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Mark Ronson‘s Splendour in the Grass sideshow was a who’s who of this year’s hottest Australian acts.
Opening the night was Jones Jnr, who only this month released their first EP Step on Sleep, bringing a refreshingly unique sound. Their part hip-hop, part soul, part gospel groove might come across as a bar set too high, but these guys step up to the plate and hit a home run, with soaring vocals, and a great sound mix.
Yolanda Be Cool came out for a groove, laying some decent tunes to keep the crowd amped in the anticipation of the main event. However awkwardness abounded when their sound was cut midway through a song. The audience gave a polite but confused clap as the DJs attempted a bow but then had their stage lights cut. So, sticking to times limits is important and all – totally – but a straight power cut? Ouch. That’s cold.
Anyway, Adelaide wonderkid and darling of triple j’s Hottest 100 earlier this year, Tkay Maidza, burst on stage immediately, bringing a spectacular jumpsuit and her usual max energy, and it didn’t take long for the crowd to get over the initial weirdness of the Yolanda burn out, and get into her set.
Tkay is the absolute cutest, and had a ball bouncing around the breadth of the stage, amping the audience higher and higher with each of her numbers. By the time she reached Brontosaurus she had the whole crowd in her hands – she’s basically everything you’d want in an opening act, with her youthful energy and huge personality, you can’t help but be swept up in her performance.
Yolanda Be Cool made their second appearance for the night, though lacked a bit of the oomph they had first time around. Maybe they were still salty about getting cut off. Set changeovers weren’t exactly on point for the night, and after holding the crowd over for a while, there was another awkward ‘oh well I guess it’s over again’ before psych rockers Pond took to the stage.
Nick Allbrook has a voice that screams 40 cigarettes a day, and a twitchy, frenetic style of moving to his music that comes across almost creepy if you watch him too long. As he stumbled and struggled through some introductions and attempted some banter, it became pretty clear that he wasn’t uh, “all there” of the evening.
Despite the fact he could barely string two words together when speaking, he absolutely nailed every number the group played, demonstrating that it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re constant chart toppers and water cooler gossip, Pond are elite musos, and total masters of their art. They have a lazy, random, and almost discordant style of playing together, but when you step back, all the pieces are there, and they’ve just wowed you.
Finally, man of the hour and star of Splendour, Mark Ronson took to the stage. With a quiff as tall as his head itself, and style so sharp he probably leaves a trail of paper cuts in his wake, he had the audience from his opening notes to the final bars.
Having assembled a ragtag team of rappers, gospel singers, and funk superstars, the set was a revolving door of talent and amazement as hit after hit played in an almost sensory overload.
The mix of live instruments, from a three-piece brass ensemble, to bass, guitars and percussion, as well as samples and dozens of tracks, was top notch, and his guests were incredible, and every song was studio perfect.
For his closing number, he paid a beautiful tribute to the amazing Amy Winehouse, playing Valerie with her original vocals, a number that sent the audience into raptures. Leaving hit song of the season Uptown Funk to the encore was obviously the only way a Mark Ronson show could ever play out, and the whole crowd continued the chants of “Uptown funk you up, uptown funk you up” as the entire ensemble took a bow and the lights came up again.