I’ve been positively swooning over honey-throated local songstress Meg Mac for a long, long time now. She absolutely amazed us with her ludicrously good set at this year’s Splendour In The Grass, and so we were all kinds of keen to catch her live again as soon as humanly possible. This time it was in the far more intimate confines of Brisbane’s Max Watt’s (the venue formerly known as the Hi Fi) in the heart of West End for the very last show of her Australia-wide Never Be tour and by God, she brought the heat.
The line outside the Max Watt’s doors before 9pm kickoff is huge considering Her Royal Meg-ness doesn’t go onstage for a couple of hours. Opening act and Brisbane local Big Strong Brute (aka Paul Donoughue) eases the show-goers in with some deliciously easy listening rock full of nifty pop hooks. I had never heard of him before now but I do particularly enjoy the kickass lo-fi riff of Heavy Mountain as well as the absolutely gorgeous Wedding Pages.
We already knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that second act Banff (aka Benjamin Forbes) is an absolutely fantastic singing-songwriting talent, having given us a ripper of an interview earlier in the year and then straight murdering it just a few short weeks ago at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND festival, but it seems as if a fair few in the steadily growing crowd were blissfully unaware of his existence up until now and so it’s really nice to hear murmurs of ‘wow, this guy is so good’ while the man proceeds to serenade us something fierce.
He plays a mix of old stuff as well as recent tracks from his Future Self EP, finishing his set by clearing the stage of his very talented band and giving us a haunting solo cover of Roscoe by Midlake. Amazing.
And then, with the crowd sardine-tinning the moshpit and up the sides and damn near every inch of Max Watt’s, Meg Mac takes the stage a full two minutes earlier than her scheduled time of 11pm in the most anti-diva gesture possible. The crowd, a refreshing mix of young and some slightly older folks is absolutely nuts for it and her voice is like a majestic eagle soaring high over a smoky, burning forest from the word go.
For a singer so quiet and unassuming in her presence when not performing, as soon as she turns the switch on she is a wrecking ball of energy and passion. She rips through crowd-pleasers like Every Lie (claiming everyone was scared of her after she wrote such a scathingly acidic and yet mesmerising rebuke of someone less than truthful in her life) and she has the crowd screaming the chorus at the top of their lungs for ‘the song that got her into this’, Known Better.
She takes the time to clarify that her lone backing singer tonight is Dani and not in fact her sister Hannah (they get mixed up a lot), who joined her for the first time onstage at Splendour as well as for a chunk of this tour but sadly isn’t in the house tonight to join Dani in providing some of these beautifully anchoring vocal harmonies.
Meg’s cover of Bill Withers staple Grandma’s Hands is nothing short of breathtaking, but I think I’m most blown away all night with the rendition she gives of her new song. She hasn’t decided what it’s called yet, currently it’s titled Cages but based on its chorus she’s thinking about switching it to October. It matters so very little, she could title it Farts and it still wouldn’t be any less than utterly fantastic.
She tells the crowd that up until this tour she has been too nervous to play keys and sing onstage at the same time but that she’s giving it a go tonight anyway. As someone who knows that struggle even in their own bedroom, hats off to Meg for stepping up fearlessly to the plate here and crushing it. She of course blows everyone right the hell away, playing and singing Cages like she could do it in her sleep with both arms tied behind her back. This song needs to come out yesterday.
The crowd then roars its approval as the opening piano chords of the foot-stomping Roll Up Your Sleeves kick in, everyone swaying as one and bellowing out that comforting pep talk chorus. It’s a song that means a heck of a lot to me and to hear it live once again is just whole body goosebump-inducing. She wraps up her official set with a thunderous performance of newest release Never Be that threatens to tear the roof off the building with its sheer enormity.
Whatever Meg Mac does to keep that voice of hers in shape, she has absolutely black belt-level mastered it, because I haven’t heard it even hint at faltering in the slightest all night despite the volume of the Everest-sized notes she has been consistently hitting. She bounds back onstage to give an encore performance, choosing a run through of her Like A Version-storming cover of Bridges by Broods to send everyone happily out into the night.
Absolutely. Fucking. Stunning. Thank you to Meg Mac for putting on one absolute hell of a night. If you thought she was done there for the year though, think again. She’s teaming up with Jarryd James for joint headline shows along the East Coast in December. I don’t think my body is ready for that…
If you want to see what a live Meg Mac show looks like up close and personal, we took some bloody good photos of her at her Sydney show last month, check them here.