Sally Seltmann @ The Zoo, Brisbane – July 9, 2010 – Live Review

Review by: Stephen Goodwin

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Sally Seltmann

[Photo: Charlyn Cameron]
  Sometimes less is more. Three and a half hours at The Zoo this evening reveals it’s a maxim all three acts tonight might like to consider.

Across 40 minutes, local indie-popsters Little Scout at least show that they’re heading in the right direction.

Newer material — particularly the ooh-aah-filled Mountain Song and the delicate Long Gone — sparkles as Melissa Tickles voice blooms around spacious and instantly appealing guitar and bass phrases. The flipside are several tunes that just wallow — each instrument successing only in consuming the sound of the other.

Of tonight’s three acts, Parades’ sound is the most diverse, a grandstanding gamut of indie guitar riffs and male-female vocals, laced with psychedelic wah, ambient washes and rimshot percussion. It could be awesome except for one element: the female guest singer, finger in ear, hunting desperately for the right notes and never quite finding them.

This jarring dissonance haunts the set more than the male vocalist’s claims of gear failure: no matter how clever or beautiful, soaring Mono-style guitar arpeggios and M83-esque synths cannot engage when vocal disharmony is working to opposite effect.

Sally Seltmann gets off to a flyer courtesy of a charming dancehall number complete with bowler hat-on-heart earnestness. A goodly-sized Zoo crowd hushes to attentive stillness. From there, though, the Sydney-based chanteuse turns in a see-sawing performance equal parts enjoyable and frustrating.

Just a couple of years ago, as New Bufallo, Seltmann’s dreamy yet raw pop tunes were winning plaudits and fans hand over fist. The dreaminess remains, but the re-badging has also brought a full backing band that’s cost her the rawness that elevated her above the pack.

The set treads water when the full band holds sway: a succession of syrupy mid-tempo pop mired in a plodding rhythm section. I Tossed A Coin, Sentimental Seeker and Emotional Champ are just a few that succumb as Seltmann’s breathy voice becomes repeatedly lost in a cloying, AM-friendly morass.

The rising piano of Heart That’s Pounding is the exception — a bright effort where clever interplay of voice, percussion and a delicate piano riff exerts real pull on the heartstrings. But, mostly, the evening’s highlights come from stripped-back moments (such as Misery And Mountains and the countryish, guitar-driven Dark Blue Angel) when the band departs the stage, freeing Seltmann’s feather-soft voice to gently woo our ears.

In the end, set closer On The Borderline encapsulates Seltmann’s evening: a slow opening that takes too long to gather momentum, before she morphs it quite delicately into the closing lines of Mancini and Mercer’s classic Moon River. Beautiful. And oh-so frustrating.

Photo Gallery: Sally Seltmann @ The Zoo, Brisbane – July 9, 2010
Sally Seltmann ‘Heart That’s Pounding’ Album Launch Tour – July 2010 – tour details…