Nine Things We Learned at Montaigne’s Sydney Show

 

The Metro Theatre, 12/08/17

Photos by Peter Zaluzny

After months on the road with her debut album Glorious Heights, preceded by years of promotions of the back of EPs and singles, Sydney pop sensation Montaigne played one last show in Sydney before stepping away from the stage for some well-earned time off. It was the last Glorious Heights gig (save for a few upcoming festival slots), the end of the biggest chapter in her artistic adventures so far. And boy did it go off with a bang. But while the show was spectacular as always, the real highlight was seeing the performer, and person, she’s grown into. So much has changed between the Montaigne we once saw singing songs from the Life of Montaigne EP during midday festival slots, and the woman who can confidently bare her soul before 1200 Sydney fans in 2017. We learned a lot about Montaigne at Saturday’s show.

1) Illness can’t stop the Montrain

Despite falling victim to an ailment that’s left her with little-to-no energy, constant headaches and pain pumping through her body, Montaigne mustered up enough strength to take the stage. There was no way she was going to let anything mon-rain on her parade (that would have been pretty mon-lame). She danced and spun her way through the 90-minute set with an infectious liveliness that filled the room with sheer joy, masking any hint of illness below the surface. Montaigne didn’t skip a beat, stumble over songs or even struggle to sustain herself during some of the more demanding songs. How she holds the note during “Consolation Prize’s” dramatic peak – one that’s so long and powerful, the fans stopped cheering to catch their breath – on any given night is, is unbelievable. The fact that she pulled it off while under the weather, and managed to keep going while Sydney inhaled and kicked off another round of cheers, was just mind-blowingly beautiful. Conclusion? Montaigne is invincible.

2) Her shows have grown into full-blown productions

We’ve had the privilege of seeing Montaigne perform a number of times over the years, and what started as a simple show with little more than an EP, a band and brilliant vocal chords, has exploded into something huge. Smoke, lasers, big columns of light that flickered on and off to match the mood of every song, and confetti cannons that blasted forward when booming drums and “do you love me” lines signaled the end of “I’m a Fantastic Wreck.” Montaigne has exuded a gargantuan stage presence since day one and now, the production has finally caught up.

3) Despite all the mon-fame, she’s still Montaigne…

But even though she’s gone from Unearthed High finalist to being an ARIA award winning, Hottest 100 alumni that can sell out venues across the country, Montaigne doesn’t seem to have adopted a faux performance persona. You get the sense that she’s the same person on stage and off, warts and all, and she revels in the freedom to express her quirks and vulnerabilities. In the squeaky clean world of pop, Montaigne does things differently. She bucks the status quo with dorky dancing and unrehearsed banter between beautifully raw moments of emotional intensity where she rips her ribcage apart to bear her heart to the world. Though she’s rehearsed her music to the point of perfection, there’s an element in every show that’s that’s unrefined, that’s human. There’s an element to every show that’s 100 percent Montaigne.

4)… which actually makes her punk as fuck

With zero reservations about being herself in a genre that so often demands perfection, Montaigne is a beacon of hope for anyone uncomfortable in their own skin. If anyone’s telling her what to do, she sure as hell isn’t listening, which was reinforced when she tore off her clothes at the end of “In The Dark,” to launch into a wildly energetic, all-underwear version of “Till It Kills Me” that brought the house down.

5) Her between song banter is delightfully human

In moments that were affectionately referred to as “waffle” on the setlist, Montaigne dished out pearls of wisdom that typically descended into some form of self-deprecation. She professed her love for Activewear, she laughed nervously while poking fun at the notion that she’s some sort of celebrity. She even downplayed her piano playing abilities as her fingers skilfully danced across the keys. Everything was peppered with “ums”, “ahs” and the occasional rambling sentence that flows out when you’ve run out of things to say, but feel the need to keep talking. Like her stage presence, Montaigne doesn’t feel the need to play into any “rules” when it’s time to engage with the room, and it makes for some delightfully intimate moments. She doesn’t talk at her fans, she talks to them.

6) She’s dated her share of shit dudes

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Montaigne. After all, she’s been pretty open about the inspiration behind “Because I Love You.” But a new piano ballad by the name of “Attention” takes aim at a shot term partner who seemed to treat her with indifference. “The only person who gets to treat me like shit, is me,” she quipped before launching into the song, much to Sydney’s amusement. We’ve all screwed up and fallen for a deadbeat at one time or another, and Montaigne can lay that experience on the table in such a way that you can’t help but smile, nod your head and think “been there.”

7) She’s brought together one of the best backing bands in the business

Sure the spotlight sits squarely on Montaigne, but the three gents dutifully laying down the tunes while she leads the charge are more than just musicians for hire. They’ve grown into an incredibly talented, well-oiled machine that performs with the same skill and conviction as Montaigne when she was writing the songs in the first place. Drummer Miles Thomas, for example, smashed the skins with such reckless enthusiasm during “I’m a Fantastic Wreck,” that one cymbal perched atop a towering stand, came crashing down across his kit. Now that’s entertainment.

8) Not that she needs them to command a room

Montaigne has never had trouble singing in front of audiences large and small. But life on the road with a debut album in tow has helped build the old confidence, particularly during the quieter moments, when she’s onstage with naught but her voice and a single accompanying instrument. In shows past, Montaigne would visibly muster up every ounce of strength to exert the energy required to sing without the instrumental safety net. But now, things flow effortlessly. She’s developed a stronger bond with her songs over the years, and the emotional difference is palpable.

9) Her second record is shaping up to be brilliant

It’s early days, but “Attention” and “Please You,” a solo acoustic cut about longing to be liked, point towards an album with similar themes to the first, albeit through a slightly older set of eyes. An album that’s just as open, honest and introspective as the first, but one led by a much more mature mind that can process and understand everything that’s internalised. Instead of say, succumbing to insecurities and tearing herself apart, the new tracks hint at a Montaigne that’s learned how to look at the past with a smile, and learn from her mistakes. She’s always exhibited a level of maturity beyond her contemporaries but even so, the new tracks feel a little more adult and, dare we say, a little more amusing. Montaigne’s growing up, and she’s taking everyone along for the ride.

 

About the photographer, Peter Zaluzny

When did you start shooting?   I started doing gigs about 7 years ago.  Before that, photography had always been in the house – my dad was a serious enthusiast.  Way back when, I did a semester of photo journalism as part of my Bachelor of Journalism at Uni, so I bought a digital camera

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