There’s always that little shiver of excitement and anticipation when the lights go down and you know the headline act is about to step out on stage. The crowd falls silent briefly before breaking into an uproarious cheer as the lights power up once more and the first sounds echo out over the theatre.
On Saturday night 22nd October, these sounds were the unmistakable vocal vibrations of SAFIA frontman Ben Woolner as he launched the Thebarton Theatre crowd into instant pandemonium with ‘My Love Is Gone’, the fourth single from the band’s debut LP ‘Internal’, released mid-September.
The Canberra trio kept the hits coming, following the show starter with a song that has perhaps the coolest title ever: ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’. Dashing from one side of the stage to the other, Woolner was determined to squeeze every last bit of enthusiasm out of the hefty, if at first slightly timid, Adelaide crowd.
A dazzling light show, coupled with abstract, almost psychedelic cinematics, lit up the stage throughout as the band’s signature synths and drum lines reverberated underfoot, making it impossible for the crowd to remain stagnant.
An imaginative mashup of ‘Bye Bye’ and the Gorillaz classic ‘Feel Good Inc.’ kept things interesting in the middle, and was perhaps an indication that SAFIA are as keen for Damon Albarn’s virtual band’s forthcoming album as we all are.
‘Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues’ got an instant response as Woolner’s charming vocals encapsulated the crowd, before the band showcased yet another of its ‘Internal’ singles: ‘Over You’.
Who could forget how SAFIA rose to such prominence on the radio waves with their Peking Duk collab ‘Take Me Over’? Always a showstopper, the band’s own take on the song found the crowd losing its collective mind.
Closing out the show (or so we thought) with ‘Embracing Me’, the trio was met with raucous applause as it departed the stage to shouts of “ENCORE”, and sure enough they re-emerged shortly after with a final farewell in the form of the last song from the album, ‘External’.
The unassuming ACT natives certainly brought their A-game to Adelaide, giving fans an inspired, electric performance that makes me wonder how long it will be until they’re packing out stadiums. With just a single studio record to their name, they comfortably played what was almost a two-hour set to a crowd of all ages; if this isn’t a hallmark of a band that has a very bright future, I don’t know what is.
It’s hard to picture a time when these boys were playing to empty rooms, and it’s very easy to picture them at the top of the charts for years to come.