It’s been 10 years since Australian Idol first appeared on our television sets. Now, having traded his afro for brawny tattooed biceps, Guy Sebastian proves to be much more than a glorified singing competition winner. In the last six months alone, Sebastian’s profile has risen considerably thanks to his internationally acclaimed 2012 release Armageddon. But it’s his live performance that most accurately demonstrates his talent as an accomplished musician.
From the first note of opening number ‘Amnesia’, Sebastian is bristling with charisma and confidence, maintaining a sincere connection with the Palais Theatre audience throughout the entire set. His pitch-perfect voice is matched by an infectious liveliness; clearly loving every minute on stage Sebastian jokes and chats between songs, prompting ongoing involvement with his loving fans. This relationship with the audience reaches its highpoint as Sebastian instigates a dance competition amongst the crowd, picking out his three favourites for a dance showdown onstage with him. In the hands of a less-accomplished entertainer this could have been potentially awkward, but Sebastian’s warm, approachable persona creates a comfortable party atmosphere, like a distant cousin’s wedding reception.
Of course, the talent of Sebastian’s accompanying band is far beyond the level of family functions. Every band member is a talented musician in their own right and it does Sebastian credit to have such a strong unit supporting him. Those well acquainted with Australian singing shows may notice a few familiar faces in the band including vocalists Carmen Smith from The Voice and former X-Factor contestant Angel Tupai. Sebastian’s duet with the latter on Armageddon’s title track is a particularly impressive highlight as Angel’s voice resonates powerfully inside the theatre. Canadian rapper Swift K.I.D makes a surprise guest appearance to perform new song ‘Bed of Clouds’. Sebastian’s guitarist and long-time collaborator David Ryan Harris is also worth mentioning; before arriving on stage with the rest of the band, Harris performs a memorable opening set consisting of blues-tinged acoustic pop tunes which set the mood perfectly for the main event.
Speaking of setting the mood, the excellent stage lighting adds a whole new dimension to the performance creating a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. The concert begins with a heavy shroud of colour and shadow before erupting into brightness as Sebastian belts out the first chorus. A welcome change of pace comes mid-set as all the glamour and dynamism is replaced with a cosy campfire-like intimacy as Sebastian launches into a stripped-down acoustic segment. Fan favourite ‘Big Bad World’ is dedicated to Sebastian’s one-year-old son Hudson as adorable photographs of the infant fade in and out behind the band. Whilst introducing the song, Sebastian confesses he is unable to turn around without ‘crying embarrassingly’ for several minutes. Although it sounds cheesier than a lump of cheddar, it’s a touching moment for fans as many audience members attempt to hide their watery eyes as the song concludes.
The ARIA-nominated hit ‘Battle Scars’ makes for an excellent encore although its impact is slightly dampened by a Lupe Fiasco’s pre-recorded verses projected onto the over-arching wall. It’s a shame Sebastian didn’t utilise the rapping talents of those actually present; Swift K.I.D or Carmen Smith could have easily supplied exciting verses of their own, maintaining that strong audience connection. Thankfully, the concert comes home strong with the undeniably catchy soul/pop single ‘Like it Like That’ rounding off a strong collection of material that cements Sebastian as one of Australia’s premier performers.