MS MR - 170 Russell, Melbourne

Written by Stephanie Tell

MS MR - 170 Russell, Melbourne

Last night marked the sold-out Melbourne leg of MS MR‘s Splendour sideshow tour.

Openers Tigertown pierce another chilly evening with a sunny disposition. The likeable five-piece do vocal harmonies in a big way; meshing high-octane, riffy punches with soaring, sugary-pop vocals. Armed with blue strobes and disco balls; leather jackets and sequined leggings, Tigertown manage to transform 170 Russell into an ’80s-style disco prom before closing their set with the synth-heavy Papernote.

Some wobbly space tones soon begin in anticipation of George Maple, who makes a daring entrance, decked out in a silvery crop top, fur and flared pants combo. Band in tow, Maple is a swaggering, eclectic pop diva, the likes of which are doubtfully often seen at 170 Russell.

Her gliding, sensuous performance and bold, siren voice quickly ingratiate her to tonight’s crowd. Maple’s exotic, alluring grooving style adds a unique touch to a set coloured with crunching beats and sultry R&B flavours. Though no doubt Maple is a powerful vocalist and captivating performer, at times it feels as if she leans towards swish over musical substance. However dynamic, beatsier jams and trippy, distorted key-tones are more prevalent later in the set, as well as an especially sultry final offering in Talk Talk.

By the time tonight’s headline act MS MR hit the stage, the venue is almost scarily full. The New York-based duo, comprised of vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow, kick off with an immediate dose of ecstatic energy, resulting in Plapinger knocking the mic stand over. Garbed spectacularly in a sparkly black jumpsuit and matching, fuzzy red coat and hat, she throws her body around with a sincere lust for life and staggeringly maintains this vitality for the set’s duration.

With her enormous grin, scruffy hair and trademark fiery red dye-job, the crowd responds to Plapinger as if she were their empowering best buddy. Her exuberant, unpretentious vocals
effortlessly fuel MS MR’s barrage of anthemic indie gems, from dreamy refrains to full blown dance-pop with big, booming choruses.

These hits notably include Fantasy, with its crisp, singalong vocals; No Guilt In Pleasure, a song to apparently support us in our “life choices”; and more restrained, trickling ballad Wrong Victory – a definite set highlight. But given the positive vibes radiating from stage, it’s somewhat of a dampener to see security interfering with rowdy fans.

As MS MR’s new record came out last week, the pair half-jokingly inform us there’s a lot of pressure for this tour as it marks their debut performances of How Does It Feel – the album’s title track. Naturally, the crowd responds to the song’s rhythmic synth breaks and vocal heart in a big way.

Catchy fan-favourite Painted closes the set dramatically before the duo, “of course”, return for an encore. Champions of inclusivity and sexual freedom, MS MR’s performance and interactions still evoke an undeniably sunny wholesomeness. With this combination, the pair exude a spirited but genial vibe throughout the night.

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