With his heart on his sleeve, Dan Sultan serenaded a gracious crowd at Thornbury Theatre

With his heart on his sleeve, Dan Sultan serenaded a gracious crowd at Thornbury Theatre

Dan Sultan at The Forum, September 2017
Words by Rebecca Miller

With new music underway, the set was split into beloved hits and fresh material.

Between the ornate, gold-patterned, soaring ceilings and walls and the large stage fronting the room, the regal 1920s auditorium inside Thornbury Theatre was a romantic setting for Dan Sultan to woo his crowd. And woo he did.

The acoustics in the theatre carried Sultan’s voice, which cocooned the audience like a bear hug.

A single, warm light shone on the multi-ARIA and NIMA (National Indigenous Music Awards) winner who humbly stood on stage accompanied by two acoustic guitars. His shadow slung behind him in the backlight, adding to the atmosphere.

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The set was split into two distinct parts. The first showcased Sultan’s new music, including two original tracks “channelling Elvis” called ‘Only the Stars’ and ‘Time Won’t Take’, one an ode to his wife and the other to his young daughter.

Another new track, ‘The Story is Mine’, poignantly detailed Sultan’s experiences with racism, bigotry, and fear from the age of four which resulted from mainstream society denying his story and the story of Aboriginal people. Something which still happens to this day.

Meanwhile, the second half of the set boasted much-loved tracks from his rich back catalogue, including ‘Kimberley Calling’, ‘Nobody Knows’, ‘Lonesome Tears’, ‘Come Home Tonight’, ‘Never Let You Down’, and ‘Old Fitzroy’, among others.

Sultan shared that his record label, Liberation Records, didn’t know he was writing a “country album” for his next release and joked that any song slowed down enough and played acoustic could sound ‘country’.

That said, the country feel was very evident in the first half of his set, with each song comprising a slow beat accompanied by an acoustic guitar and Sultan’s husky voice. And with that, he drew the audience in like a hipster to a record store.

Sultan explained he “enjoys not being reduced to a genre”. His talent for playing rock, blues, country, and now children’s songs, is something to behold and audiences appeared more than happy to embrace his evolving repertoire.

The 37-year-old spoke of many positive changes in his life over recent years, including getting married, being a father to his daughter, and having a son on the way. He also shared he will be celebrating three years of sobriety in two weeks.

It was clear the audience was grateful the theatre had been transformed to cater to live music back in 1965, with everyone clapping, cheering, and enjoying the musical talent in such a glorious building.

While Sultan no longer resides in Melbourne, it was evident by the smile on his face that he loves to play in his hometown.

He thanked the audience for their support, his friend, Joel, for helping him write some of his new songs, and also his late friend and confidant, Australian music industry entrepreneur, Michael Gudinski.

It’s hard to believe the sold-out Saturday night show at Thornbury Theatre ran half an hour late due to fans milling at the bar rather than sitting and listening to his set, but thankfully, the Sunday matinee crowd was, in his words, ‘very civilized’.

Fans are in for a treat with Dan Sultan’s upcoming album and it’s one that’s bound to give listeners all the right feels.

Lowlight: The fuzzy noise coming from one speaker mid-set.

Highlight: The juxtaposition of new songs and much-loved classics.

Crowd favourite: ‘Old Fitzroy’.