Bertie Blackman music review (NGV, Melbourne)

Bertie Blackman transitions from playing electric guitar to drums to keyboard while singing with the ease of a life-long musician. Performing an hour-long set at the National Gallery of Victoria as part of its ‘Friday Nights’ series of performances, Blackman’s multi-skilled approach made for an authentic and intimate performance.

Accompanied by a fellow musician on drums, the pair had a great rapport and a shared sense of the deep beat and sweet spots of Blackman’s songs. She creates an eclectic sound, with electronic, indie rock, pop and folk sentiments combining. Her voice sweeps high and lyrically, then contrasts to lower, breathier tones with a touch of rock grit.

Blackman, the daughter of artist Charles Blackman, played a mix of her own tracks along with a David Bowie tribute that brought her to tears. Dressed in all black and somewhat hidden under her fedora, she chatted to the crowd and shared stories of her younger years as a musician living in Kings Cross, Sydney.

Blackman offered insight into the inspirations for her lyrics, from nursery rhymes to love to childhood, owls and cats.

She had some acoustic challenges; namely the extremely high ceiling of the gallery’s Great Hall with its stained glass mosaics, as well as the chatty post-work crowds buying food and drinks. This all distracted from what could have been a more powerful performance.

The Friday Nights at the NGV series has seen a solid lineup of musicians and Died Pretty, Ngaiire and Regurgitator are still among those to perform before the series wraps. With (paid) admission combining access to the unmissable current exhibition, Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei, it’s a good value night out.

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