Sarah Blasko - I Awake

Sometimes you think you know a song. You hear it one day, and wonder if you really knew the song in the first place, you find something new in it to fall in love with. Sarah Blasko’s music is a bit like this, in a way: you think you know her songs from her albums – the melodies, the instrumentations, the little adornments and quirks, the rhythms, the timing between tracks – but then you hear them performed live and they’re completely new all over again.
Back in 2010, my sister and I went to Blasko’s As Day Follows Night concert at the Enmore Theatre. I’m pretty sure it was the first ‘gig’ that I could remember going to. There was something about the album, the songs – Blasko herself, even – that seemed irresistible, enchanting, hypnotic, unfathomable, and seeing and hearing her songs refashioned on tour made me appreciate the album on a deeper, more intangible, more inexpressible way.

This time around with the tour for her new album, I Awake, Blasko decided to perform with the respective state orchestras, a creative and artistic decision that smacks of boldness and audacity, a strong desire to constantly push the boundaries of what you can do, what can be done. As a concert and experience – in the Concert Hall of the Opera House, no less – it was nothing short of mesmerising; songs were sped up or slowed down, their instrumentations changed (however radically), and some songs – old favourites like ‘{Explain}’ and ‘Bird on a Wire’ – were reinterpreted into new settings, the latter being a rather aggressive and hypnotic percussion-driven almost voodooistic dance. And while all the songs from her latest album were impressive, the titular ‘I Awake’ was easily one of the standouts, its percussion and horns frantic, frenetic, impassioned, fast; well and truly awake. And here’s the thing – you know the songs off the album – but in concert they are more than just songs: they are moments, reactions to and against, engagements with a greater being, something I don’t think we can ever truly articulate anywhere as clearly as we’d like.
Watching Blasko on stage is like looking through the window into someone’s lounge room; on numerous occasions she herself has stated that, when performing, she enters into a kind of trance-like state where she gives everything in herself over to the music. It’s like dancing and singing in your lounge room, complete with kooky dancing and the total utter immersion into your music; almost voyeuristic I suppose. The music flows through her, is her; she is the music’s true conduit. As the strings and her haunting, sometimes husky, rich otherworldy voice washes around you, you feel like you’re inside the belly of a whale, as though you’re caught up in the middle of a great big wave. And when it breaks, when the horns and strings stop playing ‘Not Yet’, and the last note fades into the anticipation of the concert hall, the release comes like a wave crashing against the shore, the letting go of all the furious frenetic energy that has been tumbling around for the past ninety minutes, and if you’re not standing on your feet, cheering, then who knows what you just witnessed.

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