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LIVE REVIEW: Thomas Headon @ The Zoo

It’s Thomas Headon season at The Zoo. It’s truly the jungle of venues – upon entering, you get hit with the natural colours of the great Brisbane savannah, very ‘natural’ foliage (because it’s The Zoo, right?) and the sounds of voice clambering over voice as everyone prepared themselves for the show. The jungle is filled with all sorts of animals – from hard core fans to friends and partners of fans or people who decided it might be fun to stumble in. And one very inebriated woman who was falling asleep by the bar – iconic, if you ask me. Oh, don't mind the giraffe either (he's the one rocking the fedora).

The smell of alcohol, pizza and what I’m assuming was a cheeky vape in the bathroom (nothing natural makes that smell of bubble-gum, believe me) paired with the soft vocals of the stage singer (I couldn’t quite catch her name!) playing ‘Adore You’ by Harry Styles before the doors were technically even "open" for Thomas Headon.

Bang on eight, Mia Rodriguez took to the stage with her band to back her up, and immediately captured the attention of the audience, decked out in all her natural pizazz – inclusive of a fluoro orange fluffy jacket (to match her orange pigtails, I’m sure), pink (?) arm warmers and her classic thick black eye liner.

With a grip of the mic, Mia began her set with ‘Emotions’, having the animals of The Zoo bouncing along to her dark-pop tune with the tip of drums and a hearty bass line. It wasn’t surprising that, after rocking the stage with this first song, Mia had to remove that fluffy jacket. Even just in the audience, I was sweating up a storm too, so I didn’t want to imagine how those lights would feel.

Next came her introduction – of which had the audience roaring in excitement, "What's up Brisbane! If you don't know me my name is Mia, and I was actually born here!” That was all that had to be said to get us screaming again.

"This next song is ‘Billion Dollar Bitch’".

An echo of synth and bass with a spiking of drums had The Zoo moving. Iconic lines ‘I’m a million dollar baby and a billion dollar bitch / sophisticated lady but my love is filthy rich’ proves Mia as an artist of bad bitch anthems. Those who didn’t know the chorus at the start of the song learned it well – ‘Billion Dollar Bitch’ could definitely be heard across Fortitude Valley. Even with her voice occasionally cutting out due to technical issues, she still served, and we all ate well.

At the end of the track, she stopped for a moment, “one second.” With a short moment of rummaging, she pulled out her gloss for sneaky little reapply. “This one's more emo, it's an unreleased track called 'Shout'”. The technical difficulties came back for another round, this time, meaning that Mia was unable to hear herself as she played. If she hadn’t said anything, I wouldn’t have had a clue. She sung along to this grungy pop song regardless of all difficulties and gave us an excellent show.

From the front row, Mia spotted someone with a vape, and asked for a go. Of course, as any partygoer would, they said ‘yes’. “What the fuck is this? It’s a fucking USB!"

After a hearty hit of the vape, we got into the track ‘Beautiful and Bittersweet’ – a beat with an almost tango style backing to it that sets you grooving along to the melancholy track. As if she had somehow wronged the technology, we received a couple of bouts of mad feedback from the microphone, but Mia played through like a champion to give us the show we had all been waiting for.

“I wanted to send a heart,” was Mia’s explanation to one of the front row audience members who had been sending finger hearts to her for the majority of the night (as they should), “but I couldn't, I was holding the microphone.”

She then proceeded to send that heart.

From her recent appearance on Triple J’s ‘Like A Version’, Mia offered a live edition of her rendition of ‘Corduroy Dreams’ by Rex Orange County. A charismatic change to the genre – switching up the dark pop beats with a track reminiscent of summer night air Though there were moments the mic cut out completely, the echo of the audience singing the song back to the stage made for a unique performance just to spite the technology.

While she may have forgotten her lyrics part way through the song, Mia’s latest track ‘Shut Up’ was made to be played live. The tangy bassline and sweet taps of snare make chorus ‘Just shut up / just shut up, boy / shut up’ an incredible line to scream out in a full room where everyone else is screaming it, too.

“I'd like to thank Thomas for having me here tonight.” And of course, a shout out, as always, to Ryan who was on guitar, and to the drummer whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch. Legends though!

Ending her set in the song that has over 24 million streams on Spotify making it her most popular track, Mia played ‘Psycho’. Mechanical whirrs, bass and hard drumbeats over lyrics part of me wanna do stupid shit / Gotta admit, I'm a hypocrite / I like it way better than being on the side of it / I'm a psycho / loving it’ had even the very few that didn’t know the song dancing along.

With a massive “thank you”, Mia took her place off stage (only to come back during the short break to get another hit of that vape. Iconic, honestly).

Photo by Thomas Bleach

As the minutes ticked down for the show to start, the chanting of Thomascould be heard all the way to Queen Street. The animals roared in excitement when he came to the stage, stringing his guitar – bedazzled with little flower stickers – over his shoulder. With a wide smile and a hand gripping the mic, he spoke, “what’s up BrisVegas?”

We didn’t even have the chance to go wild before ‘Loving You’ began to echo throughout the hall. The unrequited love song, paired with mellow instrumentals are backed by a deep baseline and a tinge of synth-pop to overlay the track, plays out as Thomas sings, ‘loving you is easy 'cause you're lovely / It's the truth, you're just so good to love / But loving you doesn't mean you love me / So love me too, so love me too’. He rocked along as Mia did even with a mic that continuously cut out – refusing to let this technicality spoil the show as he took one of the crowd’s hands and swung it back and forth to the beat.

