It was at the Opera House’s magical Joan Sutherland Theatre that “Tiny Ruins” let their songs billow around an adoring Sydney audience. The classy five-piece led by Hollie Fullbrook replicated a 1960’s TV special, their silhouettes striking against a pallet of lights tailored to each song. The songs themselves took on new life beyond the studio versions, seeing the band surpass expectations and melt hearts for good measure.
Tiny Ruins took to the dusky blue stage of the distinguished Joan Sutherland Theatre sans introduction or support act. Nothing was needed to warm up the crowd before the New Zealand ensemble’s Opera House debut, for Tiny Ruins won us over within moments. A single spot light revealed Hollie Fullbrook on stage alone at first, in the same way she began Tiny Ruins back in 2009. Fullbrook opened with a W B Yeats poem put to music by way of her lush guitar and Laura Marling-esque voice, followed by brand new song ‘Under The Same Cover’, during which she paused mid verse to tune her guitar. The fourth wall crumbled, she quipped sheepishly of her perfectionism, and an easy laughter rippled around the room of a besotted audience.
Seamlessly the rest of the band appeared. With Cass Basil on bass and Alexander Freer on drums – plus special guests bringing lead guitar, vibraphone and trumpet to the table – Tiny Ruins achieve a mature and tasteful sound with a ‘less is more’ approach to the way they play.
The fan favorites from their studio EPs are even better live. Fullbrook quietly tells the stories that inspired ‘Dream Wave’ and ‘Me at the Museum, You in the Winter Gardens’ with her understated New Zealand humour, and then when she sings her voice reveals a more complex tone that is sometimes lost on the records. Set to marbled stage lights, the newest song ‘One Million Flowers’ felt fresh for Tiny Ruins but nostalgic with its 1960s vibe and old-school bass line.
An incredibly jazzy trumpet solo on ‘Reasonable Man’ had the audience collectively beaming, and the only heckler during the whole show was someone yelling ‘I love you!’ just loud enough to encourage the rest of us to agree with applause. The show stayed true to Fullbrook’s folk tales of cold Auckland beaches, quiet libraries, and delicate relationships. ‘Straw into Gold’ closed the evening, a reassuring song in which fishermen rhymes with mandarins and Fullbrook somehow manages to make the world seem daunting and beautiful at the same time.