Lisa Mitchell @ St Michael’s Church, 13th Of June

If church is always as enjoyable as it was last Wednesday night then I’ve been missing out all my life. Lisa Mitchell and Georgia Fair put on a great show, but it really was the unusual venue that turned this from what would have been a couple-of-times-a-year experience to one that felt truly special. St Michael’s Church deceptively appeared as if it were designed for this kind of thing, and boasted great acoustics, a perfect balcony, and even a makeshift stage. It provided an incredible backdrop for the night’s entertainment.

The support act was Georgia Fair, which I’m pretty sure would be a case of nepotism if the guys weren’t so damn good. I’m losing track of the number of times I’ve seen this Sydney duo live, but each and every time has been brilliant, with this being no exception. They played a mixture of stuff taken from their debut album ‘All Through Winter’, with the obvious highlights being Times Fly and Simple Man. Georgia Fair’s introverted, delicate folk music was perfectly suited to the venue, as was Jordan and Ben’s softly spoken collective stage presence.

Unless they opened with it (because I missed about 5 minutes of their set), Georgia Fair opted not to play their biggest song Picture Frames, which is an understandable decision given its more upbeat nature, but I was still slightly disappointed and felt that it would have broken up their set nicely. That’s literally my only complaint however, because the rest of their set was pretty much impeccable. Georgia Fair have nailed down their live show to a fine art by now, and the idyllic and beautiful surroundings accentuated the emotion carried in every one of their songs.

The main act of the night was of course Lisa Mitchell, who had kindly left a copy of her latest single, Spiritus, on every seat in the venue. Given that, I can almost forgive her for opening her set by reading poetry to the crowd. That kind of shit don’t fly at your standard gig, but in St Michael’s church it was just about bearable, albeit a little self-indulgent. Thankfully however Lisa soon launched into her music, backed up initially only by Melbourne a capella group Aluka. Their collective voices created a truly angelic sound as Lisa tore through a couple of new numbers before playing some older favourites such as the ever-enjoyable Neopolitan Dreams and Coin Laundry (this time without dollar coins being chucked at her head).

Lisa’s band joined her on stage occasionally, breaking up her set beautifully. The contrast between when there was a band on stage and when it was just Lisa and her choir was stark, and perfectly addressed the biggest criticism I had of Lisa’s live shows over the last couple of years in that I felt they were a bit monotone. Her voice soared in the church, occupying every inch of space and resonating beautifully. Meanwhile the religious symbolism in much of Lisa’s music that usually feels like an undertone became somehow much more overt given the location. At times I guess it really was a bit of a religious experience. 

I’m a little undecided as to Lisa’s new music, but one thing’s for sure: her latest single Spiritus was the highlight of the night. It’s a fantastic, infectious, exuberant song, and really displays Lisa’s growth as both a songwriter and a performer. She may not have entirely lost her endearingly awkward stage presence and banter, but she seems much more assured in everything she’s doing. Lisa Mitchell looks at home on a stage now, when she perhaps did not a year ago.

A brief and somewhat unnecessary encore break saw Lisa return to the stage with Jordan to perform a song called Golden Ship that I didn’t recognise. It was absolutely beautiful however: Jordan’s voice worked so very well with Lisa’s, just like it does when she provides the guest vocals for the Georgia Fair song Marianne. Lisa invited her band back on stage as Jordan departed to play what I believe was a cover, although it definitely wasn’t an M83 or Dire Straits track for a change. 

Far too soon we came to the end of the night, in the form of Oh! Hark!, the most upbeat number on Lisa’s debut album. It had been a night of lovely and charming music, angelic voices, and beautiful surrounds, and there’s not a whole lot you can complain about there.

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