The Sunshine Coast has a dearth of quality live music. Very few respected artists travel to what is generally considered ‘the geriatric capital of Australia’ for there is a general lack of demand, much less a decent venue that could stage many credible artists. Thankfully though the Lisa Mitchell gig at the Sands Tavern last Saturday proved to be a notable exception to this rule.
As usual given my four wheeled status I was first inside the venue. Having not been before I was surprised at what I found. The ‘stage’ (I use the term loosely) was smaller than my old high school gym. I began to Wonder how on earth they would fit the crowd of 300 the security guards expected, without breaking several fire codes. No matter, as I was content firmly ensconced in the front row, protected by amorous couples in all directions.
The supporting bands were decidedly mixed. New Zealand expats White Birds and Lemons were particularly earnest and had a somewhat off putting stage presence. The drummer Rob Dickins was especially guilty of this as he took lead vocals on one occasion. The band seemed to be at its best when building up to the occasional crescendo, rather than the overtly twee songs they seemed content to play. Their six set song set started out promisingly, but certainly dragged towards the end.
Melbourne natives Oh Mercy were a lot stronger. Evoking Oh Inverted World era The Shins, the band stuck to its genre of janglely pop uniformly, but certainly were more engaging than what came before. Lead singer Alexander Gow certainly proved to be an entertaining front man remarking between songs on topics as varied as the quality of Queensland Beers to self deprecating commentary on the band’s song titles.
Then, after what seemed like an eternity, the main act took the stage and Lisa Mitchell arrived to a rapturous welcome. Beginning with the under appreciated Heroine the set had a lively beginning. Mitchell took the microphone off its stand and began engaging the audience while its occupants remained suitably entranced. She used a combination of artistry and allure in order to draw the audience in. Yet at times it also seemed like she was off in her own universe, retreating as she was overcome with the enormity of the crowd’s zealous affection.
Throughout the set continued with this figurative game of cat and mouse. Particular highlights included up tempo numbers Clean White Love, Sidekick and So Jealous as well as ballads Valium, Love Letter, and a beautiful solo acoustic cover of the Dire Straits hit Romeo and Juliet. On lead singe Neapolitan Dreams the crowd willingly engaged in a game of call and response when singing its well known refrain. Similarly during the middle of second single Coin Laundry, the crowd placed dollar coins on stage when the songs hook was sung and Mitchell rhetorically enquired ‘Do you have a dollar for me?’ highlighting the whimsical nature of both song craft and the gig itself.
Ably supported with a fine backing band, all the stops were pulled out as xylophones, kazoos, and other unusual instruments were used at suitable moments. For the hour and a quarter set, the tiny venue was transformed into a forest complete with fake campfire. It’s hard to believe that Mitchell was discovered in the homogonous reality television show Australian Idol, as she has successfully endeavoured to break away from those shackles to prove that she is not only the most credible artist the show has seen to date, but arguably its most talented. Judging by the fans swarming to greet her at the shows conclusion her prowess will continue for many years to come.