Review: Jack River is having a ball

Jack River

Enmore Theatre, June 7

Reviewed by George Palathingal

4 stars

Jack River, it seems, was never queen of the prom.

It’s why for her latest tour the Forster singer-songwriter once known as Holly Rankin is having a ball – the Sugar Mountain Ball to be precise, named after last year’s wonderful debut album, on a stage replete with shimmering silver curtains and mic stands strewn with flowers.

Such is her humble, slightly awkward demeanour, even now she’s had some success, that she may not realise she’s becoming one of Australia’s more inspirational artists.

Before doors opened for this show she had chaired a discussion on climate change and followed that by continuing with the empowering all-female line-up she has championed since her Electric Lady tour of 2017.

By the time she gets to her own set, she looks a tad uncomfortable, shuffling around in a suit as sparkly as the curtains behind her and not quite knowing what to do with her hands when they aren’t holding a mic or strumming a guitar.

But her music – which she plays live as part of a standard rock five-piece – pretty much makes up for any performance shortcomings.

From the moment hearts start pounding in time with the exuberant kick drum of opener Fields to the vigorous take on Palo Alto that closes the encore, River’s melodic alt-ish rock delights and excites in comparable measure.

There are songs that feel like they aspire to be power ballads but go one better by pulling off the feat without being cheesy (Confess). There are flat-out bangers in the exhilarating form of Ballroom and Peking Duk collaboration Sugar. In River’s hands, Savage Garden’s cloying Truly Madly Deeply has heart and charm.

And were all that not crowd-pleasing enough, she has members of her family bring out fairy floss out to the front rows during a lovely In Infinity and puts the safety of her audience in front of perhaps her most satisfying tune (Adolescent) to call out a troublemaker in the throng. (Having stopped the song to deal with the idiot, she slays it with her second attempt.)

River’s contemporary Lorde may have coined the term “pure heroine” for herself, but she is evidently not alone.

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