Before Byron Bay singer-songwriter and national treasure Pete Murray even took to the stage at The Gateway Hotel, it was clear this would be the intimate show Murray had promised. The first offering of the evening came from support act and one man band Matthew Armitage. Originally from NZ, this blues man is a truly unique guitarist and songwriter who executed a stunning set of soulful, mellow and deeply engaging tunes from his new album New Tide much to the delight of the elated Geelong crowd.
Pete Murray was commanding from the moment he took to the stage with his guitar in hand. With his charisma and charm coupled with his easy-going engagement of the crowd, his stage presence was undeniably unfaultable. Despite approaching his second decade of performing, it was clear his live shows exhibit no signs of age – and he hadn’t even begun his set yet.
With a delighted and polite acknowledgement of the sell-out crowd, Murray quickly kicked off the evening with his 2008 hit ‘You Pick Me Up’ from his third album Summer at Eureka. Instantly, we are reminded of how lovable and relatable his music is.
As his first three-piece tour in Australia, Murray continued the evening performing a number of his best tunes in a stripped back format with the help of Brett Wood on lead guitar and Simon Fisenden on bass. With a number of sentiment filled tracks, endearing vocals and his lively band, Murray negotiated his way through the evening perfectly, performing old favourite ‘Free’, his 2003 single ‘Bail Me Out’, the 2008 love song ‘Silver Cloud’ and ‘Fall Your Way’ which saw Simon Fisenden take the limelight with his fierce performance on flute.
The highlight for me however was Murray taking on the role of cupid for the evening. He began by telling the adoring crowd that he had received an email from a young man who didn’t know how tell the girl he was seeing that he wanted to be with her. At first I thought it was bizarre for someone to be emailing Murray for relationship advice while on tour, yet it soon became clear that the young man – and his blissfully unaware soon-to-be partner – was actually in the crowd. With an almost proposal from Murray himself, this was the moment where the crowd truly roared as the true romantic dedicated his tender rendition of ‘Please’ to the new lovebirds. Yes it’s cheesy, but it’s all part of Murray’s good guy persona that manages to touch every person in the room… it’s no wonder he’s one of Australia’s most loved performers.
Continuing the one and a half hour journey of relatable lyrics, catchy hooks and easygoing nature, Murray dived into the second half of the evening with some tracks from his latest ARIA award-nominated album Camacho as well as paying tribute to his early days with ‘So Why’, a track from his very first independently released album The Game in 2002. It was of course his acoustic take on his most personal and emotional hits ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Better Days’ which inspired crowd sing-alongs from the diverse crowd of 18 year olds right up to fans in their 60s.
With an encore performance that began with a ‘Geelong nip’ of rum, Murray delivered the heartfelt ballad and open call to bliss ‘Heartbeats’, a rocking version of ‘Always a Winner’ that deservingly brought his accompanying musicians to the forefront of the stage, and then closed the evening with an emotional, solo performance of hit single and fan favourite ‘So Beautiful’.
There was nothing overdone about this stunning performance. Fuelled with loops, stomps, acoustic and three-part harmonies, Murray and his band delivered some of his best tunes with a soulful and heartfelt clarity that celebrated their acoustic beginnings.
With over one million album sales to his name, the quiet achiever of Australian music is distinctly committed to constantly growing as an artist and offering fans new and exciting material. This three-piece acoustic tour is just one other way of Murray achieving that and further solidifying his place in the Australian music scene.
The Gateway Hotel, Geelong
Thursday July 26
Reviewed by Talia Rinaldo
Photographed by Zara Burgess