SAFIA at The Factory Theatre (Sydney)

SAFIA have been lauded with praise over their live show, and their gig on September 11 was no exception. Showcasing the band’s dynamic presence, a few new tracks, and the talents of solid supports Boo Seeka and Owen Rabbit, the show was one to remember.

Sydney-based electronic duo Boo Seeka kicked off the show with a soulful, if drawn-out performance. ‘Antarctica’ was a strong track featuring vocalist Ben Gumbleton’s pleasant high range and a sharp drumbeat underscored by swelling bass. A particular highlight of their set was Ben’s easy humour and interaction with the audience throughout; the use of a delay pedal to pick up the audience chanting a four note melody back to him was an awesome moment in the set. The last song was also a standout, featuring a range of sounds to inspire a jungle vibe and a refreshingly pure, dissonant guitar part. Overall however, the songs often dragged quite a bit, with the duo often seeming to get lost in the mood. Nonetheless, Boo Seeka were an adequate kick-starter to the night.

SAFIA second support, indie multi-instrumentalist Owen Rabbit also delivered a solid set, with crisp keyboard-playing on songs like ‘Troublemaker’ and a faster tempo. The first track was a strong opener that featured clear guitar harmonies and great resonant vocals with a country edge. It was also awesome to see Owen really getting into it up on stage. Other highlights of the set included the groovy synth parts and the use of an acoustic guitar, really bringing out the beautiful tremor in Owen’s voice. That being said, the set closer was disappointing, being way too drawn out, and the show mostly moved at the same mid-tempo pace throughout. However, there were undoubtedly moments of magnetic energy from Owen, making for a good overall performance.

The main act of the night, SAFIA, thundered on after a frantic wave of cheering and stomping from the crowd. The show kicked off in explosive fashion with their hit single ‘Counting Sheep’, featuring a huge multi-coloured light production and Ben Woolner’s stellar vocal ability. On the second track, the band’s remix of The Aston Shuffle’s ‘Tear It Down’, Ben’s haunting slow vocals broke into a groovy beat which inspired a huge chanting of the song’s main lyric. The song was one of many highlighting Ben’s sheer stage presence as he called for the crowd to jump and took centre stage while displaying a flawless falsetto.

The grungy vibe of the next track got the crowd jumping from the get-go. The already visceral energy was fuelled by Ben touching the hands of people in the front rows. The song showcased both great bluesy moments and the range of talents in the band. The next track again demonstrated a strong balance, with thudding drums tempered by minimalist yet powerful vocals from Ben.

The gig also provided fans with a glimpse of new material, with the fifth track showing traces of ‘Counting Sheep’’s signature low cut-up vocal and a particularly energetic performance from drummer Michael. Then, crowd-favourite ‘You Are The One’ exploded, while the next track was a refreshing change-up with its nearly complete absence of vocals. Highlights over the next few songs included cool drums combined with a dirty synth beat and whistling sounds.

The end of the show was a memorable one, as the crowd waited for at least five minutes after SAFIA left the stage. However, as whispering fans had predicted, the formidable three-piece returned with ‘Embracing Me’, a fantastic track highlighting Ben’s beautiful falsetto. Then, the show came to an epic close with the smash hit ‘Paranoia, Ghosts & Other Sounds’. Beautifully slow-paced with soaring vocals and charged by the crowd’s clapping, the track took the show to an inevitably satisfying conclusion.

My verdict? SAFIA continue to tear up the roof with their live sound, and I can’t wait to see what they do at shows to come.

PHOTOS: SAFIA in Melbourne.

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