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From the painted skeletons and photos of musicians on the wall, to the red curtains that look like they may or may not have come from Kmart, the Brighton Up Bar has a strong student-house-living-room vibe. The result is unpretentious and welcoming, and the welcome is very warmly extended to Montaigne (know to her mum as Jessica Cerro).
The girl has some serious presence. Yes, she’s young, yes, this is her first headline tour, but her professionalism and obvious talent could easily fool you into thinking she’s done all this a thousand times before.
The epic A Cinematic Plea for an End showcases her breathy falsetto and powerful range. She has an uncanny ability to sound incredibly polished yet raw. Her style, vocals, even lyrics are rich in contradictions. These are not songs made for dancing, but songs to be absorbed, songs which can stun a crowd into complete silence.
After winning triple j’s Unearthed High at just 16, you get the impression that despite the attention and pressure of the past few years Montaigne knows how to keep it real. Introducing Pontius of the Past, the fourth track from her The Life of Montaigne EP, she says, “This song may as well be called F**k the Haters, because that’s what it is about.” Then she nails yet another flawless vocal performance, almost to prove that she really DGAF.
Things get taken up a notch with an ethereal cover of Bjork’s Joga, casually followed by a stripped back version of Sia’s Chandelier, both highlighting her unbelievable control. There’s no pause or recovery time, before she’s straight into the chaos of Life, then the yet-to-be-recorded pop offering What You Mean to Me.
These are rounded off by I’m a Fantastic Wreck, and as she belts out the final line, “Would you love me?”, there’s an overwhelming “Yes!” from the crowd. “That was a rhetorical question,” she laughs, “but I appreciate the affirmative answer.”
It’s all wrapped up with I Am Not an End — you know, that song which didn’t make the Hottest 100 but totally should have.
After such a dynamic and powerful set it takes a few moments for people to shake off the spell of the evening. The Life of Montaigne is one hell of a solid EP, and experiencing it live will leave you more than a little bit in awe. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
Image: Montaigne Live At Sydney’s Brighton Up Bar, 24.04.15 / Photo: Maria Boyadgis