Updated: Nov 5, 2020
We step inside and find ourselves in a decadent theatre, transported back in time. Glancing around, we suddenly expect to see a crowd of people in their Sunday best, ready for an elegant evening. But no, we’re of course in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, surrounded by 300 or so casually dressed guys and gals, donning their DMA’s bucket hats, downing a few bevs and readying themselves for some DMAgic.
It’s 2020's answer to live music and the DMA’s are finally playing their rescheduled tour for their new album The Glow. I don’t know what to expect, besides being serenaded by frontman Tommy O’Dells angelic voice and “strictly no moshing” (still struggling to comprehend that one). However as we enter The Tivoli and are led to our table, arranged in socially distant cabaret style seating, we quickly realised our clear view of the stage and suddenly the idea of not moshing actually became bearable.
With sultry jazz music playing and anticipation rising, everyone is whipping out their phones to order drinks and food to their table using the QR code provided, indulging in an amuse-bouche before the appetiser: Queensland singer / songwriter Clea (pronounced Clay) and her partner Alistar (Zeferelli).
Opening for DMA’s is no small feat and Clea did not disappoint, the crowd instantly captivated by her ethereal voice. Clea and Alister played four songs, including Triple J favourite ‘Dreaming’, fresh song ‘Sugar’ and a brand new track. The pair delivered stunning vocals with acoustic guitar prowess, surely collecting some new fans following their performance.
The short wait between music meals gave me some time to reflect on the rising atmosphere. Everyone is revelling in the chance to experience live music, the room filling with echoes of "cheers" followed by beer bottles clinking, the flash of photos and a heavy weight of anticipation filling the room.
Then, lo and behold, the lights go down and the crowd goes wild.
Matthew Mason enters first, taking a seat behind the piano, followed by Jenny McCullagh (I Know Leopard) on violin, a fabulous addition to the group, and the pair begin a familiar melody. Lamps can be seen on stage, resembling a lounge room and adding to the intimate ambience. Beer in one hand, Johnny Took saunters on, picking up his guitar and adding to the melody. The bass gets into your bones and your heart as the drummer takes his place, hype continuing to build as he adds his energetic beats to the tune. Last to stroll into view is of course Tommy, wearing his signature cap and flannel shirt, clapping to the crowd, who respond in a frenzy. Everyone is now on the edge of their seats as Tommy, chewing his gum, leans into the microphone.
“STOP ME! / HOLD ON!”
I knew it was coming but to hear the opening four words of ‘Time & Money’ still sent a thrill up my spine. Tommy’s divine voice soars over stripped-back piano, acoustic guitar, muted drums and haunting violin, building to the bridge. In quintessential DMA’s style, they manage to elevate everyone with their triumphant sound, bringing a unique magic to the music can only come from a live experience.
As the song ends, Tommy gives us a cheeky grin and head nod.
“G’Day mates. So good to finally get these shows to you.”
Next on the menu is a track from The Glow. ‘Hello Girlfriend’, admittedly one of my lesser known songs from the album, was brought to life as we all sang “such a funny thing for me to try to explain” back to Tommy following his encouragement whilst revelling in the lilting harmonies between him and Matthew from his spot at the piano.
We’re then taken back to where The Glow began with a brief but enthralling rendition of fan-favourite ‘Silver’, the desperately hopeful track lifting the room with the bridge, which thrives within a live setting, our arms outstretched towards the stage.
How do I redefine / all my love for you I guess I / look to the sun with you / look to the sun with you
Tommy tells us that he’s “very happy to be in Brisbane and playing for you guys, so cheers yeah,” before launching into 2015’s ‘Lay Down’, which saw Matthew swap the piano for his acoustic guitar and Jenny's well-received return to the stage; the song's distinguished lead guitar riff replaced by her innovative violin playing. The five of them interact together on stage as they transform an already remarkable song into an enchanting acoustic hit. The crowd are absolutely living for it.
‘The End’, another hit from previous album For Now, called for help from the audience, as we chanted that we could feel the end, Tommy’s voice flew over our back-up vocals, paving the way for three in a row from The Glow.
Although The Glow sees DMA’s moving slightly away from their Brit-pop roots and into a sound more identifiable with their synth-pop contemporaries, the unplugged setting still suited most of their material, with the inspired addition of the violin replacing the synth hook, especially stunning in ‘Criminals’.
‘Life is a Game of Changing’ was transformed from dance to sway as piano and violin restored the once synthesised pop hook between Tommy and Matthew’s duelling harmonies. The stripped-back rendition of ‘The Glow’ exposed Tommy’s desperate and urgent vocals, which I believe brought more depth to the song. Admittedly, as an avid fan of For Now, it stands to reason that I find myself partial to the acoustic renditions.
Dessert came in the form of an encore, starting with ‘Criminals’ and followed by a cover. Known for their awe-inspiring covers, ‘Believe’ of course springs to mind, hearing DMA’s deliver Crowded House’s ‘Better Be Home Soon’ was a dream. Already impressed by their virtual version posted to their Instagram during lockdown, in person you could hear a pin drop as everyone was stunned into silence as the band give everything to this emotional song.
Which reluctantly brings us to DMA's last song of the night; ‘In The Air’. The beautiful track at its best live, intimate and bare. You could almost feel hearts breaking along with Tommy's as everyone swayed together to the poignant breakup song, overcome with emotion.
In the blink of an eye, it was over. After 50 minutes of pure musical indulgence, except for an unnecessary intermission, we were all left wanting more. Expecting a set-list comprised almost completely of The Glow tracks, the 50/50 split between new and older songs was a happy surprise and led to many inspiring musical moments. However a couple more songs to bulk up the musical meal would have left us feeling more satisfied. I know I wasn’t alone in this observation as the sounds of the crowd cheering for one more song long after the lights had turned back on echoed into the night.
You can catch DMA's amongst a stellar line-up at Yours and Owls Festival in January 2021 before they embark on their UK tour.