I was lucky enough to attend the last of SAFIA’s Secret Venue shows, and what a show it was.
But before I talk about the show itself I feel I need to shout out the venue choice. Melbourne Meat Market is a sick venue, almost festival-like in feel and appearance, narrow like Laneway Festival but enclosed (which is perfect for winter). In one of many chats with the crowd, Benjamin Joseph detailed how the band and their team carefully chose the venues and put on everything, including the on-point visuals that I’ll touch on later. It made the show much more of an all-encompassing performance than your typical gig.
When the boys from Canberra hit the stage, the crowd was already at maximum hype, thanks in part to ‘Cream On Chrome’ and ‘The Next Episode’ feat. Snoop Dogg playing while the techies set up. SAFIA took full advantage of the atmosphere and started with an almost spacey ambiance before a big drop and some heavy electro dance music. This led perfectly into one of their many popular singles, ‘Paranoia, Ghosts & Other Sounds’, sparking the first of many clap alongs and tomahawks in perfect unison.
It was a trend throughout the night as every one of those well-known songs had the crowd going nuts. ‘You Are The One’ had an epic drop and had everyone singing along (not for the last time), while the single behind the tour, ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’, created a wild energy about as big as you’d expect. But the biggest reaction was for their song with Peking Duk, ‘Take Me Over’, which had people screaming at that very first siren. For lack of better language choice, everyone fucking loved it with singing, dancing, and jumping filling the venue.
While the popular songs created the energy expected, it was Benjamin’s early announcement that will have everyone excited for weeks to come: “We’re gonna play you a heap of brand new music if that’s ok.” That’s right, the new album is almost finished and the news was met with such huge cheers that we had to be reminded “you haven’t heard it yet so you can’t tell if it’s good”. What we did hear was great, with ‘Together Not Safe’ my personal favourite, taking just one verse and chorus to get me hooked on what I can only describe as a very SAFIA tune. ‘Fake It Til The Sunrise’ was the other exciting one, if just for its performance potential alone. “Alright Melbourne, it’s a Friday night so let’s get the party started”, as we were instructed to bop up and down before a “1,2,3,4” JUMP!
That was only one of many interactions between Benjamin Joseph and his adoring fans. The highlight of the night started with a singing rehearsal. “How’s your singing voice, Melbourne?” we were asked before he sang the first line of ‘Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues’ and then let us have our turn. (I thought we sounded pretty good but it took a second attempt before we were ready for the real thing.) The performance was a thing of beauty with the crowd embracing the sing along loudly, the stage being filled with dancing, and the lights out at the finish to a huge cheer usually reserved for a final song.
I promised I’d get to it and one of the many things to make this show so special was the visuals displayed on screens behind the band. From rocky surfaces to metallic bodies to acorns and autumn leaves to lions, spiders, clocks, and sheep-man hybrids, they had something to fit and embellish the theme of every song. That last animal-filled list was part of yet another exceptional performance, beginning with a finger wag to the ticking clock in ‘Counting Sheep’ and getting everyone moving yet again.
This was one of those rare shows without an encore but it really wasn’t needed. SAFIA finished with the hugely popular ‘Embracing Me’ and one last sing along from the still buzzing crowd. There was one more chance for stage talk during the instrumental moments, with Benjamin thanking us for coming and stressing how great finishing the tour in Melbourne was (to loud applause, of course), before one last go. From the music to the visuals, and to the constant audience involvement, it was easily one of the shows of the year.
Hometown: Canberra, ACT
Latest EP: Embracing Me – EP, released 4 March 2016
Sounds like: Peking Duk, RÜFÜS
Say what? I’m 99% sure that this is just me being ignorant but… I was having a squiz on their old Unearthed profile and Benjamin Joseph’s last name isn’t Joseph. His name is Ben Woolner. I’m legitimately surprised!