Gig Review: Jonathan Boulet @ Northcote Social Club, 12th February

Last night, NSW artist Jonathan Boulet played a sold-out gig at the Northcote Social Club. I saw him last year at Homebake, but at the time didn’t really know enough of his stuff to fully appreciate his set. This being said he was still fantastic and one of the many reasons why the festival was so memorable. Having since accustomed myself to more of his music, I was really looking forward to this gig.

This is Jonathan’s first ever headline tour, on the back of his rather excellent debut self-titled album. His song A Community Service Announcement is of course magnificent, and it has even received some international attention. However Jonathan’s debut album proved beyond any doubt that he really isn’t a one hit wonder. It is a complete and consistent album.

Which makes it even more of a pity that the crowd at Northcote Social Club didn’t really seem to understand this. I can safely say that at least half the people at the venue were there solely to hear A Community Service Announcement, a fact which was asserted when someone next to me kept on repeating “Play the song”.

I may as well get the negative out of the way straight away- as well as just waiting for the song, parts of the crowd were very very talkative. I can understand this during an opening act, even if I don’t really approve of it, but during a headline act just shut up, seriously. You paid money to come and see these guys perform, so why on earth would you talk in between songs and even during songs? It got to the point where it really was annoying, and just plain disrespectful.

This being said, it was a great gig. Jonathan and his bandmates were flawless, and they had a really raw live sound which worked perfectly. The stage set up was faultless and fairly unique, with three band members and Jonathan Boulet all in a row at the front of the stage, and just the drummer behind them. One of those at the front was tasked with both keyboards and backup percussion, which made for an awesome dual-drum sound that absolutely filled the venue.

Proving that he’s not a one hit wonder, Jonathan Boulet and his band reeled off a series of great songs from his debut album. The very drum-heavy Ones Who Fly Twos Who Die was magnificent, as the band really put everything into it and the percussion section was absolutely massive. It got the crowd moving a bit, and so did 321 Ready Or Not, which saw an acoustic guitar grace the stage and the front section of the crowd sing along with Jonathan: “We just want to sing sing, we just want to dance!”.

Even though the gig was apparently a sellout, I have definitely seen the Northcote Social Club more packed. While the front section of the crowd were clearly more dedicated fans of Boulet, the attention of those towards the back seemed to drift a bit during Jonathan’s lesser-known songs. Given this, the decision to play a four minute jam piece was perhaps not exactly what the doctor ordered, but if you could ignore the incessant talking from some of the crowd it was actually pretty cool.

Continue Calling was just as great live as it is recorded, as was North To South-East To You. Jonathan was very charming, discussing at length with the crowd whether he should do up his shoelace or “Live on the wild side”. After a few minutes of this his bandmates got fed up and yelled “Just play the song!”, whilst pelting him with water bottles. Way too fast, the end of the gig arrived, and Jonathan announced that “This will be our last song. This is a sold out gig, and it is so great to see so many people here, thank-you so much”.

And everyone knew exactly what was coming. The song.

A Community Service Announcement was absolutely brilliant, there can be no denying it. The crowd finally got moving, dancing, and singing, and the venue absolutely came to life. It is just such an impossibly infectious and likeable song, and live it worked perfectly. Jonathan got the crowd singing “Here we are we are, here we are we are, are we on top?” for him, and we did him proud, with every single person in that venue knowing the words exactly. It was a wonderful, wonderful live song, especially in those magic moments where brief silence gives way to that instantly recognisable guitar riff.

The song worked so well that the portion of the crowd at the gig solely because of it would have left very satisfied, and for fans of Jonathan’s debut album it was the cherry on top of an excellent set.

And, without an encore, the gig  was over. I’m a big fan of bands not doing encores- I loved Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) explanation of them: “Everyone knows exactly what’s going on, but everyone just fucking plays along anyway”. However really Jonathan Boulet’s set seemed much too short. 45 minutes for a headline act is almost unheard of. I can understand that Jonathan probably thought playing longer would mean using some filler songs, and of course he only has one album to draw upon, but at least throw in a couple of covers or something.

Then again, the gig was only $15, so you can’t really complain.

Apparently the opening acts were great. I missed them both, but Jonathan seemed to speak very sincerely about the quality of them, and playfully insulted those such as me who had missed them. Jonathan was a charming frontman, and the rest of his band were faultless, in particular the guy who manned secondary percussion and keys.

There can be no doubt that Northcote Social Club witnessed a band in its infancy last night, but we also witnessed a band that has the very real potential of becoming an international sensation. Their live performance will no doubt improve, but it is already fairly awesome, and last night was a truly great gig.

The band sings “Take over the whole world, just give us a chance,” and, if last night’s performance was anything to go by, they might just.

One Response to “Gig Review: Jonathan Boulet @ Northcote Social Club, 12th February”

  1. mate, they were hopeless that night. comparing that performance to a couple of their others, it lacked in every department. and where was the chick in the band? she made it. on another note, boulet’s eyes are too close to his nose.

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