Holly Throsby Live music review (Brass Monkey, Sydney)

Holly Throsby has returned to music with a new album, After a Time, released this year. She wore the hat of a novelist last year, with the release of her debut novel, Goodwood, to critical acclaim. Throsby has also collaborated with other artists, most notably with Seeker Lover Keeper and released music for children. But until she is credited with writing the Great Australian Novel, she is most loved as a singer song-writer of wistful folk pop.

The opening number on After a Time is Aeroplane; a middling in tempo and almost-but-not-quite-urgent as Throsby’s sings, “I wanna go on an aeroplane/I wanna go where I’ve never been”. Another stand-out track, What Do You Say?, comes with an intriguing video featuring a young woman alone in her living room, playing tennis by herself and hanging out alone in a bar while being watched over by a tall, dark stranger. Mark Kozelek shares vocal duties with Throsby on the song, and it too is more forceful in delivery than we are used to hearing from Throsby.

Holly Throsby in concert, especially at the Brass Monkey in Cronulla (last night), is an intimate experience with very little artifice. Throsby mostly sings while strumming and plucking an acoustic guitar, occasionally an electric guitar and on three songs she tinkled the ivories of an electric piano. In response to one request from an audience member, Throsby responded: “That’s going to sound different to the record isn’t it? It’s just me up here. There’s a lot more going on in the recorded version”. Nevertheless, Throsby “gave it a shot”. She also played her classic, Things Between People upon request.

There was a spread of songs played from her catalogue, interspersed with some hilarious banter between songs; Throsby has yet another career as a stand-up waiting in the wings if she wants it. Her best riff was announcing that the next song would be the last before the ‘encore’. She went on to describe her conflicted feelings on the ‘ruse’ of the encore which sees performer and audience engaging in an unspoken contract in making the charade happen. So she didn’t actually leave the stage before playing the final song Making a Fire and it was worth the wait – a lovely poignant melody, expertly and seemingly effortlessly delivered.

Other set highlights included a smooth cover of You Am I’s, Berlin Chair (complete with x-rated pre-song backstory), Up with the Birds and the aforementioned Aeroplane. There was talk of books and writing as well – Throsby is a most multi-talented artist.

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