute observational style (think Courtney Barnett) and purity of expression. An utterly compelling confessional style that resonated with the audience.
Brisbane’s Hollow Coves (duo Matt Cairns and Ryan Henderson) have been developing an international presence with their sparkling indie folk style. At one point during their set, Cairns expressed their disbelief that as a former Carpenter (Cairns) and Civil Engineer (Henderson), they should find themselves carving a career in they way they have. Playing their first ever collaboration ‘In The Woods’ made it abundantly clear why.
Hollow Coves played a gentle folk-infused set highlighted by the most celestial harmonies, carried on a bed of sparkling guitars (and the intermittent energising bass drum kick). They played tracks from across their career including ‘Moments’, ‘Purple’ and ‘Coastline’ interspersed by engaging banter – a mix of self deprecatory humour and fascinating stories behind the songs. The melodies and harmonies made me think of Simon and Garfunkel: beautifully crafted songs delivered with delicacy and subtlety. The duo shone with positivity – the right kind of infectiousness we all need. This is a band I have overlooked: an omission that will be rectified.
Last year’s album ‘Roses’ (reviewed by me here and listed in Backseat Mafia’s top albums of 2021) was evidence that The Paper Kites are a very special band. Tonight’s magical performance – the last on their COVID-delayed Australian tour – cemented their position, in my opinion, as one of the most exciting artists coming out of Australia. On record, the band’s songs are heartbreakingly beautiful. Live, you need heart surgery.
Any impression that the brand of indie folk pop played by The Paper Kites is quite and reflective was swiftly dispelled by their set. Yes, they do quiet and reflective, but The Paper Kites live performance was dynamic and vibrant from the very opening track ‘Tin Lover’ – a slow burning fuse that grew with intensity.
At the heart of the band is a pop dynamic – ‘Climb on Your Tears’ was thrilling and the delivery of ‘By My Side’ was pulse-quickening anthemic with the audience participation in the chorus quite sublime. An earlier single ‘Electric Indigo’ was mesmerising with its arching guitar riffs and high flamed intensity.
The band (as a duo and collectively), gathered around a single microphone for acoustic renditions of ‘For All You Give’, ‘Bloom’ and the encore, a cover of folk song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. Sublime renditions with gorgeous, unadorned vocals on show. Despite a bit of dodgy audience participation in the whistling sections in ‘Bloom’, to great amusement.
The overall impression was of a band that are incredibly proficient musicians: all six members constantly swapping instruments and delivering the most heavenly harmonies over the perfectly crafted, delicate songs. Mention must be made too of the crystal clear production and stunning light show.
Main songwriter and singer, Sam Bentley, between songs, was witty and engaging and the camaraderie on stage was endearing. The guitar sounds were sublime, with a shimmer that (for me) recalled the edge and sparkle of bands like Roxy Music. The band had welcomed founding member Christina Lacy back after a three year absence and her golden vocals perfectly replaced the guest singers that appeared on tracks from ‘Roses’. Their permanent bass player was absent, but you couldn’t tell – even though his replacement had only 24 hours to learn the set.
This was one of those performances that created a sense of euphoria – a giddy and heady joy at seeing such skillful musicians deliver the highest grade of entertainment with such an infectious sense of joy.
The Paper Kites Setlist
Tin Lover Too Late Revelator Eyes Climb On Your Tears St Clarity For All You Give Arms By My Side Between The Houses Without Your love Electric Indigo Bloom Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain Don't Keep Driving (Encore) Wild Mountain Thyme On The Train Ride Home