George @ Taronga Zoo
Reviewed on Friday February 17
Uncertainty is in the air ahead of our headliners' first Sydney show for over a decade – Taronga has been rained out for most of the afternoon, and intermittent showers still loom as the crowd snakes its way through the elaborate maze that leads to the gardens. After that ordeal, it's nice to have Jack Carty serve as a calming presence, treating early arrivals to his perfectly charming, quaint folk stylings. Whether it's the front bar of a pub or in tonight's stunning surrounds, Carty always makes his audience feel immediately at home.
He's quickly followed by Felix Riebl, normally of The Cat Empire and here performing mostly from his collected works released under his own name. It's an interesting contrast to see the man normally found bouncing around the stage at the helm of one of the country's most in-demand live acts sitting pensively at a keyboard and delivering a handful of world-music flavoured lite-pop tunes. Truthfully, though, that may be the only genuinely interesting thing about Riebl's solo music. It's not objectively bad, but it lacks presence and memorability. Nice to hear Riebl stick it to the coal-passing politicians before The Cat Empire's ‘No Longer There’, though.
It was almost 15 years ago that George first broke through on a national scale with their landmark debut, Polyserena, promptly shooting vocalist/keyboardist Katie Noonan to stardom as one of Australia's most celebrated contemporary singers. It may seem like a literal lifetime ago – or even two for some attendees, given how many children are present – but if tonight makes anything clear, it's that these songs were never forgotten. They were sung, shared and relived well after the Brisbane natives called it quits – and, for all the band members' efforts since their 2005 split, these tracks remained their best-known and most treasured.
Watching the five of them performing again makes it feel as if no time has passed since those days, and yet it's hard not to get lost in the wave of nostalgia that comes with the likes of ‘Breathe In Now’, ‘Special Ones’ and ‘Breaking It Slowly’. The Noonan siblings still sound exceptional, their bandmates are still effortlessly professional and the utter elation the crowd exudes while singing along (or mouthing along, daring not to scale Katie's heights) is infectious. No thunderstorm was ever going to hold back the return of George. Honestly, it just couldn't.