Ben Abraham and his support Jack R Riley took to the red-curtained stage at The Vanguard, one of Sydney’s most renowned intimate live music venues, to bring us a night of heavenly songs and on-point banter. The Melbourne singer-songwriter played an unforgettable sold out show for the Sydney leg of the tour for his new album Sirens.
Wollongong songwriter Jack R Reilly, with his flanno shirt and silver-bodied steel string was a lovely start to the evening. He captivated the room with songs inspired by old-school movies like Edward Scissor Hands and the Labyrinth, until we were all laughing so genuinely at his candid banter that it felt like he was holding court at a dinner party of old friends.
So with Jack’s soft folk songs sustaining us we waited for Abraham. It seemed he dragged some drizzly Melbourne weather with him, the friend with whom I went to the show mentioned she should have brought a jacket. Then Abraham emerged confidently, starting with no introduction, and within moments my friend turned to me in awe and whispered “Oh my god his voice is so warm, I’m not cold anymore.”
After the first song he introduced himself, telling us he was going to play his new album, Sirens, to us in sequence of the running order and his evolution as a songwriter. He moved from guitar to piano to harmonium (a pump organ with a haunting melodic drone) all within the first three songs, proving to be captivating whichever his instrument. The album is even better live, with songs like ‘You and Me’ taking on a raw, demanding edge that was glossy in the studio version. He momentarily forgot the lyrics to ‘She’ and shook his head with a wicked grin as we all laughed. He low key mocked Sydney’s lock out laws, threw in a Rihanna cover, brought out a couple of special guests to grace us with harmonies (For his duet ‘Home’: “don’t turn her mic up too loud!” he quipped cheekily), elevated us with his witty, self-deprecating banter and then carried us back down with his songs of love and heartache. A highlight was the song ‘Speak’, which ended with a reverb-heavy, vocal free-form. The set was book-ended with songs on the harmonium, starting with the title track of his album and ending with a beautiful new song. Abraham’s vocal performance was faultless even with minimal accompaniment. You could have heard a pin drop. We were witnessing the magic of someone born to be on stage, stunning the Sunday night crowd. His album is very near flawless, but hearing it live was even more perfect. Abraham’s voice and poise are unparalleled; delivering the best live show we’d seen in a long time.