How would you describe The Newsagency? We won’t hold it against you if you said ‘intimate, ‘cozy’ or ‘cute’. Indeed, the tiny room nestled in Marrickville is all of those things. The cute fairy lights, kindergarten chairs and the very high possibility you’ll run into at least five people you know make this one of Sydney’s most interesting venues to catch a show. What you may not have thought to call The Newsagency is a breeding ground for comedy.
Taking up residency at The Newsagency for her third night, alt-pop songstress Sarah Belkner was set to wow her audience with the mesmerising Katie Wighton playing support. While each of these musicians are in their own right talented songwriters and captivating performers, they also proved to be quite hilarious. It’s the smallness of the venue. It fits about 40 people to the room, and all air of a ‘performance’ is null and void. What The Newsagency provides is the most intimate experience, a space where an artist who sings about heartbreak can easily banter with their audience as if they’re playing to a group of mates in a lounge room.
Playing her third residency at The Newsagency, Sarah Belkner with Katie Wighton prove to be captivating performers on a night of heartbreak and comedy.
Starting off the night is Wighton, who you may recognise as one fourth of Sydney folk group All Our Exes Live In Texas. With a vibe of an early Regina Spektor to her delivery and with a breakup fresh in memory, Wighton was enthralling form start to finish. Her music is all heartbreak and lamenting love lost, but in a way that searches for a way to learn from those mistakes. She apologises for singing so many sad songs, but when they all sound so good why would anyone else want to hear anything else?
Despite the melancholy her set is quite fun, at one point programming her keyboard with drum sounds, and playing some choice, and truly hilarious drum fills throughout. A little dorky but endearing all the same, it was this relaxed nature that let everyone put their guard down and indulge in the silliness of it all.
After a quick intermission the leading lady herself took to the stage. While Wighton was whimsical and heartbroken, Belkner was bold and energetic. Sometimes when artists are behind a keyboard they can trap themselves to a rigid performance, so seeing Belkner contorting her body to the aggressive piano melodies made for an enthralling performance to witness. Her smokey voice and animated piano playing was dynamic thing to witness, tracks like Humans and With You proving to be a highlight.
Belkner also got in on the comedy act, turning an awkward situation where she had to change keyboard pedals into a humorous one as the audience began humming the circus theme while she fiddled with technical what nots. The highlight of her set was undoubtedly her cover of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, dedicated to a longtime fan and supporter of The Newsagency. This is no easy song to cover and the room was filled with an air of anxiety and anticipation. Prefacing the song with a candid “Cripes“, Belkner launched into the song, falsetto and eye rolls included. At times she forgot the words but the crowd was there to fill the gaps for what became an incredibly fun rendition of the Bush classic.
Capping off the night is Belkner’s and Wighton’s duet, the pair covering the Chicago classic Hard To Say I’m Sorry which you can hear here. It was a moving finish to what was a warm and hilarious evening, Wighton and Belkner syncing up nicely to send off the show in suitable style.