That’s something that has to be recognised about The Zoo – once an artist has made their way onto the stage, they’re part of the animals in the jungle.

From ‘Car Window’ to ‘Focus’, Thomas had us all bopping along to his beats like it was no one's business. ‘Focus’, in all its melodic Californian beach vibe, was the sun-soaked hit that had Thomas deciding that he would see how loud he could make us sing. A friendly competition to prove that Brisbane could use our lungs better than any of the other cities (while I may be biased, I’m pretty sure we were).

“This is a song called ‘Butterflies’,” he announced, “Now’s the time I want you to get close, and hug someone and tell them you love them.” Thomas refused to be left out from the love, jumping into the front row of the crowd as we all sang along to the dreamy pop tune.

From asking the crowd if there were any Brisbane girls called ‘Grace’ (there was, she was right in front of me actually) to telling us if we didn’t know the words to ‘Victoria’ we could make it up as well as we could, Thomas took complete authority over the stage, rocking along with us to every track he played.

“I’m so glad to be with you, it means the absolute world. Thank you. However, you know, as I mentioned, I grew up in Melbourne, and I have so far played a show in Sydney and I’ve done a couple ‘Groovin the Moo’, so Brisbane my thoughts on you are strong. You have a lot to live up to. But I think you can do it, and prove to me that you can be the loudest crowd throughout this whole tour, can you do that?” A hearty cheer reverberated through the room – obviously proof that we could be loud. “That being said, for this song, be quiet. Now I know you’re all here to party, it’s a Friday night – is it Friday night? Is it Thursday? Sorry. Nevertheless, it’s a Thursday night, and I hear Brisbane is one of the best places to be in this entire country – continent, even – on a Thursday. But for this song, if you feel like just crying to it, that’s okay, if you feel like dancing to it like you’re at a party, that’s okay too, just do it quietly.”

As he played the intro to ‘The Most Beautiful Thing’, as we all pulled out the lights on our phones like they were lighters, and even as he forgot some of the words to his own song, none of us expected him to move into ‘As It Was’ by Harry Styles – the song that I think everyone has cried to at least once. While I may have been the first time he had ever done ‘that’ (the song or transition, I’m not sure, the imperative was not clear), slipping flawlessly into the track of an artist Thomas has always admired was a perfect mid-way point to the night.

Though he talked up a big game of how cool Brisbane was, he still asked, “what is there to do at Brisbane on a Thursday?”

“Nothing,” was my honest reply, and quite a lot of the crowd agreed. Honestly, this was probably the most interesting place to be on a Thursday, and that fact was proven the moment we got hit with the chord for the iconic Taylor Swift song ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’. The whole Zoo was set alight at the sound, considering every man and their dog knew at least the chorus to this track.

After “a song about strawberries” (‘Strawberry Kisses’), and the clap-able pre-chorus in ‘How Do I Know’, we entered into ‘Happy Birthday’ to an audience member celebrating their 20th birthday in the true main-character style – being serenaded by an entire audience and Thomas himself. As a fellow crowd member put, ever-so-eloquently, "it's her world and we're living in it.”

We were privy to the introduction of an unreleased track titled ‘Breakfast’ before being sent into 'Nobody Has To Know'.

Something that has to be known about ‘Nobody Has To Know’ is the verse We took the keys to her dad's car / And she got in wearing only her jeans / We narrowly avoided a police car / Now we're not far / From my house 'cause she said, "That better be where you're taking me"’. Once the track made it to TikTok, a few people pointed out the fact that ‘jeans’ does not rhyme with ‘car’ or ‘far’, and that ‘bra’ would have been a much more effective alternative. However, Thomas explained it himself – ‘bra’ does not rhyme with ‘me’, yet ‘jeans’ is a slant rhyme for ‘me’, so it makes sense to not completely break from the rhyme at the end of the verse when every other end rhyme has been the same. Yet here he was, going against his own word and changing ‘jeans’ to ‘bra’. The nerve.

Yet another unrequited love song played through (of course, seeing as that seems to be his forte in the nicest way possible). ‘Clean Me Up’ – his most streamed song on Spotify – had the entire audience screaming the lyrics back to him as the sunshine track played throughout the jungle.

“This has been very lovely,” was his final statement before deep diving into the 8-bit synth and shiny guitar of the very song that had me first listening to Thomas Headon, ‘UrbanAngel1999’. The track, since my reviewing it at release, has amassed over 2 million streams on Spotify, as well as featuring in the Netflix adaptation of the graphic novel ‘Heartstopper’ from Alice Osman. Considering in a week of its release the 4 hour series has been streamed for over 24 million hours, the track is certainly getting its fair share of attention in and out of media.

This track rounded out the set perfectly – the poppy track was the shot of caffeine we all needed to bring us back to life after enjoying a massive show with lungs that had definitely seen their use. Thomas ended the set by thanking us and giving a shout-out to Lauren on drums and Peter on bass and wishing us all well. The animals of the jungle rested well that night – tuckered out completely from a hectic night at The Zoo.

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