In supporting the launch of his third studio record The Gospel Album released only days ago (July 31), Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu played to a full house at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in a moving, heartfelt performance that was simply beautiful.
Born blind on Elcho Island, Gurrumul has the ability to create a picturesque landscape of stories and songs in the most eloquent of ways, whilst maintaining traditional values in every aspect of the music.
The support act was Adelaide raised/Darwin-based artist Caiti Baker who, with her gorgeous voice was both smoky and soulful, definitely setting the mood for what was to come. She continued as the backing vocalist for the remainder of the show and was impressive with her range, particularly in Bayini. Launching the set with his hits Wiyathul and Bapa, Gurrumul along with band members Michael Hohnen and friends, the journey then went the way of the spiritual songs that came to north-east Arnhem Land via Christian missionaries.
With a mixture of recognizable church songs mostly sung in the Yolngu language, the album looks set to be a hit and word out is that it’s racing up to the top of the ARIA charts as you read this. He will be the first indigenous artist to do so I believe. Tracks include Jesu, Nhaku Limurr, The Sweetest Name and a moving version of Amazing Grace in both English and language, paying tribute to his early church influences and also dedicated to his mother and aunts who sang these songs to him as a child.
Joined by Adelaide’s Women with Latitude choir under direction of Adelaide vocalist Libby O’Donovan, the concert was not just vocally and musically divine, but was in many ways the essence of our land embodied in the performance of Gurrumul and that unmistakeable, entrancing voice that he was blessed with.
The Women’s choir only added another layer and dimension to the whole production of it, which was genuinely good.
There were several fun moments throughout the concert mainly instigated by Michael Hohnen, who brought some crowd interaction into play and made for some laughs in the process. The nod to the Adelaide Crows was a masterstroke, and Hohnen’s quip about ‘not booing because that wouldn’t be too politically correct ‘ was a refreshing reprieve from the recent disharmony that has been focused on racial issues. If there was one thing that was on show this night, it was the mutual decency, respect, acceptance, and appreciation that Australians so readily give to one another.
As for Gurrumul and his music, if he can reduce this concert-weary music writer to tears through words I can’t even understand, then I so look forward to listening to that salve for the tired soul, forevermore. Amen!
Reviewed by Darren Hassan
Grab the album here- https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/the-gospel-album/id1014886771