Sarah Blasko’s Sydney Opera House show was not her debut at this iconic venue. But it was her first time performing there with an orchestra in tow. Her latest album, I Awake features a newer, “full” sound. It’s one she’s described as having given her all. While recording, she got the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra to create an avalanche of sound and something she described as: soaring, shrieking, simple and striking. And that describes this show to a tee.
In her hometown, Sarah Blasko was accompanied by the Sydney International Orchestra and her own four-piece band of local and international musicians. This proved an excellent marriage between her different musical styles plus the general emotion and substance that typifies her music. Wearing a long black maxi skirt and an elegant black top Blasko looked at least a decade younger as she sashayed on stage. But the audience weren’t fooled by appearances, as the maturity and depth of her experiences soon shone through with the music.
“[Explain]” started things with a dramatic turn. Blasko’s voice was positively gorgeous. You could hear a pin drop as her delicate, doll-like silhouette was splashed behind her and framed by a spotlight. She acted bold with soaring vocals and when she took moments away from singing the lyrics, she used another microphone to create her own breathy tones that were just enchanting.
This same voice was also the centrepiece in “All I Want”. On her record a musical saw drove the proceedings, but tonight it was all about spine-chilling strings, rainbow lights and of course, Blasko’s own melodic, resonant and vivid vocals. It was resplendent in conveying the right sense of heartbreak, anguish and confusion. Her voice was often like a majestic, musical instrument all of its own.
Initially, the lovely lady drew heavily from her previous album, As Day Follows Night with “Bird on a Wire” being a fun, sexy-pop number. It was during this that Blasko seemed to resemble Blondie’s Deborah Harry because you couldn’t take your eyes off her. She sang like a sweet songbird but she pulled out a mixed bag of dance moves that ranged from some clunky and awkward ones inspired by Harry to an almost spiritual and reverential interpretative dance.
The backing band was also an amazing force. The Devoted Few’s Ben Fletcher was the expert multi-instrumentalist switching between guitars, keyboard and additional percussive instruments. The rhythm section from the latest record, i.e. David Symes and Fredrik Rundqvist offered a fluid groove that complimented Blasko and the orchestra, while David Hunt’s keys glistened and soared in equal measure.
There was the melancholy, “Sleeper Awake” before the musicians performed the entire I Awake album in full. These cuts included the almost primal and stomping tittle track to some full cinema-scope inspired sound in the lush, “An Arrow”. The album is certainly Blasko’s magnum opus. She is like the enchantress stripped bare, unleashing raw emotions from her heart and soul alongside her experience in a foreign land (“Bury This”). There was also the softer and more personal love songs and balladry with “All Of Me”.
“Here” was a slow-burner that was built up from a quiet hush to a loud, orchestral affair. The addition of the extra musicians on most of these tracks – but this one in particular – was just like watching a video change from black and white to full Technicolour (think like the Wizard of Oz). The album also offers this, but when it’s performed live you feel like every particle of blood, sweet and tears pours through.
The material really resonated with the crowd so naturally we welcomed Blasko back for an encore. She obliged us with the final two LP tracks. “An Oyster, A Pearl” was especially sentimental because she played this at the piano and dedicated it to her niece and sister who were also present at the show. She had joked that she felt like she was about to play a piano recital and the performance shared a lot in common with Regina Spektor before proceedings closed with the chiming, “Not Yet”.
Sarah Blasko received a standing ovation for her wonderful, Sydney Opera House show. It had been so personal, relatable and feeling while also cerebral and clever. There had been some tear-inducing moments but Blasko’s divine beauty in every sense of the word shone through. She had managed to get inside the hearts and minds of everyone in the audience and embrace us in the warmest of hugs.
Sarah Blasko’s set list:
2. All I Want
3. Bird On A Wire
4. Lost & Defeated
5. No Turning Back
6. Sleeper Awake
7. I Awake
8. An Arrow
9. Bury This
11. All Of Me
12. New Country
14. Illusory Light
16. Cast The Net
17. An Oyster, A Pearl
18. Not Yet
Originally published on 20 February 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/sarah-blasko-sydney-opera-house-17-02-13
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