Gig Reviews

Robbie Miller – The Foundry, Brisbane 04/11/2016

There’s been a certain groundswell building around Brisbane’s Robbie Miller since the release of well-received debut EP Faster the Blood Slows in 2015 and his soulful rendition of Odesza’s Say My Name on triple j’s Like A Version earlier this July. Kicking off the opening leg of his ‘Closer To Home’ EP tour in his native city, Miller headed the bill at Brisbane’s The Foundry. Considering how much Miller’s sparse, intense and driving voice serves as the vehicle for his music’s resonance, it was befitting that supports Charlie Seymour and Morgan Bain each brought their own formidable vocal talents to the fore.

Of all the evening’s acts, opener Charlie Seymour seemed the most eager to impress. The young artist delivered a solo acoustic set driven strongly by his melismatic vocal style. Swaying over the mic and accompanied with a thrashing riffs, Miller hit it off with a relaxed amalgam of local fans and early arrivals that collected around the venue. Even if his delivery may be tightly controlled and well-rehearsed, there’s an element of naturalism to his sound. A sheer gravitas of unrestrained emotion emanated from earnest lyricisms, and a howling vocal grain.

Perth’s Morgan Bain followed on with his soulful and electronic sound. The singer’s intricate live set-up underscored a dedication to bring all of the production and instrumental layers of his recorded sound to the stage. Given the fact he’s shared a producer with Meg Mac there’s a degree of affinity between the pair’s sounds. Like Mac, Bain also strives to meld an alternative edge to a poppier R&B sound.

His music oscillated between dexterously delivered Hammond piano cast atop sampled loops and rockier guitar driven numbers. While Bain can emote when he needs he’s not averse to throwing in some flashier instrumental flourishes, thrashing solos, and hard-edged beats. Yet whatever his stylistic leaning, Bain’s soulful vocals serve as a powerful epicentre for his textured instrumental swirls. Morgan’s soaring melodies may be more buried within his instrumentation than Seymour’s stripped back approach, but they remained a powerful focal point.

An Anthony Hamilton cover showcased the Bain slipping between the skins of nasal R&B vocalist and flow riding MC. Morgan was also intent on working in some lighter elements into his set, treating the audience to some off the cusp banter and introducing a new track about a life changing experience with an over-sharing female Uber driver. It wasn’t until closer, a pleading rendition of latest single Summed It Up, that he mustered the full brunt of his musical prowess. The explosive conclusion to the set left its mark.

When Robbie Miller took to the stage a sizeable crowd had materialised. It was clear that the singer was the marquee event. While Miller candidly confessed that the set would be his first ever show as a tour headliner, the Miller wasn’t lacking in confidence. Enmeshed in the singer-songwriter persona, Miller’s intensity accompanied a relaxed sense of ease which permeated both demeanor and sound.

While his latest EP Closer to Home has flirted with some more electronic elements, the core of his folk sound more than accommodates Miller’s powerful vocals. Miller possesses an innate command of tension and release, his music contracts and expands with brooding intensity. But even when teetering into wandering melancholy or darker subject matter, there’s a sense of serenity which consistently draws the listener in.

By the time Miller had performed the heartbreaking This Death and the devotional Sunday the audience was well and truly under his sway. This said Miller may still be in the process of scaling up the intimate acoustic elements of his performance to the larger crowds of mid-sized venues a rise in profile will inevitably bring.

While Miller was intent on recreating the quieter dynamics of his music to the stage, his softest moments were competing by the background bustle of a busy venue and the chatter of boisterous punters. This may have robbed them of a little their deserved effect. Then again the gentle waving lyrics of numbers like Don’t Go Walking Away were nothing short of entrancing. Miller was quick to remedy any clashes by cutting into some more powerful and texture-laden tracks towards the close of the set. Knocking off a bit of the studio gloss of his latest EP live, Miller’s new material struck an alluring sonic chord.

Whether laying down a folksier sound or melding his competent songcraft with electronic elements, Miller’s music flowed seamlessly. The climax of the set came with up-tempo stomper Road. Miller’s breakthrough track was performed to resounding acclaim. His performance instilled a material impression that there’s more to come from the talented Brisbane act.

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