It may have been a cold night in the city, but it was hot inside the Corner Hotel Richmond for the first of two almost sold-out shows by Melbourne ensemble The Bamboos. The crowd swelled just before 10.30pm with a mix of young hipsters, forty-something mums and dads, and those giving a nod to vintage fashion with skinny ties, pin curls, braces and even a bow tie or two. The Corner was feeling a little more Bourbon Street, New Orleans than Swan St, Richmond.
Once the band took the stage with Cut Me Down it was evident the crowd was there to have a good time, with everyone moving to the deep vintage funk beat. Lead vocalist Kylie Auldist brought the passion on the next song What I Know, showcasing her amazing voice – her soulful tone a joy to listen to.
Handing the reigns to backup vocalist Ella Thompson for the title track from Medicine Man, things only went from strength to strength, Ella no backward step in the vocal department, with a charm all of her own. Ella opened the night with her own solo project AXOLOTL.
The show had promised special guests and they started early with ex-idol contestant Bobby Flynn gracing the stage for his contribution to the album Midnight. Not much has changed since Bobby’s idol days: his look and sound very familiar, and a surprisingly good fit with The Bamboos. This nine-piece band never missed a beat as they moved from singer to singer with ease, the horn section a true standout.
Returning to the stage, Auldist took the vocals of On the Sly, and everyone was up and dancing – with more than one drunken uncle dance seen on the floor. The track from their last album ‘4’ (which also featured on the soundtrack Crazy, Stupid, Love) was a hit and there was a collective sway to the crowd who were keen to show their appreciation.
When band founder and guitarist Lance Ferguson introduced the song Window as a Bamboos’ power ballad and revealed the song was a tribute to the late great Amy Winehouse, the band showed its range, with the mood taking a much more somber tone.
This was short lived, however, as the current ‘it girl’ of Australian music Megan Washington was introduced. Looking like she had just stepped off the set of Chicago, she launched into the 2008 cover of Kings of Leon’s King of the Rodeo. It was evident the crowd had been hoping for this surprise appearance. Megan’s charismatic nature on stage was contagious and the crowd were treated with two more songs, Eliza and a cover of James Blake’s hit The Wilhelm Scream.
Auldist got things back into soul funk mode with You Ain’t No Good, and when the opening riff of I Got Burned began, the crowd eagerly looked for You Am I frontman Tim Rogers, but it wasn’t to be. Auldist taking the vocals on the single, and whilst initially the crowd seemed disappointed, it was soon forgotten.
After a brief break, the band reformed on stage for the encore, with a slightly tired looking Daniel Merriweather to peform I Never, which was a little lackluster. After such power vocals from Auldist and Washington, Merriweather just didn’t have the same presence.
When the full band returned to leave us with another soul jazz funk anthem Keep Me In Mind the crowd returned to full dance mode, and Megan Washington kicked off her own impromptu party in the sound booth. It was clear the party inside the corner wasn’t about to stop, with DJ Pierre Baroni spinning tracks that were certain to keep this crowd entertained for a few more hours to come.
There are not too many better ways to spend a cold winter’s evening in Melbourne.