The lights in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall faded to black as Moses Sumney‘s three-piece band took to the stage. The applause dispersed into piercing silence as the rhythmic clicks of a glockenspiel held the room captive. Moses Sumney, the man of the hour, stepped onto the stage, a cup of tea clasped in his hand. The cup was soon exchanged for his guitar, and the show officially began with the haunting “Self-Help Tape”.
Moses Sumney is a rare talent. Since garnering modest attention with his debut EP ‘Mid-City Island’ in 2014, Sumney has taken the time to hone in on his craft, perfecting it by all accounts on his debut album ‘Aromanticism’ in 2017. The record was a brooding, indulgent effort, interwoven with melancholic undertones and a very subtle bravado. Now, with his name flickering in the Sydney Harbour lights, he stood tall on one of the most iconic stages in the world.
Sumney’s voice is inescapable. Completely engulfing the room, it left everything within its audible path enthralled. “Don’t Bother Calling” showed off the magnificent control in his voice, especially evident as his angelic falsetto tangoed with the delicate guitar plucks. The serene “Indulge Me” swiftly followed in similar fashion; the pin drop silence in the room at every pause was therapeutic, providing brief moments to reflect and prepare for the next stanza of gorgeous poetry.
“Hey everyone, what’s up? I’m Moses Sumney,” he excitedly announced. “Oh wow, I don’t know how they let us in this building, but we’re here. We’re in this!” His humility and humour as sobering as his music. “Quarrel”, the love story void of a Hollywood ending, followed suit. Over the better part of ten minutes, Sumney patiently unveiled the story.
“This song’s dedicated to everyone who’s never been kissed. By the looks of it, that’s most of you”, he cheekily teased before serving up a soulful rendition of the aptly titled “Make Out in my Car”. He moved around the stage, grooving to the beat and playfully shifting his vocal pitch flawlessly.
“Rank and File”, “Doomed”, a stunning cover of Björk‘s “Come To Me” and “Lonely World” all fell back to back to back in a gloomy spin cycle, leaving myself and, I’m sure, many others lost for words and alarmingly short of tears. As “Lonely World” closed, the lights dimmed to black, and Sumney and his band vacated the stage. Half a moment passed and the crowd was on their feet, offering up a unified ovation in exchange for just a few more songs. We begged, and our pleas were rewarded, as Sumney returned to the stage on his lonesome.
Channeling his angelic voice through a vocoder, he delivered “Worth It” – a pensive letter about unrequited love. “Wow. It’s truly not lost on me how amazing it is to play here as an indie artist with one album out.” He warmly announced, before closing out the night with “Man on the Moon” by request, and a jaw-dropping rendition of “Plastic”.
Moses Sumney is well on his way to becoming one of the great musicians of our generation, and it’s looking like only a mere matter of time until he gets there. In 20 to 30 years time, once I’ve become jaded with modern music, I’ll sit my children down, hit play on Moses Sumney’s timeless discography and tell them: “this is what real music sounds like.”
Photos by Jordan Munns.