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Cody ChesnuTT is an artist who has made a name for himself in music from being simply who he is – someone who is a little left-of-centre, unapologetically honest and who knows how to write and deliver a unique soul tune. Heading to a Cody ChesnuTT concert, though, you don’t quite know what to expect.
His last Australian performances in 2006 were interesting, to say the least, with requests that crowds refrain from applause between songs or even talk. With his reluctance to fit into the usual boxes, the possibilities for last night’s show at Sydney’s Metro Theatre seemed endless and widely varied.
But after falling under ChesnuTT’s spell, it’s clear that, when in his element, his endearing quirkiness and musicality lead to what can only be described as a spiritual experience. And while that might sound far-fetched to some, it wasn’t an exaggeration when it came to ChesnuTT. Just listen to his most recent release, 2012's Landing On A Hundred, for proof that this is a man who has had many dealings with his own personal demons and now knows where his heart lies.
As he took to the stage with his 4-piece band, which included local musician Marcello Maio on keys, ChesnuTT was an intriguing sight. In his signature army helmet, cardigan and t-shirt, he began running through the many stories and lessons on Landing On A Hundred, from Till I Meet Thee to Everybody’s Brother. It was impossible to not simultaneously move your feet and be moved emotionally by ChesnuTT’s performance.
Artists preaching to their audience can often be the quickest way to have fans turn on them, and a sure fire way to kill the crowds buzz. But for ChesnuTT, it’s all part of who he is. From explaining the extremely personal circumstances under which his personal favourite Love Is More Than A Wedding Day came into existence, and talk-singing about his life experiences like a southern Baptist preacher to his congregation in his between-song banter, ChesnuTT took the crowd to church and it wasn’t even a Sunday.
But nobody seemed to mind; in fact the crowd embraced this uplifting transcendent experience. How could they not? Everything he delivered was from the heart. He wanted the crowd to have a good time – and made sure they did – but he also had strong feelings about performing songs from his 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece – and he didn’t perform them. The crowd accepted whole-heartedly ChesnuTT’s revelations and perspective. This is 2013 and this show was about who ChesnuTT is now, not where he was more than 10 years ago.
ChesnuTT closed the show with an encore of the celebration of the African diaspora that is the fast-paced funk of I’ve Been Life. This was followed by a doo-wop style impromptu number to say thank you to the crowd. With a selection of songs this uplifting and undeniably soulful, performed by one so otherworldly, it’s little wonder that by the end of the show the crowd was left feeling as if they’d just been baptised into the church of ChesnuTT.
(Photo by Zoltan Blazer)