I was happy to find that despite this gig taking place on one of the hardest days of the year to fill a venue, the Monday after Glastonbury, Tash Sultana managed to almost sell out the Hammersmith Apollo. This was testament to the fervor their fan base feels for Tash and their music.
Tash Sultana @ Hammersmith Apollo
Opening the show were Amistat who have been friends with Tash since meeting them while both acts were busking. Amistat are twin brothers Josef and Jan Prasil who were born in Germany and raised in Italy by Czech and Australian parents, they moved to Australia to launch their career in music, they are currently based in Germany.
Live they played with Keyboards and acoustic guitar regularly switching instruments while singing about being Far From Home as the vocal harmonies brought the lyrics to life. In between songs they seemed over awed at playing what for them was the biggest gig they have yet played. Heavy Eyes was one of the songs that hit hard, for the middle of the road, that seemed to be the duo’s comfort zone.
Falling was introduced as being about being on the road busking and having to share a single bed with your twin brother, as it’s raining so much you can’t go out and busk, this was quite emotionally charged and got a big cheer at the end. They were very upbeat especially while singing Go For It (Change Is Possible) (?). They closed with I’m Still Alive that was the one song to deploy the drum they had on stage as well as keyboards and Guitar as they told us all to be grateful we are alive, go and live as much as possible.
Tash Sultana came on to thunderous applause for the gender fluid Multi-Instrumentalist from Melbourne Australia who was touring to promote their latest single James Dean and most recent album Terra Firma that was recorded during the pandemic.
For most of the set Tash Sultana was alone on the large stage, they started the set by playing a guitar figure that was then looped to be joined by the keyboard part they played as they stomped on the bass trigger for the first time to wobble the room as the graphics behind them illustrated what Big Smoke was all about, in the mid-song breakdown Tash grabbed a bass to play a couple of chords to be looped along with guitar before the tribal nosebleed techno drums erupted into Mystik, this was organic dancefloor techno magic, from the kinetic movements between instruments, Tash regularly adjusting their red hat as they hit all sorts of triggers with their feet, while switching instruments freely as the screams and cheers of the audience rose.
Pretty Lady revolved around Bass with 80’s synth that wove between the guitar and drums that Tash played before grabbing her sax for a wailing solo that was dancefloor fun as Tash repeated the mantra I know love, The cheer for the end of the sax solo was almost louder than the music.
The drum and bass dance epic Cigarettes featuring a flute solo as they reached for the skies. This was also the point in the show that Tash deployed the Peter Wright Darts dance for the first time to devastating effect.
With very little fanfare Tash was then joined by their three piece backing band to add more drums, bass and Keyboards to everything Tash was already playing on Crop Circles with some cool tribal imagery on the video screen, this allowed them to play a long widdly guitar solo on their knees that was treated by the audience like Yngwie Malmsteen had just unleashed a solo.
The opening notes of Greed were greeted like a huge hit as everyone downstairs seemed to be dancing and grooving along with the band, as first Tash played another long guitar solo followed by some flute before they switched to the trumpet for a few bars this song shifted and moved at quite a pace.
A click track opened New York as the sweet vocals led into some laid back guitar that seemed aimed at being a techno dancefloor Steely Dan, it almost pulled it off. Willow Tree featured large graphics of a magic mushroom smoking a joint that gave me flashbacks to The Water Rats many years ago to a Diaboliks gig where someone offered me some mushrooms to smoke alongside the joints being passed around, thankfully no fireballs attacked me this time. As the noise the crowd made after the sax solo could have sent me over the edge.
Tash then introduced her backing musicians while explaining that the next song Coma was about getting high and while she would never encourage anyone to do so, this was when you should risk lighting up, a decent sized cloud was soon hanging over the crowd downstairs, a good few people in the seats also joined in, as the mandolin solo got going to make things nice and spacey, more people were visibly dancing in the seats as Tash got everyone clapping along.
The current single James Dean opened with solo guitar before Tash enthusiastically played the synth drums this has a cool, synergy going on as she sang I Am Free it seemed like everyone felt as Tash did.
The opening notes of Jungle was the signal for everyone upstairs in the seats to stand up and join in the dancing as the synth lines wove into the bass and a long feedbacking lap guitar solo and the most amazing vocals of the show left the crowd making a humungous noise to get Tash Sultana back for an encore.
Inevitably Tash came back solo and started to play a very Gabor Szabo style acoustic guitar solo that had looped drums added before we got one last sax solo and the music as things closed with an acid folk freak out that left the crowd drained but wanting more, at a show that had the loudest most enthusiastic audience reaction I’ve heard since Les Rita Mitsouko’s final London show at The Scala in 2007.
Review of Tash Sultana at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on 26th June 2023 by Simon Phillips. Photography by Dnieper Cruz.