Arriving early to the always charming and intimate Northcote Social Club, the crowd was greeted with a stunning and evocative performance by Melbourne’s own The Orbweavers. The crowd settled quickly cross-legged on the floor for the acoustic duos’ unique ballads and smooth soaring folk songs, rousing the crowd for what was to be a night of brilliant and unique musical talent.
In her latest global tour, Gemma Ray showcases her newest and arguably most incisive work ‘The Exodus Suite’ self penned as a “52-minute odyssey of epic torch song psychedelia”. Ray was accompanied on stage by her collaborators, pianist Gris-de- Lin and drummer Andy Zammit.
Kicking off with ‘Come Caldera’, Ray accompanied herself on a haunting folk song with soaring vocals and thick, resplendent guitar tone, compliments of her vintage 1960s Hagstrom guitar. Ray stomped the FX pedal to signal the band to rollick into the show, creating an amazingly full, genre bending, tremolo sound.
In her more upbeat numbers such as ‘There Must Be More Than This’, the diverse audience reacted with dance, whilst in others sway and solemn, thoughtful solitude. The highlight of the show had to be the captivating performance of ‘The Original One’, a track that dually showed the depth of Ray’s songwriting ability, encapsulating emotions of love, confusion, anger and passion, as well as showcasing her personal melodic choices.
There is an extra dimension to Ray’s performances which ventures into the theatrical and this is both exciting and mesmerizing for the crowd to witness. The prop of this particular evening was a kitchen knife, the blade of which was dragged across the strings for a demonic, reverberating wall of sound. The thrilled crowd responded in awe and this gothic, haunting mood seems to be what draws audiences to come and see Gemma Ray perform in the flesh.
At the conclusion of the tracks from ‘The Exodus Suite’, the delighted crowd were not going to be disappointed as the magnificent encore which followed included a cover of the legendary blues standard ‘How Long, How Long’ and Ray’s solo rendition of ‘The Switch’. Arguably these last songs that concluded the gig, were two of her most memorable from the night.
Gemma Ray left us with genuine, heartfelt words about her return to Australia and how grateful she feels to be welcomed again and again with such support and admiration from her Australian fans.
Ray has now continued her tour of ‘The Exodus Suite’ in New Zealand, before she heads back overseas at the end of the month to continue the tour in Asia and in Europe.