FIRE AID @ Fremantle Arts Centre gets 7.5/10

Fire Aid @ Fremantle Arts Centre
w/ John Butler, The Waifs, Stella Donnelly, San Cisco
Friday, January 31, 2020


With a homegrown lineup and good cause in mind, Fremantle Arts Centre sold out on Friday evening for the community to enjoy a night of live music from four of Western Australia’s favourite exports. Brought together by their manager, Phil Stevens, who conceived this fundraising idea in the middle of the night, each act played a highlights reel set to soothe the audience.

Stella Donnelly

Kicking off the night was an ever cheeky Stella Donnelly who was the standout performance of the entire evening. With so much excitement and an air of appreciation, she took the audience through her biggest tracks from debut album Beware Of The Dogs, and covered Dido’s Thank You as a dedication to firefighters across the nation. Ending on quick-witted Tricks, her energy on stage warmed the otherwise still crowd and showcased her light and groovy nature juxtaposing such sensitive topics, as do her tracks. The only disappointment was the length of the set, with Donnelly only able to bounce around the stage for seven tracks in the half-hour allotted.

San Cisco

Following a moving Welcome To Country and with a setting sun, San Cisco arrived on stage delighting the younger members of the audience. Launching into old favourite About You before gliding into latest release Skin, it was clear this set was to be filled with fan favourites spanning their decade long career. With his sensual moves and pitch-perfect rendition of The Distance, Jordi Davieson had the crowd grooving along until the final song. It was clear each member was excited and thankful to be involved in the gig which was especially obvious with drummer Scarlett Stevens and guitarist Josh Bondillo on backup vocals for big hits such as Awkward and Fred Astaire.

John Butler

In a confusing and eccentric set filled with more talking than singing, John Butler’s time on stage was a seemingly out of place moment in the evening. Opening track Better Than captured the crowd, but they were soon lost on a tremendously long rendition of Kimberley. Speaking of his family history for a portion of the almost hour-long set, he only played a handful of songs including a cover of Glenn Miller’s Danny Boy. Butler’s saving grace was the impressive instrumentals sprinkled throughout. With the set finishing on a hard to follow spoken word poem, without playing the big tracks such as Zebra, he left the crowd largely unsatisfied.

The Waifs

In a thank you to the crowd, Phil Stevens jumped on stage to announced $650,000 raised from ticket sales alone, with remaining proceeds from merchandise to be finalised and donated in the coming days. With the venue buzzing and the crowd ready to continue celebrating West Australia’s music scene, The Waifs‘ Donna Simpson arrived on stage to deliver a heart-wrenching story of band members’ family homes under threat from the current fires. This emotional moment and the support offered by the captivated crowd showed humanity in an undeniably beautiful way. In an unforgettable set filled with all the big hits including London Still and Lighthouse, the five-piece showed they still hold a passion for playing live music. Some outstanding harmonica playing and a groovy, bluesy overtone made this set a highlight for the evening.

Despite the vast differences between the performers over the night, Davieson, Butler and The Waifs performed a final song together; a cover of Solid Rock by Australian band Goanna. This moment of friendship and solidarity for such a devastatingly important cause summed the night up in the most fitting way.

words and photos by AMBER LILLEY

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