Singer Joshua Radin made his way Down Under for the second time in two years (sans tonsils, he informed the crowd) performing shows in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane to coincide with the release of his latest album here in Australia, titled The Rock and The Tide. Thursday night I saw him perform at The Forum here in Melbourne.
The Forum is a great venue - not too big, not too small. There's both standing room and seating, so the atmosphere is usually super relaxed. From the moment Radin stepped onto the stage, the audience was completely under his spell. There was an intense energy from the get go as he performed his 2008 track No Envy, No Fear (from the album Simple Times). Radin's familiar, easy-going audience interaction began after the opening song, and he introduced the next performance (the hauntingly beautiful Everything'll Be All Right/Will's Lullaby) with a short anecdote about writing it around the time Hurricane Katrina hit, giving additional weight to a song already soaked in sincerity.
Radin performed the title track from his latest album early in the set, and again he introduced with a gorgeous story about the all too early loss of innocence that happens to kids these days. This song is one of the most unexpectedly resonant tracks on the album, and to hear it live was thrilling. The lyrics have a way of getting under the skin, and Radin's performance with his band was enthralling - his self-proclaimed "whisper rock" really captured the room, particularly with this song, and the next one (One of Those Days).
The electric guitar was busted out for Nowhere To Go (which isn't on the Australian release of Radin's album, unfortunately), The Ones With The Light and We Are Only Getting Better, all of which were a hit with the crowd, thanks to the infectious energy of Radin and his band mates, who rocked the shit out of each of those numbers. Things turned sultry when Radin sang You've Got What I Need, a song that has a definite 'gettin' it on' vibe to it, so it was no surprise to hear him reveal he wrote it for close friends of his who were trying to conceive a baby. It's so easy to call Joshua Radin's song ballads, but they're so much more than that. Thursday night's performance of Today was further evidence that his music can be described more as music with incredibly personal vignettes sprinkled through that take what could be a simple love song and turn it into so much more.
Highlights of the set included a fantastic performance of Brand New Day, which is probably one of the best indie pop songs written in years, as well as the punchy new single I Missed You, which is ridiculously catchy. This blogger was beyond excited when he announced he was going to sing You've Got Growing Up To Do, also from 2008's Simple Times album, which is a perfectly bittersweet break up song (he didn't perform it at The Espy in 2009 and I was gutted), and the final track before the encore was the delightful I'd Rather Be With You, a sweet and simple melody that perfectly portrays the start of a relationship - simultaneously hopeful and innocent, and laden with optimism.
The encore tracks were 2006's Winter (from Radin's debut album We Were Here), which was a crowd pleaser, and a cover of Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. Before he started singing the Dylan cover, he unplugged all his cords and announced to the crowd that in a room so attentive it would be a shame not to try some plain old unamplified acoustics. He then proceeded to sing the Dylan track without any help. And man, he really nailed it. You could have heard a pin drop in The Forum during that amazing last track. The audience was so enraptured with Radin's talent - I doubt many people have see a performer try that in a venue of that size. I certainly haven't.
Radin made reference a few times to his 2009 show at The Espy, and remarked about how sick he had been during that tour and how below par his singing was. I was at that show and, to be honest, his singing was really great. The 2009 show had a very different atmosphere - it was a Saturday night, he didn't go on until about 11.30pm and the audience was a little more rowdy. This Thursday night show, however, had a completely different energy. About halfway through the show, Radin paused to thank the audience for being so attentive and listening to the lyrics so closely, and that could really be felt throughout the entire show. People were so enthralled with and appreciative of his music, it was really something else.
Joshua Radin has one show left tonight at the Brisabane zoo, then he's headed back to the States. If you're in Brisbane and need something to do tonight, try and get your hands on a ticket - it's one of the best live shows you'll see for a while. Radin mentioned that he wanted to come back to Australia later in the year, and I won't hesistate to buy tickets to see him live for a third time.
There are artists that you can see live once and be satisfied that you don't need to see them perform again. Joshua Radin is not one of those people. His music is beautiful, both lyrically and rhythmically, and I can't sing his praises enough. He is fantastic.
Sidenote: if he comes back later in the year, I really, really, REALLY hope he performs Paperweight. It's my favourite track of his and I would love to hear it live.