Upon walking into the intimate setting of Friends Restaurant, you wouldn’t think for a moment you were there to listen to Sarah McLeod – the powerhouse singer/songwriter who fronts Australian rock band The Superjesus. Her music doesn’t seem like something that would comfortably squeeze into a sit down dinner experience, but her Alone & Unplugged Tour that took place Saturday proved otherwise. And it was all (relatively) low key.
Setting the tone for the night was KJ who covered an eclectic repertoire of artists including Marilyn Manson, The Black Keys and Lady Gaga, just to name a few. Usually playing bass in her Sydney band The ART, KJ flaunted great vocal pitch in sultry PJ Harvey-esque style.
Strolling out on stage full of energy to a Bobby Darren song casually singing along to the lyrics, McLeod looked generally excited to be there. Starting off with something ‘dark and vintage’, she fires into a bluesy number that showed off her surprisingly soulful vocals; and already you knew you were in for a one tasty music treat.
Mashing up a couple of tracks with a verse of Where Did You Sleep Last Night in the first song, McLeod’s earthy rock vocals fitted perfectly into its surroundings. Her husky voice that’s formed from years of busting out rock songs with The Superjesus has only matured with time, and spiralled effortlessly around the intimate venue. Getting “more plugged than before”, McLeod launched into a stripped back version of an old punk song she cowrote with Chris Cheney from The Living End. Private School Kid showed off a slightly seductive, yet innocent side to McLeod’s vocal capabilities and her charismatic attitude had an energy about it that was simply contagious.
Interacting with the crowd after every song and entertaining us with an electric sense of humour, McLeod took us through multiple emotions both musically and comically. Joking about Googling ‘how to sing when you’re sick’ only to find out you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol (only water), she humorously justifies swigging out of the large bottle of water in her hand (which did from a distance looked like a beer, mind you). Another moment of hilarity came too, when her dog Chachi was introduced to the crowd who’d been accompanying McLeod on tour and hung out at gigs on stage. Although he didn’t make an appearance at Friends Restaurant, he was certainly a part of the show as dog-on-tour heartwarming stories were shared.
As she continued to roll through a killer setlist of songs (and quirky insights in between), McLeod’s impressively versatile voice switched from rock to jazz, grunge to blues and a few other flavours in between. Her self-proclaimed short attention span was held responsible for writing songs in multiple genres, as she prepped us for a step back in time to the 50’s / 60’s era next – her jam after getting her record player fixed. McLeod’s Scouts Honour was played in its original style; a fun and bluesy barber shop number that came complete with a whistle solo for damage control purposes, instead of her usual loud rock n’ roll wails.
Reminding us though she could definitely still wail, McLeod continued with the 50’s / 60’s era with a well-received cover of a Sam Cook classic and some Little Anthony and the Imperials from the famous Grease movie. Bad Valentine and Black Sheep followed next, both new songs with the latter being released on next years’ album.
Taking us back to when music was loud and live and rock songs were raw and powerful, McLeod played her 2000 hit with The Superjesus, Gravity which went off! Fast forwarding to the ‘now’, The Superjesus’ latest track The Setting Sun was super stripped back; just the way McLeod wrote it originally. Also making its way to the setlist was a spectacular cover of the House of the Rising Sun (made famous by The Animals), which further showed off her gutsy voice and vocal stamina. He Doesn’t Love You (original) went off flawlessly and the performance was finalised with Matt Merritt & The Meteors’ Slipping Away. But all was not over yet.
By now the energy in the room was magnetic and the crowd, despite devouring a three-course meal, were craving more. And to everyone’s excitement, McLeod came back on stage with an exceptional cover of Dirty Dancing’s Be My Baby. It’s safe to say the audience were more than satisfied with the calibre of entertainment they witnessed.
McLeod – arguably one of the best female rock singers around – sure knows how to entertain a crowd. The extent of her fiery and mesmerising vocals positively surprise you, captivate you and leave you hanging onto each and every word. And as far as a live experience goes, a Sarah McLeod performance is one you need to see and be a part of to truly understand just how damn-awesome it is. Plain and simple, you’ll be sucked in by Sarah’s ‘Gravity’.