Sarah Blasko @ Elisabeth Murdoch Hall

What better way to re-start the live music experience than catching one of your perennial live faves at one of your favourite Melbourne venues.

I of course was hoping that my live music season had restarted for good back in March last year, before the grinding misery of the late 2021 lockdowns, but that wasn’t to be. After the easing of restrictions, I naturally jumped and booked every single concert for 2022 that looked appealing… but then, in a third-act twist of the ongoing COVID-19 saga, Omicron made everything uncertain again. I’m very happy that at least this Sarah Blasko concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre dodged the bullet and I had a chance to see one of my favourite Australian songstresses live again.

This show was a belated birthday party for Sarah’s third album As Day Follows Night, which was originally meant to celebrate its tenth anniversary with a tour in 2020. While I’d personally struggle to pick a record that stands head and shoulders above the rest in Sarah’s remarkably consistent back catalogue, there’s no doubt that As Day Follows Night was a major award-winning milestone for her. With a career that now spans almost twenty years, I fully expected the show to attract a primarily middle-aged audience, but surprisingly on average it was even older – perhaps the choice of a more formal venue attracted an older crowd that wouldn’t show up at 170 Russell where I saw Sarah last.

In the past I would often skip the opening act for a mid-week gig in favour of more home time after work, but after a long break I decided I wanted a full experience, so I arrived just in time for Evelyn Morris. I instantly realised that I had actually seen her open for someone else many years ago under the moniker Pikelet. Morris’ quirky piano-led pop is not really my thing, but I enjoyed the dexterous piano playing, stream-of-consciousness banter between the songs and a hilarious dirty joke about a walrus at a Tupperware party.

After a brief interval (during which I discovered that the venue unfortunately sold no drinks or snacks), another familiar face popped up: Tim Rogers of You Am I, who did a lovely introduction for Sarah, her band of musicians and of course the birthday girl, i.e. the album. I never knew before yesterday that the album takes its name from the famous “to thine own self be true” speech by Polonius in Hamlet.

As always, Sarah was an utter joy and delight to see live. Her vocal perfection as a live singer never ceases to amaze me, and her eccentric jerky dance moves were as endearing as ever. She and her band of four treated the audience to a full rendition of As Day Follows Night, with simple but effective lighting a perfect accompaniment for Sarah’s dramatic, poignant songwriting. She also reminisced about recording the album in Sweden without knowing a word in Swedish, and her determination to make a break up record that wasn’t all sombre and depressing.

I’ve grown to enjoy the “album anniversary” type of concert over the years, but for my money the bit after the “official” program is still almost always the most exciting, fun and loose part of the show where things can get a bit more unpredictable. And they sure did get unpredictable!

After the enthusiastic applause, Sarah was back onstage for a couple of most random covers – Seems Like Old Times, famously performed by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, and Xanadu, the slice of shameless 80s cheese made classy. She jokingly apologised to anyone who wasn’t a fan of Smooth FM afterwards; I think she’s such a queen of covers I probably wouldn’t mind seeing a Sarah Blasko show where she just performed covers of everything from The Wiggles to Sex Pistols. The night was capped off by a couple of songs from I Awake, Sarah’s fourth album, including the bouncy namesake track which is one of my personal favourites.

The only downer of the night was the sight of face masks everywhere, which kinda kills the vibe a bit. I honestly can’t wait until we all can throw them in the bin for good.

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