Review: Naomi Keyte at The Wheatsheaf

Words by Dom Symes

Launching the second single from her upcoming album, the aptly titled ‘Company’, Naomi Keyte was certainly not without a few good friends at the Wheatsheaf last Saturday night.

The night began with Banjo Jackson’s latest musical iteration, featuring a swag of new songs and a three-piece line-up which saw Jackson accompanied by a double bass and a fiddle. Without delving at all into his back catalogue, Jackson treated the audience to an acoustic-jazz set of all new material, his voice soaring above the trio. From a technical impediment came one of the night’s most endearing moments, as Jackson and co. played the final song of their set without any amplification. Certainly, this new direction in Jackson’s music is an exciting prospect which had many in the audience talking in anticipation of his next record.

Patient as ever, Naomi Keyte took to the stage without hurry. Her opening songs saw her transition from no guitar, to electric guitar, to nylon string guitar, culminating in the wonderful ‘Undertow’, a recent single which has been skillfully adapted for the live set. Keyte and Band developed an early motif of tension and release that for much of the first half of the set showed off the skill of the rhythm section. Similarly, Keyte’s ability to arrive at eerily perfect melodies above chords that would suggest different – her inventiveness, and the easy, confident execution of this ingenuity, made her vocal performance an expression of this tension/release.

‘Company’, the new single, had a distinct and profound Australia-Melancholia feel, (reminiscent of The Go-Betweens/The Church/The Triffids) where Keyte sought backing vocals from friends to create a lush harmony on the litany of trees that provide the chorus lyrics. Sonically, one of the most intriguing things about the live set was the fertile middle ground between folk and lo-fi electronica that Keyte occupied by swapping between nylon string guitar and synthesiser.

Her final two songs both began with false starts, but as the momentum of the show seemed to wane temporarily the calm demeanour of Keyte carried the show toward its conclusion, as she joked, “I just wanted to keep you all here a little longer."  Brought back for an encore, Keyte treated the crowd to a solo version of Kid Sam’s ‘Mirror Drawings’ to end the night.