Angie McMahon’s delicate, grunge-inspired folk-rock left her Melbourne crowd in a daze

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Angie McMahon’s delicate, grunge-inspired folk-rock left her Melbourne crowd in a daze

Melbourne Recital Centre
Melbourne Recital Centre - image by David Harris
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Words by Luke Carlino
Photos by David Harris

The unrivalled acoustics of the Melbourne Recital Centre eloquently cushioned McMahon’s serene folk-rock.

The last time (and first time) I saw Angie McMahon, things felt like a rock show. It was a pretty standard gig, and the local singer-songwriter came across as a powerful, grunge-inspired artist who would sit well in any beer-soaked live music venue across the country.

The first show of the support tour for her debut album Salt, however, felt a little different. Set to a bushland backdrop with a range of fauna decorating the stage, audience members quietly took their seats at the Melbourne Recital Centre in a theatre setting that couldn’t be further removed from a dive bar.

And it couldn’t have been a better choice.

Angie McMahon’s new record, and arguably her sound on every other day is basically folk-rock, and the theatrical surrounds of the Recital Centre allowed for the folk side to exhibit itself perfectly at the sold-out show. McMahon is a master of dynamics in her music. Sometimes the quieter moments of those dynamics are lost when someone is yelling their order for four pints of Furphy at the bartender down the back of the room. This was not an issue in the quiet, attentive Recital Centre and it was clear that McMahon was making the most of it.

The result was subtle guitar work backed by a tight rhythm section, all of which allowed for McMahon’s stunning vocal performance which will stop anyone dead in their tracks. There is also her unavoidably endearing on-stage banter which toggles the line between stand-up comedy and total unprofessionalism in the best way. 

After fumbling the first line of the first song by forgetting the lyrics, McMahon quickly got used to the room that eve she noted as “weirdly quiet” helped by the first burst of energy in ‘Slow Mover’. From there it was a first-hand explanation of the new record with a Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac cover thrown in for good measure. 

As impressive as everything about McMahon is, her band deserves just as much praise. There is something intrinsically enjoyable about a tight drum and bass section who know how to play parts that service a song, and this was exemplified beautifully on McMahon’s stage. 

The undeniable groove of ‘Standout’ served as the set highlight with the closer showing off those dynamics we discussed earlier. Crowd favourite and unreleased track ‘El Paso’ brought in a little band-jam energy while the night ended, quite appropriately, on a soft lullaby titled ‘If You Call’, which is also the closing track of the record.

Angie McMahon is clearly a versatile artist; be it at a pub or a recital centre, the music and her ability to convey it speaks for itself.

Highlight: Being able to experience the intricacies of such a delicate artist in a theatre atmosphere.

Lowlight: Opening act, Haley Heynderickx’s set starting the second doors opened.

Crowd favourite: The large bunch of flowers on stage gifted by Angie’s mum.