Beth Orton, The Lowlands @ Canberra Theatre Centre, Friday June 16

Photo by Dave McCarthy.

Canberra group The Lowlands played a tight set, highlighted by the sweet and confident voice of Ella Hunt. Their clever lyrics and folksy songs with an Aussie twang were reminiscent of Courtney Barnett.

As she usually tends to, Beth Orton exuded awkwardness and quirkiness, but it only seemed to make the crowd love her more. She tried her hand at an Australian accent, and likened Parliament House to a large, walking alien, causing endearing laughter to ripple through the crowd.

The setup on stage was simple but effective. Guitarist and backing vocalist Greg McMurray was sweet and unassuming. Talented drummer Alex Thomas, who has collaborated with the likes of Air and Jarvis Cocker, had a cheeky rapport with Orton.

She started with a smattering of songs from her album Kidsticks, released in 2016. The sound was different to anything she has done before, but it was refreshing. In her early days, Orton was known for her folktronica, and this was perhaps a revisit. ‘Wave’ took advantage of Orton’s synthesiser playing skills. ‘1973’ was a gorgeous, uplifting pop tune with cute synths.

With her cute, middle-class English accent, using words like “drumbleberries”, Orton took the audience back to her roots, and played acoustic versions of the songs she is very well known for, like ‘She Cries Your Name’ and ‘Central Reservation’. Her signature croakiness and falsetto filled the theatre beautifully. ‘Call Me the Breeze’ utilised the three performers’ voices to create beautiful harmonies in stereo.

The synth-pop, disco and electro, coupled with her trademark more fragile and gentle sounds made it a varied, entertaining and pleasantly surprising performance. It seemed Orton was surprised about the Canberra audience, too, ending her show with the comment: “Canberra, you’ve been great. Who knew?” Hopefully more performers will be enticed to play in the capital – it is easy to see the punters are hungry for more.

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