Just over ten years ago, this plucky young reviewer, with his multi-coloured braces and grey beanie, joined a mate to go to his first concert.
Guy Sebastian was performing at the Palais Theatre, with a dreadlocked Prinnie Stevens singing backup and Brad had to be there.
He had watched the first season of ‘Australian Idol’ religiously and was a massive Guy fan. As soon as he performed ‘When Doves Cry’ on 1980s night, Brad would call the number on the screen weekly to keep him in the competition. He even joined the ‘Guy army’ for a short while, posting on all of the forums and lining up at CD signings to meet his Idol.
A lot has changed since then. Both Guy and the writer had awkward years during the mid-noughties only to come into ourselves at the dawn of the new decade.
Consequently it seemed fitting that (pronoun switch!) we went to Mister Sebastian’s gig at Rod Laver Arena to see how he’s changed and grown since that first show a lifetime ago…
He was supported by former ‘The Voice’ contestant Fatai, who impressed with a range of covers and original tracks with interesting titles like ‘Concrete Love’ and ‘Purple’.
She displayed a lot of potential as an artist but we thought her originals may have been a little too left of centre for the Sebastian crowd. She’s definitely an artist to look out for though.
Guy’s show was structured in two halves; one half was mainly dedicated to exploring the new album ‘Madness’ and its album tracks, whilst the other side of the interval was an extended megamix of his career to date. Admittedly, the first half was a bit slow.
Whilst the ‘Madness’ record remains as strong live as it does in recorded format, Guy’s setlist had too many non-singles in a row.
Whilst ‘Like a Drum’ and ‘Who’s That Girl’ got a great crowd response and had many people up dancing, you can only do so many mid tempos in a row before the audience starts to sit down again.
The second half of the show was where things really got good.
Like Beyoncé did in her first two residency tours, Guy told a musical story of his career to date. Starting with a re-enactment of his ‘Idol’ victory, he moved stealthily through his hits starting with ‘Angels Brought Me Here’.
Most songs lost a verse or two, or were mashed up with covers like ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘All Of Me’.
‘Oh Oh’ was a personal highlight of this act, benefiting from an infusion of Latin influence.
Truthfully though, the real star of this section was ‘Like It Like That’. Although the ‘Thrift Shop’ sample was a little dated, his performance had everyone on their feet. It’s an apt reminder of how the simplest crowd interaction strategy can work so well. Guy broke the crowd up into sections and then challenged them to sing louder than each other, getting everyone to sing at the top of their lungs.
There were a number of noticeable differences between the 2004 Palais Theatre Guy and the 2015 Rod Laver Arena Guy; there was an added confidence and a clarity in his singing that was incredible to witness.
Even though we have no personal stake in his career, there was a sense of pride at Guy’s ability to command an audience. This was particularly evident in ‘Get Along’. The song, whose lyrics are arguably on the sappy side, were taken to the next level by his vocal delivery, for which there is no better description than ‘epic’.
In terms of running an arena-scale show, Guy certainly gave it his all. He incorporated choreography and video effects, but not to an extent where it felt forced or beyond his dancing ability. He also showed off his decent sing-rap skills, taking over for Lupe Fiasco in their duets ‘Linger’ and ‘Battle Scars’.
His between-song banter was a bit preachy at times, but his intro to ‘Elevator Love’ was well-timed and funny. There was a bit of showmanship in the way he linked ‘Elevator Love’ to ‘Attention’ that he probably couldn’t have pulled off back in the day.
We also have to give him props for putting his ego aside and not performing the self-produced ‘Come Home With Me’. Sometimes one just has to put mistakes behind them and move forward!
It’ll be interesting to see if he does arenas again. The show wasn’t perfect but he sold a lot of seats and made a great impression.
You’ve got to remember that, like for the Brad of 2004, Guy remains a popular first concert for a lot of young people. Kids filled the arena, many with their parents. He used this position to effectively spruik his album for those who hadn’t purchased it and to provide a great night of entertainment.
Maybe in a couple of years, and perhaps in a co-headlining tour, he might attempt another run of arenas.
As one of the few Australian pop stars to play arenas without a mainstream international breakthrough, Guy Sebastian is paving the way for Australian artists to prove themselves as equals amongst our international competition.
Hopefully other local acts, such as Jessica Mauboy, will soon take the plunge and put on arena-sized productions of their own!
Guy Sebastian plays Perth Arena this Saturday night.