Tami Neilson & Her Rockin’ Hot Band Of Rhythm + Paddy McHugh @ The Basement, Sydney, 20th August 2017
Sunday night isn’t the usual day of the week for a country, soul and funk shakedown but Tami Neilson & Her Rockin’ Hot Band Of Rhythm unequivocally made it so. Surprisingly this was her first visit to Sydney, on the back of two well-received albums that blend roots music and floorboard-rattling soul and gospel raves with energy and, at times, heavy and honest emotion.
Paddy McHugh warmed up the diners with a strong set of Australian alt-country and folk troubadour songs that wove stories and experiences into compelling narratives. With his commanding voice, McHugh took the crowd from the streets of Redfern to the crocs on the banks of the Daintree River (Dan Halloran), to a rallying cry against the crimes of James Hardy (The Snowmen).
Resplendent in a shimmering gold sequinned dress, Tami Neilson’s arrival on stage signalled that a lift in the excitement in the room and when she opened her mouth and let rip the opening line of Walk Me Back To Your Arms, the audience looked at each other with wide eyes and nods of appreciation. From there it was a trip through her last two solo albums and a well chosen brace of covers of songs by Ray Charles, Mahalia Jackson and The Staple Singers.
Unexpectedly it was the gospel influence in Neilson’s music that came to the fore, including an a cappella performance, with her bandmates, of a devotional song from the hills of Tennessee that silenced even the bar staff. Neilson’s personality onstage was warm, cheeky and revealing as she prefaced a couple of songs that were written by her father, one during his final days in hospital (Don’t Be Afraid) and another that his children had never heard before he died (Lonely). Both were showstoppers but equally as fine were the high-energy R&B and rockabilly-leaning songs such as Loco Mama and Holy Moses where Neilson cut loose, shimmied under the stage lights and unleashed her sassy soul sermons with world class delivery. Backed by a band that were faultlessly authentic across a range of styles, Neilson unquestionably proved she’s the charismatic and powerhouse singer, musician and songwriter that her growing numbers of fans testify she is. Sunday nights never felt so good.