Benjalu, James Fahy @ The Front, Canberra (20/1/11)

It was a hot, lazy night that saw The Front come to life with the chilled out music that epitomised the two acts of the evening.

Support act James Fahy kicked off as the audience found the comfiest couch to sit on and settle in for the night. Wowing the audience with the high ranges of his voice, Fahy kept the songs fairly dulcet, explaining that Benjalu’s energy would be even better if he kept his songs mellow. But this didn’t stop him from pumping up the crowd between songs, at one stage teaching punters to clap like they were from Newcastle, which is where he used to live. Apparently people from Newcastle don’t clap their hands together; they make a sound which can only be described in writing as “yeoow”. Fahy also posed a question to Benjalu, “What does Benjalu mean?” Seeing Fahy perform is an entertaining experience. He’s witty at the right times, intense and passionate when he sings – he’s certainly one talented man.

With what was possibly the shortest break ever between acts it didn’t take long for Benjalu to get straight into the thick of it. The band was without its usual drummer on the night, the boys explained that the replacement had only one weeks practice before performing. This didn’t impact at all on the high quality performance. Lead vocalist Ben Gumbleton has a distinctive voice that works across many different genres of music, which is lucky since the boys don’t confine themselves to just one in particular. They’re best described as a combination between roots, folk and reggae just to name a few depending on what song they’re performing. Benjalu took the audience on a ride through meaningful ballads and high-energy fun tunes. From the meaningful Two Messages, a song about people they knew who had lost a brother and a father, followed by the fun and totally upbeat Grains of Sand. Even a cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, which gave this reviewer goose bumps. The energy in the room was buzzing off the band, onto the crowd and straight back onto the band. Front man Gumbleton almost looked as though he’d bounce right off his cushion as he played.

When it was time for the show to end the audience gave a heartfelt round of applause and seemed genuinely disappointed that it was ending. Some even pleaded with the boys to keep playing because they didn’t have to work in the morning and could stay as long as they wanted. There was still one question lingering in the air, “What does Benjalu mean?” Well, if you thought it might have something to do with the front man’s name, you are mistaken. It’s in fact a roundabout acronym for “Benefits of living – just – as – life – unfolds”. Bass player Anthony Morris admitted that sometimes it’s just easier to make up stories about the meaning than explain it.

That was one great Thursday night! If you ever get the chance to see Benjalu make sure you do it, you won’t regret it!