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Words by Kate Lockyer

Brisbane’s y2k-styled pop-rock icon Hallie enthralled her audience with a high-energy performance at Black Bear Lodge on Friday night. This was the third and final stop on their ‘Love A Lot’ Tour, celebrating their recent EP ‘This is Love’. Hallie was supported by LORA and Ebony Emili who gave magnetic performances of their own.

Ebony Emili kicked off the night with a confident and effortless stage presence, delivering bops about love, heartbreak, and the terrifying prospect of relationships. Alright Andy lays down how bad her life is after a breakup, brutally honestly, but with a super groovy bassline.

Ebony jokes with the audience that she had several tantrums trying to decide which cover to do, but landed on Driver’s Licence by Olivia Rodrigo which she belted out with smokey, smooth vocals that are deep and rich in the chorus. Her recent release little scary was a thrill to hear live, with her band’s instruments taking on a life of their own. The drums immediately crash into the song, and clangy, resonating guitar adds to her emotional, reflective vocals. She sings “Don’t say you like me, cause I won’t reply / I’m sorry but it scares me when you try” with vocals that glide coolly from note to note in her high register.

Sydney artist LORA shared her fun, lo-fi tracks with us as she bounced around onstage. Her vibey vocals and textured synth, so cool they were tinted blue, sailed through the room, causing heads to nod and feet to tap. In lost, her high croon in the chorus of “lost our way”, delivered in a hypnotising rhythm, is magnetic. The song conjures up a surrealist, alien landscape, where these people are lost, trying to find their way back to themselves and their routine, “the shadows follow in our sway all around us / not every move I make is mine”.  Slumber, by contrast, heralds a brash, hip-hop inspired percussion track, as LORA sings about taking someone for granted – ‘sleeping on’ your relationship. The harmonics of the bell-like synth with her vocals are magical. Drive, off her latest EP ‘walls’, has an energetic riff of warmer-toned synths that has the crowd bopping along.

Hallie’s entrance to the stage begins with one of my favourites off ‘This is Love’ – Love! It is a celebration of all the feelings that come with being in love, especially when you have been denying it and finally give in – “I’m always acting like you put me in a toaster / Trigger here, trigger there, I’m burnt and I’m colder”. In this Hallie is vulnerable, but at the same time wry at the sentimentality. Their performance, though, is anything but self-conscious and they own the stage. At the end they share an intimate moment, singing the chorus with just stripped-back instrumental.

Her next tune, You Were Sexy Once is a newbie, which she croons with the wistfulness of a country singer as she strums her guitar. She describes it as “when you’ve got the ick, but you know it’s a little deeper than that”, and sings, “you were sexy once”. It features a moving bass beat and golden, jangly guitar. Then, Shift the Focus has a gentler feel to it, and Hallie is on guitar for this one, singing about stopping to reflect and “shift the focus” when you are having trouble or disagreement. The crowd is clapping along by the end.

Fairy Bread is one of Hallie’s older songs, and so the crowd knew the tune straight away. Her demeanour is cheeky – we all know the song and so she plays into the sass: “You’re generous with your fairy bread / Pretty funny how we broke up in an hour”. I love the whimsical, slightly sarcastic tone of this one. In the bridge, her vocals as she sings “I can’t keep floating” bring a wave of intensity bound to pop the party balloons she floats within, gradually getting more powerful.

Their next song Front Seat, they say, is about enjoying being single. This one really comes into its own in the chorus, with glittery vocal effects and a cool section where grungy guitar duets with the vocal refrain. It is teeming with fun, and with nostalgic Avril Lavigne vibes. Speaking of a little grunge, Lip Balm unleashes Hallie’s full attitude when it comes to problematic men. The crowd eats out of their hand, singing back to them the “mad” part of “You were always good with anger / So honey let’s mad”. 

New track Muscle Memory, Hallie says, is about sleeping with your ex, it being really good, and that being really annoying. It’s fun and sexy, and she pulls out cheeky moves onstage. She sings about having no false pretences about the moment, but still ruing their chemistry: “I’m not waiting on anything from you but I’m wishing it didn’t feel this good”. Crashing cymbals and strums from the guitar on the strong beats of the vocals in the chorus make the song a real banger.

Sympathy is another of Hallie’s classics, essentially about being nice to people, but it hits a chord with her fans because the audience screams the lyrics to this one. Then she switches up the vibe with high-energy Cut it Off, which is instead about a bad breakup, and how bad it feels when you lose the friend as well as the lover. 

Then she plays a song that she said was a really big moment in her career – Nice Like Rice, a song off her EP from 2019 ‘Wink Wink Nudge Nudge’. The song is turned into a slow singalong as she croons, “If you could speak without judgement what would you say?”. Then, the Love A Lot Interlude is played over the speakers, a short track intercut with lines from songs of the EP, which transitions smoothly into…

Labelless, a joyful dreamland of a song that puts us all in an amazing mood. Pulling out the acoustic guitar really changes the tone of the music, and it feels like Hallie is no longer fighting with identity and acceptance as you hear in Nice Like Rice but is settled into it. “Nothing like it’s been before, when toxic was a comfort zone / I like being with you, you’re the best / So happy being labelless”.

A Daft Punk cover is maybe not what you would expect from Hallie, but as soon as you hear Digital Love you realise it’s a match made in heaven. The song is just a whole lot of fun, a new, pop rock version. There is a thumping beat straight up, and they imbue it with a new sense as they sing, “Oh, I don’t know what to do about this dream and you / We’ll make this dream come true”, instead of the original “I wish this dream comes true”. They pay tribute to the original band in a duet with a Daft Punk sample as they alternate singing “Why don’t you play the game?”.

Then, we come to Do It, another iconic song from the EP. It is filled with attitude, a challenge to be real with yourself and those you love. Hallie says this is for everyone with queer impostor syndrome – “Do it!”. The track shares the anxiety of figuring out what you want, and fear of going out and getting it, before launching into an epic chorus of, “Losing all control I once had / What is it that draws me to you? / I want to be held too / Baby I dare you, do it”. For the last chorus, they stand on the edge of the stage and lean out to the crowd to belt out “do it”.

The encore keeps up the defiance and attitude with Babysitter, another crowd fave for the way it calls out grown men who need to be babysat! By the end of the song we’re all ready to go out and take on the patriarchy, or at least one guy that song brought to mind. This song really shows off Hallie at their best, with powerhouse vocals, some contrasting sweet high notes thrown in, and of course a whole bucketful of attitude. 

Once again, a great night out at Black Bear Lodge listening to some fabulous musos do their thing.

Thanks to Bossy Music

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