With the international community still reeling in post Brexit bewilderment, we all found some solace at Oxford Art Factory on Friday night. Despite weather more suited to an English winter, the crowd found a flame in the form of Sydneysider electronic/RnB artist Elizabeth Rose whose musical versatility and Beyoncé-esque dance routines have been captivating audiences during her INTRA tour with support from rapper BARO and electronica collaboration better known as Left.
If it hadn’t been so cold I think there might’ve been a train carriage full more of people at the evening’s beginnings. Nevertheless, a rugged up crowd around the stage without deviating to far from the walls so to expose themselves. No such worries for the electronica three piece Left who took centre stage like a judge to a court bench and delivered their dose of musical inebriation to the audience. The vocalist, Sarah (who went to the same school as Elizabeth Rose) sang from the heart (and more pleasingly, the diaphragm) which was backed up by her brilliant stage presence. Her relaxed words with the crowd added depth to her music which drew strength from her feminist passions. The guys on guitar and drums did well to support the vocals and eclectic humming without taking too much of the spotlight. A personal favourite were the guitarist’s solos which were reminiscent of the catchy Daft Punk riffs we have become so accustomed to. Overall, the performance remained consistently captivating without blowing it out of the park.
A nice deviation from the OFA norm showed themselves in BARO. The rapper and his MC doused the crowd with some dope lyrics and beats that the zealous demographic bopped with enthusiasm. For an Aussie hip hop artist his voice surprisingly didn’t have the burden of a heavy accent that some native rappers carry. His efforts to ramp up the audience’s participation albeit noble sometimes fell flat however the blame should be placed on the latter whose majority seemed to be content to just bob along. The honesty in his lyrics and his own performance ticked many boxes with the crowd but it was the Childish Gambino rhythm and tempo that are going to serve him well in the future which further differentiates his style from emerging hip hop artists in Oz. The standout was the closing track which finally had the crowd waving arms in chorus and singing along to the combative lyrics. The performance got an initially unreceptive crowd buzzing and evidently BARO was the rapper the crowd deserved but not the one it needed.
Lastly it was the artist we were all waiting for. Then we had to wait a little longer because of some technical delays with the visuals. However, the crowd were not disillusioned. As the lines to the bar merged with the crowd so too did the curtains part way for Elizabeth Rose and her two dancers. A voice similar to US RnB artist, Banks and a magnetic stage presence akin to St. Vincent were a match made in heaven. The dance routine filled the gaps where her voice did not which kept the crowd perpetually enthralled. Those visuals that delayed the set…worth the wait. Like the magical Pensieve from Harry Potter, the projections they showed were dreamlike and remained parallel with the lyrics. It’s that holistic engagement with the senses of the audience that has paved way for Rose to break ground with the fan base.
In between songs, Rose managed to engage a little more personally with the crowd whereas a mere mortal would have been out of breath from the dance routines. Her versatility was then showcased when the chair dancing began. Made to look easy, Rose sung whilst she and the two back-up dancers tamed the chairs to the crowds delight. Hesitations from the audience to writhe along were non-existent. Like her school mate Sarah, Rose also encouraged themes of diversity and tolerance which were evident of her maturity as an artist since her early days on Triple J. The highlight was her single ‘Playing with Fire’ which kicked off with the return of BARO. Who drew passion from the buzzing crowd and reciprocated the enthusiasm. Like all her songs during the set, Rose performed it with a skill and, some degree, a crowed derived confidence that transcended into a brilliant performance.
Each set showed a variety of unique artists each on a different stage in their musical journey and overall it was a night that grew in excitement even if the temperature went into the opposite direction.