The rise of Canberra trio SAFIA to the top of the Australian electro-pop scene has been one for the ages. If we rewind to when the Canberra trio uploaded their now multi million streamed ‘Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues’ to Triple J Unearthed and successfully took out the Canberra Groovin The Moo competition in 2013, and fast forward to The Forum Theatre in 2019 – and it’s evident that SAFIA are currently one of the hardest working bands in Australia.
Their first of two shows at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre is a sell out, with the crowd very lively throughout Melbourne local Eilish Gilligan and Boo Seeka’s opening sets.
SAFIA opened their set with lead vocalist Ben Woolner playing solo on the piano for the first verse of the heavenly ‘Ivory Lullaby’. The band joined him on stage for the drop into the chorus and sent the crowd into a frenzy. After thanking the crowd the trio head straight into the driving ‘Starlight’, where we hear Woolner’s voice change many times throughout the song with the aid of his vocoder and digital effects. Along with the pumping kick drum that drives the song and arpeggio synths, Woolner’s voice sounds absolutely mesmerising. Early on in their set the SAFIA continued on with the ‘Story’s Start or End’ theme with songs such as ‘Think We’re Not Alone’ and ’Think About You’ before they deliver some crowd favourites in ‘Make Them Wheels Roll’ and ‘Over You’ – the crowd obviously screaming the chorus’s for both of these songs.
While Woolner’s stage presence is truly something special, from his voice to the way he runs from one side of the stage to the other, the other two band members also have their time to shine. Drummer Michael Bell jumps off the kit every few songs to play some synth/drum pad, and in one song playing piano which ended up with him playing solo on stage for the last part of of the song. Harry Sayers (Guitars/Synths) shows his talent on the six string when quite often he will wonder to the front of one side of the stage and launch into massive sliding guitar solo’s that would impress Brian May. The lighting and audio visual effects on stage form an integral part of the show and it really does make for some amazing viewing.
Through the middle section of SAFIA’s setlist the trio launch into a mesmerising version of their above mentioned 2013 hit, ‘Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues’. After Woolner performs the first verse and chorus in a cappella, there is a short, awkward four to eight bar pause before the band explode into the first bridge with the driving, 80’s inspired synths that form the backbone of the song instrumentally. We also hear songs of their latest LP such as the hit single ‘Resolution’ and the slow-burning ‘Better Off Alone’. The set turns suddenly turns into a bit of a funk pop frenzy as the crowd is treated to the jangly ‘Animal At Most’, with the whole crowd having a nice old dance off.
With the set still going strong at an hour and ten minutes, we still have another five or six songs to go before it’s lights on. They finish the night off with a great mix of new and oldish songs, with ‘Cellophane Rainbow’, ‘Counting Sheep’, ‘Maybe You’ll Love Again, ‘Embracing Me’ before closing the night out with ’Story’s Start or End’.
Thank you SAFIA for a magical show.
SAFIA‘s ‘Story’s Start or End’ tour kicks onto NSW and Brisbane before finishing off in New Zealand – click here for tickets.