JEN CLOHER @ The Rosemount gets 9/10

Jen Cloher

Jen Cloher @ The Rosemount Hotel
w/ Bells Rapids, Carla Geneve
Friday, March 16, 2018

9/10

We have a long and unnecessary history of neatly ordering music made by women over a certain age into the class of polite ‘adult contemporary’, or ignoring it all together. Jen Cloher’s work cannot be relegated in any such way.

Last year the Adelaide born, Melbourne based singer-songwriter released her self-titled fourth album full of instant Australian classics. Whip-smart music you want to listen to, with biting spot-on commentary about being an artist in this country, delivered confidently by a woman in her forties who long stopped tiptoeing around any expected pleasantries. She has toured relentlessly since the album’s release and watched her audience grow to the point of sold out shows on her recent headline US tour with her band. When she last played in Perth the album had just been released, but when she headed back on Friday to play The Rosemount with her band the crowd were well and truly singing along.

Carla Geneve

Carla Geneve and her two bandmates hit the stage to warm things up. Carla excitedly told the sizeable early evening crowd that she’s very nervous to play on as prestigious a line up. Yet, seconds into her first number it was clear that she’s entirely at home making music and performing it. It’s confusing and exhilarating watching an 18-year-old pack the punch of a seasoned performer. She’s expressive and animated, shreds her guitar well and without fear, and has an effortless vocal power.

Carla Geneve

There was no sign of her earlier acoustic folk-flavoured songs but she played some brand new ones, including her latest single Greg’s Discount Chemist. It’s her catchiest song to date, and hearing it live showcased Carla’s quintessentially Australian storytelling style, with an insightful narrative about a recent day in her life and a classic structure. At one point I squinted a little, The Rosemount faded to grey around her and I brimmed with pride imagining this local singer-songwriter on a giant festival stage. A premonition, perhaps.

Bells Rapids

Perth band Bells Rapids have been on my gig to-do list for the longest time and for good reason it turns out. Despite Friday being their first performance together in near on a year and having Carla Geneve standing in for absent guitarist Stella Donnelly, Bells Rapids delivered an irresistible set which got more organised and skilful as it progressed.

Bells Rapids

Like the best of your favourite 90s power-pop bands Tanya Harper’s vocals were simultaneously strong and sweet, the Sara McPherson/ Talya Valenti rhythm section was tight, and Geneve seemed to have the most fun ever. It was a rare treat watching the melting pot of regular and occasional gig-goers up at the front together and equally overcome by Bells Rapids’ infectious hooks. The foot-tapping, head nodding and body swaying reaching a set high during their beloved song GF. They finished their set to louder cheers and applause than is typical for a Perth band to receive from a Perth audience.

Jen Cloher

The main room at The Rosemount was full by the time Jen Cloher and her band got underway. They opened with Regional Echo, during which it took me a moment to adjust to the raw nature of hearing it live, but I was very quickly won over.

Cloher’s charisma is palpable. It was impossible to look away. She was warm, almost visibly proud of this material, had seriously expressive stage moves, and was full of comedy gold between numbers. There was not a single tall poppy syndrome sentiment in the air; her Perth audience are clearly as energised by her recent success as she. Cloher orchestrated atmosphere from start to finish. From tender acoustic moments like her encore performance of Dark Art through to the moment where she put down her guitar for a while to lean out over the crowd and scream-hiss Great Australian Bite in our faces. Spine tingling.

Jen Cloher

Her band is a formidable unit at this point. Jen’s vocals were on point and she played her guitar in a considered and rugged way. Jen Sholakis on drums and Bones Sloane playing bass made for an unshakable duo. Courtney Barnett was notably unassuming, playing lead guitar in the background despite the fact that she’s undeniably famous and, at points in the set, completely slayed the elaborate and climactic guitar parts (she also sung co-lead on Fear Is Like a Forest, an older Cloher song that she covered alongside Kurt Vile on their Lotta Sea Lice album of last year).

I went home beaming and reflecting on how this dynamic was a beautiful example of the way we see women in music so often support each other without ego.

LIBBY NOBLE

Photos by Owen Gregory

Jen Cloher

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