Over this past summer, I was on my family’s boat with my little brother, 14, and my younger cousin, 17, and it was my turn to play DJ and I put on Tash Sultana, thinking that it would be a crowd-pleaser. But as I played the first song and began explaining how cool I thought Sultana’s story was, I was met with groans from the teens that this was so last year. I felt old and out of the loop.
If the crowd demographic was any indication, Tash Sultana’s sold-out show last night at the Palace Theatre proved that teens have very much moved past the Aussie’s reggae influenced blues rock, but the adults are still eating up every last bit. The average age of concert-goers began at about 28 and spanned upwards, by my hasty calculations, which in turn meant more people drinking, leading to more issues with finding the correct seats in the balcony. I had four different people sit next to me after the usher asked the girl sitting in my seat to move so I could sit down.
Despite the average age in the audience, I felt like I was at a local show with a crowd full of the band’s family and friends from the moment Sultana took the stage. The one-person band began the show with the looping of a handful of instruments and a huge smile that shone bright all the way to the balcony for the rest of the night.
“Welcome to the show. This is the house of peace and love, and I want everyone to feel invited,” Sultana finally addressed the crowd directly after a few songs. They recognized a fan in the front row from a previous concert, told a story about a certain Stu Magoo internet troll, and made the announcement, “If you came here and you’re homophobic, you can get the f— out!”
Sultana began looping beats for “Salvation” and the audience lost it when the bass hit, making the already very loud PA system rumble in the bottoms of our stomachs. The whole show, but this song especially, featured a lot of what I wrote in my notes as “pedal dancing” — Sultana danced around their setup to the music, hitting each pedal like choreography.
“This is probably the best I’ve played on the whole tour and now I’ve probably jinxed myself by saying it,” Sultana said, laughing as they grabbed an acoustic guitar for a couple stripped-down songs. These included one brand-new, unnamed track they wrote in the shower just a few days ago about “how people don’t care about your music until you’re successful and then all of a sudden they’re your best mate [. . .] Like can you f*** off really?!” which speaks to the blast to stardom Sultana has experienced in just a few short years, from busking on the streets to playing festivals and touring the world with sold-out shows. “I don’t feel any different, but everyone else is getting real weird!”
“Pink Moon” began with a note to everyone having a difficult time: Hold on, because “things will only get better if you keep on living.” During the lulls in the song, stray cries of, “We love you!” were heard from all directions in the theater. Sultana went into a nearly 20-minute rendition of “Notions,” playing deeply into the jam-session style that much of their music teases with all the intricate looping, building and crashing and repeating.
The show continued quite a bit past the 11 p.m. quoted wrap-up, people had started filtering out, but those who stayed were elated to hear “Jungle” close the night out after Sultana humbly thanked everyone for attending. Leading up to this show, I had enjoyed their music but was not invested to spend a portion of my college student budget on a ticket to this Palace Theatre show. Now having seen Sultana live, the show they put on is so worth it. To all the teens out there who feel like they’re too cool for one of last year’s biggest internet breakout stars, you are missing out on so much.
Instruments featured in last night’s show: guitar, bass, multiple keyboards, various percussion pieces, trumpet, pan flute, vocals, and beat boxing.
Photos by Mariah Crabb for MPR
Opener: Ocean Alley