10 June, Factory Theatre

Nestled deep in the heart of Marrickville lays the Factory Theatre; an ex-warehouse come live music venue standing in stark contrast to the various industrial estates with which it shares boundary lines. It was here that two old friends reconvened late Saturday night to kick off their joint nationwide Distant Call tour.

A vibrant support from Alex The Astronaut saw the few hundred-strong crowd well primed for the forthcoming collaborative 90-minute sold-out set. As the audience bathed in the golden and rouge light from the stage, Dustin Tebbutt’s soft, ethereal voice pierced the darkness bringing with it a warmth of its own.

After settling into the vibe – debuting a few songs from his debut full-length album, First Light, Tebbutt tried his hand at a cover of one of Lisa Mitchell’s own. Quite to his dismay, however, he forgot the first line! Although comic in the moment, and forgivable due to both his loveable nature and this being their opening evening, it was surely a mistake he shouldn’t repeat later throughout the tour.

While going tit-for-tat all evening and collaborating with each other on their individual hits, it became hard to imagine a better suited touring duo. Tebbutt’s light, airy vocals when blended with Mitchell’s profoundly melodic tone of her own, supplemented each other in ways never thought possible. Though I have been a longtime admirer of both, I could never have surmised that two acts could perform so tightly together after having toured separately for so long. Hearing them harmonise was a real peanut butter and celery moment for me – seeing two things I cherished come together so perfectly.

Tebbutt’s rendition of his own single Bones slowed the roll of the set and showcased his mastery of acoustic melancholy; an aura perfectly matched to the pouring rain outside. In carrying through the mood of nostalgia, Mitchell’s performance of The Boys enthused many of her fans to sing along. Relishing this opportunity, she went straight into Neapolitan Dreams, ushering a welcome change to a set that had begun to wallow in both artists’ more heartfelt, downbeat tunes.

Nevertheless a well thought through light and smoke show would surely have made the organisers of Vivid proud – one couldn’t imagine a more fitting scene for a rainy, damp June evening; warm primary colours mixing with a soft haze made for beautifully haunting ambience.

Mitchell brought her set to a well-rounded close, going solo on a newer hit from her Warriors album, Josephine, before throwing it back a few years with an electric performance of Spiritus – a finale which confirmed some of her most diehards had definitely shown up on the night.

The show was a pleasantly surprising success. Their collaborative set didn’t leave much untouched from either of their repertoires, yet it lacked a finer polish. Regardless, to their credit both have just finished massive Northern Hemisphere tours and have albums less than a year old each. Catch them in two or three gigs’ time and surely all the kinks will be ironed out. T

ebbutt and Mitchell’s month-long Distant Call tour continues throughout June, finishing up in July at The Gov in Adelaide.