Live Review: Communion Melbourne

Originally published through Tone Deaf


It is almost unbelievable what $20 can buy you in Melbourne.

On a bad day, seemingly three trips on public transport and a coffee. On a good day – like last Sunday – the likes of India Bourne, Playwrite, Jordie Lane, Deap Valley, and Willy Mason.

Communion, the monthly show held at the Toff responsible for this stunning line-up, is doing the music-loving inhabitants of Struggle Street a great service.

Easing patrons into the diverse evening was the lovely, and severely underrated, Devon native India Bourne.

The ethereal heights of Miss Bourne’s voice were spellbinding, threaded through a songwriting style which was refreshingly lacking in polish.

She played the keyboard in front of her with enough elegance and care for a grand piano – a mirage made all the more realistic by her waifish, Victorian English good looks.

After stealing the show playing with Ben Howard at his Bluesfest performance last week, Bourne proved Sunday night she is just as captivating all on her own (this writer may be just a little bit smitten).

One of the best things about the Communion line-ups is that they present a mixed bag of musical talent, and pull it off without a hitch. Bourne’s quietly powerful acoustics may have little in common with Melbourne band Playwrite’s rollicking fun, but the changeover was surprisingly cohesive.

Playwrite is a band that will put a smile on your face. Their eclectic influences pull bits and pieces from everywhere – spacey ambiance one minute, maracas the next – and tie it all together with an ideal mix of energy and earnestness.

When a group of people look like they’re having this much fun, it’s all but impossible for the audience not to join them.

Folk darling Jordie Lane was joined by fellow Queenslander Claire Reynolds, whose feminine stylings offset the rich timbre of Lane’s own vocals. The pair of them performed a set of effortlessly romantic folk, with honest lyrics layered over delicate picking.

But despite the beauty of their original songs, the highlight was a warm, stripped-back cover of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games,’ replacing the sleaze of the original with wholesome simplicity.

It says a lot for badass LA twosome Deap Valley that they showed up at all, considering the vocalist Lindsey Troy’s throat was so sore she could barely speak.

They only got through three songs – with the middle one sung by a ballsy fan who jumped up on stage and rocked out with the band – but what can you do?

They provided enough stage presence, burning guitar, and throaty growls in three songs than most bands can in twenty.

Lucky last was US songwriter Willy Mason’s brand of smooth country-folk. His delicious harmonies and echoing stabs of chords were a delight, but Mason’s real strength lies in his gorgeous lyrics.

After a set of parables centred around “frosty sunlight” and “tricksters in the breeze,” every audience member present was transported to some vague spot in the American heartland, where wanderlust and adventure reign supreme.

Of course, every good story needs a good storyteller, and Mason’s booming voice was the perfect medium for such fireside narratives.

When not performing, he was chatting with individual audience members from the stage, and improvising the words to requests he hadn’t played for a while.

And then there was the achingly sweet song apparently written by his father, ‘Tic Tac Toe,’ about a girl who leaves the aforementioned game player for a man who teaches her Parcheesi.

Like all good Mason songs, it was idealistic and hopeful, tinged with just the right amount of melancholy. The audience – who could be fairly noisy far the other acts – were held at rapt attention for as long as Mason was on stage.

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