dan sultan

Dan Sultan is a natural, a consummate professional and storyteller, if you will. On his Back To Basics tour he left the seven-piece band and supports at home and instead delivered a strong, two-set show with little more than an electric guitar and a mic. He said it was a “nerve-wracking experience” but you wouldn’t have known it. We all could have been in his lounge room or sitting around the campfire having a chat and a laugh, such was the relaxed and chilled vibe in the room.

The Sydney show was a sold-out one at The Basement. The venue was absolutely packed to the rafters with the security even opening up the back doors that lead out into the alley way, just to let some fresh air in. It certainly created some funny moments when the passers-by outside gave bemused looks and wanted to know who was responsible for such great tunes.

Dan Sultan is a singer-songwriter who is by his own admission, one to dabble in the blues, soul, rock and country genres. But as the sound was raw and stripped back, the emphasis seemed to be on the blues mixed with a country twang. The ingredients were there for some good storytelling, not just in the numbers and their genres, but in the excellent between-song banter.

The fact is Dan Sultan should be given a soap-box or his own TV or radio show. His asides were funny; his humour self-deprecating and other things he said were just so darned interesting. I was a little late for his first performance but one of my initial introductions to him was his describing the recording of his third, forthcoming album in Nashville (AKA Crashsville, which he’d later attribute to its high number of incidents on the road). It’s a place that has hosted the likes of Kings Of Leon, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, so they’re “Used to a lot worse than three blokes from Melbourne”.

Another important aspect about Sultan is his powerful and soulful voice that can switch from rough to sweet in a matter of seconds. It’s the kind of thing that has a kind of magic of its own and takes you by the hand, willing you to go on a journey. In “Nobody Knows” Sultan sang verse-after-verse to his sweetheart. He sounded like a choir-boy singing a hymn with his velvet croon suiting the love song to a tee. He also charmed the pants off of every lady in the room as he delivered the words: “Nobody knows my love for you”. Awwwwww…

Sultan followed this up with one he co-wrote with Paul Kelly, a man he has admired and become friends with. “Time To Run” is a track that has not made it on any official release but it was an expressive and mature tale that should be put up for consideration someday. After this, he said we’d all take a break so people could, “Have a smoke, get a drink” and he could go comb his hair.

The second half started with “Kimberley Calling”. It was also one that involved his recounting his experiences in Broome, especially while filming Brand Nue Dae. In some ways this song was similar to some of the material John Butler has written, because it was also by a man speaking from the heart as he described his connection to one part of his homeland.

There was a plug for Rock For Recognition, as the purpose of the show was to promote the issue of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sultan described the cause well when he said it wasn’t a matter of race or politics.

He would then play “All Night”, which made me think of Paul Dempsey and Adalita entertaining audiences of all kinds with just their voices and an electric guitar. Sultan’s punters were as engrossed as the crowds I’ve seen at either of these musicians because they were absorbed – for the most part – in the proceedings. Sultan really enchants us with his great guitar playing and even more amazing voice, he creates something that’s simply beguiling.

“Mountaintop” was a real heart-on-the-sleeve type moment before “Voices” transported us all back to the west side of our vast, island home. “Your Love Is Like A Song” saw a geographical change to Melbourne with its references to Flinders St station, making it a slice of contemporary introspection before Sultan introduced us to the song that will be his next single. He turned his amp up for this slightly rockier number before leaving the crowd with “Old Fitzroy” another funny story about playing three-set shows in Melbourne in his late teens for a complete tight arse. It was some cheeky fun.

Make no mistake; Dan Sultan is one natural entertainer. His format tonight may have been raw and stripped back but he entertained the sold-out Basement crowd with his thoughtful and emotional music and fun and light-hearted anecdotes. There was really no other way we could’ve shared such a pleasant and enjoyable evening.

Originally published on 25 October 2013 at the following website:

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