Gig Review: The Jezabels @ The Toff, 15th July

Thursday night saw The Jezabels play a rare and intimate headline show at The Toff in Melbourne. It was kind of good.

I arrived at the iconic and awesome The Toff just after doors, knowing that the gig had actually sold out and that spots near the stage would be at a premium. A very chilled out crowd had already assembled, and the bar staff were instantly busy. As always, the atmosphere at The Toff was impecable.

Opening the show was Tasmanian outfit Enola Fall. If there is one word to describe them, it is ‘unconventional’. From the unusual strategy of handing out a notepad into the audience midset and asking for feedback, to their unique brand of keyboard-driven rock, this is a band that doesn’t do things by the book.

I quite enjoyed their set. Moments where lead singer Joe Nuttall’s falsetto was given an opportunity to soar over some heavy keyboard work were brilliant, but unfortunately their songs blended into each other slightly, and the only memorable individual songs from their set for me were the bookends; the first and last songs were suitably enjoyable.

By the time Enola Fall had departed the stage, complete with a notepad’s worth of constructive criticism and praise, The Toff was absolutely packed, and everything was building up to the arrival of The Jezabels. We had about a half hour wait in front of us, listening to the crappy indistinguishable PA music, but man was it worth it.

The Jezabels took to the stage, and the atmosphere in The Toff was completely at ends with the relatively small size of the crowd. Everyone was going mental, and it was apparent straight away that this was going to be a night to savour.

The band, looking very relaxed and very happy, wasted no time with pacing their set, breaking straight into popular single Easy To Love as one of their first songs. Even at such an early stage of the night, it was obvious that The Jezabels really do have a live sound all of their own. It is hard to describe the magic atmosphere that they created with their gorgeous vocals and their dramatic, intense drumming if you haven’t seen them live before. Easy To Love was just extraordinary live.

Apparently the band have a reputation for a lack of banter between songs (“If you remember one thing from a Jezabels show, it will be that we suck at talking,” joked guitarist Sam Lockwood). However it was quite the opposite for me, I found Sam saying that “If I had dreamed of the perfect night it would have been something like this” surprisingly touching.

I got the impression that the band were- if not surprised- at least pleasantly satisfied with the reception they received, which was one of sheer adoration. Old Little Girls was just beautiful, and gave pianist Heather Shannon a chance to shine. Unmarked Helicopters was predictably one of the many highlights of the night, and it was impossible to not get caught up in the wonderful atmosphere in The Toff that night.

Really, every song that The Jezabels played came to life, and was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd. Disco Biscuit Love for one was just stunning, as the entire crowd chanted along to that refrained chorus and eventual release of emotion. What a song.

The best moment of the set for me came with Hurt Me, however, which was one of the more memorable songs that I have heard live. That violent, pulsing drumbeat electrified the room instantly as the crowd cheered their approval of the song choice. Likewise we emphatically screamed the opening lines of the song, deafening any sound that the band could produce, at least temporarily. The first chorus saw vocalist Hayley Mary point the microphone outwards towards the front of the crowd, prefacing the movement by muttering that she had never done this before. And, as I bellowed that chorus, I believed her.

The gig finished far too soon, however the band returned for a brief one song encore. How could they not? In terms of size vs noise, this crowd was right up there with some of the best I have ever been a part of. The band were genuinely appreciative of the crowd’s response, as drummer Niki Kaloper left the stage  looking at the crowd with his hands clasped over his heart in a loving kind of way.

It was over.

How the merch stand fares after a set is always a good indication of the success of a gig, and The Jezabels merch absolutely flew off the stand immediately after the show. I’m pretty sure the shirts sold out, and the EPs must have been close behind. This was helped by the fact band members manned the merch straight away, but how keen everyone was to grab a piece of memorabilia from the gig was very telling.

This was a goosebumps on the back of your neck type gig. Above all else, consistently throughout the night, the gig had the feel of being special, and I really think it was. It can deservedly take its spot among the very best Australian band gigs I’ve been to this year, and it’s a night I won’t forget for a long time to come.

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