The Odeon Theatre, Hobart TAS
Monday 20th June 2022
Support: Emma Ruth Rundle
Let this writer try and paint a picture of the surroundings an hour before the doors to The Odeon Theatre opened for the last time of Dark Mofo’s 2022 schedule.
In prior ventures to the city, one will recognise the prominent red inverted cross (and upright red cross) from quite a distance, the flames erupting into the air, the Winter Feast Hall and most significantly, the township of Hobart thriving with countless festival-goers experiencing the art, culture, music and performances of this world-renowned event. On this wintry Monday evening however, the commotion and chaos had mostly subsided; the streets were spookily serene and near-deserted emitting a ghoulish glow of essentially bare bones without bustling bodies. That is until the approach of Liverpool street in the CBD, at this junction an ocean of people crowded the region, a line-up so vast it wrapped around the corner and reached the Altar venue at Murray street; this was to be arguably the monumental event of Dark Mofo. People had travelled unforeseen distances to witness this ceremony, one that almost didn’t happen and in fact took three years to accomplish – this was the unveiling of the delightfully dedicated artist and songstress Emma Ruth Rundle from Portland supporting the exhilaratingly exquisite Chelsea Wolfe of California.
If the anticipation was already intolerable while in line, upon entry to the venue, it heightened to a torturous tension that continued to build while more and more devotees crammed the theatre. A restlessness stirred mimicking a human cyclone near the Tasman sea, moving and bellowing, increasing in wave size to an uneasy level; then a darkness, a cheer and a spotlight. Out emerged the “sun from the storm” which was Emma Ruth Rundle in this metaphor and before she had even said a word, a calm overwhelmed everyone in the vicinity. “Hello” she politely greeted all and acknowledged gracefully the call outs for her adoration from fans, with a hint of comedy as she is well-known for. She then tenderly began impeccably pattering the keys of the grand piano in front of her and transported Tasmania to a hazy brooding world of sorrowful ballads starting with ‘Return’; changing between her raspy whispers which Bob Dylan would admire to her spine-chilling dulcet tones nearing honey-soaked cacophony. It was hard to believe on witnessing this ardour that just days prior, Emma was unable to perform due to losing her voice, thankfully she had remarkably recovered.
Moving to guitar, Ms Rundle embarked upon her track ‘Blooms Of Oblivion’, a disquieting yet dreamy tribute to her mother which she then effortlessly moved back to the piano for ‘Pump Organ Song’. As she presented this number and swayed side-to-side in harmony it felt as though she was shifting the walls of the Odeon Theatre, a marvel as a solo act. This was impossibly accentuated further as she presented ‘Body’ nearing a phenomenon of actually floating outside of one’s body. “It took three years to get here, I’m glad we can finally share this, especially since I just got my voice back. So if I can’t hit the right notes on this one, just pretend I did.” Emma exclaimed laughing and she roused the devotees with ‘The Company’ to a magnified response. Hobart was then treated with ‘The Dancing Man’ – “It’s probably the third time I have ever played it”; an unfeasible notion considering what was executed. “It’s weird man, travelling half way around the world to play some personal stuff I wrote; I’m essentially a clown.” She further joked to the ovation of all present, then thanked them all with ‘Razor’s Edge’ and ‘Marked For Death’ to close out this memorable set.
As Ms Rundle powerfully croons on her song ‘Darkhorse’: “In the wake of strange beginnings, we can still stand high”; for her first tour of Australia, these words are essentially flawless and after a three year delay, our storm has now been calmed by ‘Your Card The Sun’ Ms Rundle.
Suddenly a familiar resonance shook the building, the lights danced in gothic laser sophistication and the charismatic Chelsea Wolfe elegantly arrived on stage with her band in tow to a deafening welcome of exaltation. The songwriter then launched into ‘Feral Love’ with poetic majestic murmurs: “Crossing the water, lead them to die” BOOM, a cinematic soundscape with electronic flourishes engulfed The Odeon Theatre. “We press for the water, press for the river, press for the rain” was serenaded to the onlookers who were aghast in delighted disbelief – this was going to be unforgettable.
A doom-ridden drone commenced ’16 Psyche’ that would have Swedish outfit Draconian be very in awe of; this was followed by the haunting ‘Dragged Out’, a hypnotic jarring journey of beauty – this had become Chelsea’s universe and Australia had waited along time to be trapped within it again. ‘Vex’ was a captivating witchy spell of enthralling nature, sadly Aaron Turner was not able to deliver his guest vocal duties for obvious reasons, but this did not lessen its transfixing aura. A more classical ambience was articulated with ‘Tracks (Tall Bodies)’ that was then overshadowed with the gothic drone metal of ‘Carrion Flowers’ and ‘The Culling’. To end this first chapter, ‘Survive’ which emanated a Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ spirit, but just in a soulful manner, this was undoubtedly still Chelsea Wolfe.
The next chapter involved a solo acoustic approach: ‘Deranged For Rock’n’Roll’ was simply put, an anthem that had many singing-along taking over the vocalist’s delivery and volume. This was then silenced by a rendition of Roky Erickson’s ‘Tonight Is The Night Of The Vampire’ where Ms Wolfe’s timbre approached a near opera ascendancy, “rapture” would arguably define it and it was comparable to Myrkur‘s wondrous “Kulning” call. A dazzling duet between Chelsea and Emma Ruth Rundle for their collaboration of ‘Anhedonia’ then proceeded with both musicians working off their respected talents and energies stunningly; this was one of those moments where: “Dreams come true” and this was apparently meant to be the closure of the ceremony.
A stampede ensued, this is not an exaggeration. A majority of enthusiasts within the theatre began a thunderous stamping of their feet to have one last chapter from the spectacular songstress, it did become a fearful situation to a degree. Encores are generally a planned ritual; this was not. The enchanting musician returned thankful and slightly disorientated on what to play to sincerely show her gratitude to all – ‘When Anger Turns To Honey’ was the wholehearted “thank you” and it chillingly bewitched all in miraculous melancholy.
A conclusion, a lasting elation, an impossibility that came to fulfilment. This illustrious event is of a historic nature considering all the elements – and the indebtedness to all and from all, is incalculable. Matter-of-fact, there is one way to illustrate Chelsea Wolfe’s exhibition: “Left all of me on that stage”. Please know you are forever welcome to do exactly that again in Australia Chelsea Joy Wolfe, be sure to bring ‘Your Card The Sun’ when you return too Emma Ruth Rundle.
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