In a haze of yellow light, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was clearly illuminated behind the stage. The sound of picnic hampers opening, and champagne pouring could be heard among the rustle of small talk before the stage. Like a cocoon in the middle of a forest, the stage was set for the ethereal performance of Sarah Blasko as part of the Twilight at Taronga series.
There must be few settings in Australia, and almost certainly Sydney that are as iconic as Taronga Zoo for a concert. Having never been to Taronga Zoo before, the entire experience was a sense inducing experience. Secretly hoping I would be able to sneak a look at some exotic animals, I was mildly disappointed when we were ferried through the zoo, down the winding roads to the sound of music in the distance – without so much as a look at a tree kangaroo. Never mind. The faint smell of an elephant enclosure mixed with the sound of distant music was enough for me.
It quickly became clear that the music almost seemed a backdrop to the location, atmosphere and experience. Families were out in force, armed with picnic blankets and nibbles. Who could blame them? I can scarcely imagine a better way to spend a Friday night. For those who were intently listening to the music, it was quite a performance. The warm up for Sarah was Luluc, who managed to capture the atmosphere and distil it into a soothing, minimalistic performance that rang out across the mini-amphitheatre. Joking that it was their first time playing in front of a live elephant, it was clear they were enjoying it as much as the audience were.
A recurring theme was the brooding dark clouds that lingered over the night – a taste of which I got on the ferry over. Luckily, by the time it began to spit, the main attraction of the night – Sarah Blasko – was taking to the stage. If the rain brought any gloom, it was quickly dispelled with Sarah’s haunting melodies. What struck my most about her hour long set was the incredible diversity of sound. From being emotional moved by her vulnerable voice to wanted to throw away that picnic blanket and go hit to the mosh, it was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. This diversity was hardly surprisingly however considering the range of instruments she wielded. A keyboard, guitarists, violins and even a double bass created a complete sound that boosted her vocals.
Starting off with Down On Love, she cycled through old and new, broken up with some quality banter with the audience. The thumping keyboard was the winner in An Arrow that followed, as the fireworks began to cut through the grey skies across the water at Darling Harbour. I shook my head in awe, whoever thought of putting a stage at Taronga Zoo clearly had the right idea. Cycling through new and old, crowd favourites including All I Want, whose wailing, sinister backing made the air just a tad colder. However, a mark of a great performance is entertaining a crowd even when you’ve run out of well known songs. She aptly achieved this, taking the listeners on a ride as she danced around the stage in her endearing, awkward way bathed in blue and purple lights.
However, as We Won’t Run sounded, the rain decided it wanted a front seat row and proceeded to spit – then pour. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the night was that someone didn’t get stabbed in the eye with an umbrella such was the enthusiasm and desperation with which they went up.
In the process of writing a new record, it was the first time they had played together in a while. It certainly didn’t show, and by the time she finished the set, the crowd was screaming for more. Smashing out an encore featuring Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees, the crowd was appeased, and slightly relieved to escape the rain.