Review by Benjamin Essoo with Photography by Jeremy Carron

Where to start? Well, to give some context, at least for me personally (actually, I’m certain as with many, many others too) the obsession started with FIFA, obviously. I’m making my way through the menus and this song comes on, the kind that make your ears prick up, cat-like. It catches me so off-guard, this isn’t what I had planned for my afternoon! The intro has already got me, then these vocals come in and yes, this is a bit of me. Forget FIFA, YouTube is now the mission. Who is this? I must know. This song (Jungle) will be on loop for the foreseeable future. Dramatic, I know, but as I write this, just shy of a year later, not a lot has changed.

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Anyway, the gig. The queue stretches right the way round the building, doors open at 7pm sharp and the staff filter people in quick-smart. It’s a slick operation and after around 15 minutes, support act The Pierce Brothers make their entrance.

From their music videos, they’re a talented, humble, duo but my goodness, the live version are something else. The energy is boundless from the off as they dive straight into proceedings.

They’re reminiscent of the folky Mumford and Sons with a hint of that Kings of Leon rasp, but I’m not going to disrespect them by categorising or comparing because they have their own sound and have forged their own brand.

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As they perform, I’m not sure what to concentrate on because so much is going on, despite there only being the two of them. You have the long-haired Jack, stood playing the drums whilst twin brother Patrick plays the acoustic guitar, but now Jack has suddenly whipped out a digeridoo before discarding it and sprinting across the stage, sticks in hand, drumming on anything and everything. It’s wild and unruly yet it’s coordinated chaos as the sound doesn’t suffer, it’s astounding.

Jack’s here, there and everywhere. The barriers, the light rigs, the floor, even Patrick’s guitar get a beating, even whilst he’s playing. At one point, Jack pulls the digeridoo back out to play, holding it up in the one hand whilst holding a harmonica to Patrick’s mouth, all the while both are using kick drum pedals too. The two then play the same guitar, seemingly producing separate sounds, it’s all happening!

The energy in the room is right up there and the brothers feed off the vibe, taking the opportunity to bring the audience in on the act, asking them to crouch before exploding into life in time with the music to finish a rousing set.

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Not long after, Tash Sultana humbly takes centre stage, carefully stepping into her arrangement, consisting of various synthesisers, keyboard controllers, effects pedals and instruments including her guitars, chimes and trumpet. They’re not there for show, she’s going to use all of it, such is her talent.

Before anything, though, some ground rules. “If you’re homophobic, get out of my show”, “If you’re racist, get out of my show”, “If you’re transphobic, get out of my show”, all of which got a huge cheer. A lovely sentiment. “Now, enjoy the experience”, which is of note because that’s exactly what the night was. This wasn’t going to be an average gig.

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Now I’ve never seen an artist start off their show with the intro to their album, but you know what, this is Tash Sultana and she kicks off with ‘Seed’, which is a perfectly fitting and beautiful opening, breaking the ice with just her guitar and voice. It’s followed by the upbeat, ‘Big Smoke’, which shows a little bit more, making use of the effects pedal board to create loops and different sounds in order for her to perform the song, almost like fitting pieces of a jigsaw.

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This sets the tone for the night as the audience are treated to songs mostly taken from Tash’s debut album ‘Flow State’ as well as previous hits such as ‘Jungle’ and ‘Notion’, all of which show off the sheer plethora of skills held by the star, who will no doubt scale heights.

Speaking of ‘Notion’, the live adaptation is incredible, moving through various stages and lasting up to twenty minutes or so in its entirety. There’s a song within a song as Tash takes you on a journey moving from ‘Notion’ into ‘Synergy’, then onto a flamenco guitar solo followed by a panpipe beatbox solo before returning to ‘Synergy’. Insane.

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As she performs, you can almost see the cogs ticking in her head as she orchestrates her self-made masterpieces and weaves throughout each song, most of which include a mixture of various instruments, synth, effects and incredible solos, all matched with beautiful vocals. It’s stunning and has to be seen to be believed.

Not only are her individual songs complex and adapted for live performance, they also have carefully crafted lighting up above and psychedelic visuals on the screens behind for the complete experience, she was not wrong.

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I can whole-heartedly say, though, that Tash Sultana is truly meant for this and you can see from the way she bounces effortlessly around her setup, her face flicking between concentration and pure elation. It’s almost as if she’s at home in her bedroom, which is inadvertently where her journey to fame began.

Setlist:
Seed (Intro)
Big Smoke
Gemini
Seven
Salvation
Mellow Marmalade
Pink Moon
Notion/Synergy
Free Mind
Jungle
Blackbird

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