303 is a bar/lounge type establishment on High Street, Northcote with an intimate little band room out back, so intimate in fact that the sold out crowd of mainly twentysomethings sat on the floor in cosy little huddles for the entire nights performances. My knees would not allow this, and so I found one of the few chairs back next to the mixing desk to await the main act – Kyle Lionhart.
Lovely performances by support acts Leelou (Kyle Lionhart’s talented sister) and local boy, Chris Watts, set the scene for what would be an uplifting performance by Mr Lionhart himself.
Byron Bay singer/songwriter Kyle Lionhart plays emotive music and likes to tug at the heart strings if he can. As a performer, he is confident and knows exactly what he is capable of with his acoustic guitar and incredible voice. And Sunday night’s gig, his first in Melbourne, underlined the fact that this young man is on the cusp of something great.
Off stage he is well spoken and engaging….onstage he is charismatic but humble and has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
He is a great story teller but had to check himself as to not let some of his stories, giving background to the songs, get away from him as he only had around 45 minutes to perform.
And perform he did, taking songs from his new EP and a smattering of songs from his past in a truly great, albeit brief set. His vocal range is sublime and he has the hushed crowd hanging onto every note. And with his use of the stompbox through most of the set, it gave the audience an idea how expansive some of these songs could sound in a full band environment even though they fit perfectly into a solo set.
Highlights included opener ‘Class A Girl’, a song he explained evolved from a chance meeting with a girl out in the Byron surf; ‘Plastic Hearts’, a powerful song from the EP that was requested early but I got the feeling that Kyle was saving this one up for later in the set…it certainly didn’t lose any of its impact though; and the closing nameless instrumental guitar juggernaut that really showed the audience that Kyle has more than just an angelic voice, he has great guitar chops as well.
The lynchpin of the set, of course was the 8 minute cover of the Jeff Buckley cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. If there was any doubt that Lionhart was a Buckley disciple, then it was laid waste here. He has that same ability to take a note and stretch it into something more. You could have heard a pin drop in the room as the audience was truly moved. The beauty of his performance of this song is that whilst he did capture the essence of Buckley’s version, he shaped the vocal phrasing to give it his own stamp.
Kyle announced to the audience that he would be back in July which I imagine will also sell out very quickly. If you ever wanted to see an artist just before they went to the next level, now would be your chance.