words & photos: Maddie Vlismas @maddievlis
“… Ainslie manages to articulate it for us in an incredible, gut-wrenchingly accurate way. Her songwriting approach is so pure and honest that it puts others to shame.”
Ainslie Wills’ ‘All You Have is All You Need’ is what we’ve all been waiting for and tonight feels like a huge celebration of its release. This is a crowd that knows her well. We’re rubbing shoulders with Ainslie’s friends and family, and I feel almost as proud of her new work as they are (don’t fact check that).
In a powder blue a-line dress, sneakers and a red lipstick, Loni Rae Thomson commands the audience with a familiarity that only seasoned performer and songwriter can have. It’s Friday night at Howler Bar in Brunswick and the crowd is in good spirits.
Thompson’s lyrical prowess is astounding and the room is silent in response, lost in awe and appreciation of her mastery. You can hear pop and folk influences in her music, but most noticeable are the jazz undertones in the huskiness and power of her voice.
Self-depreciatingly skimming over the big heartbreak that inspired her song ‘Slowly’, she laughs at her own misfortune. Yet when she starts to sing, it’s seriously emotive and heartfelt. The weather is freezing outside tonight, but here in the band room we’re all beginning to melt.
Ainslie Wills is one of Australia’s best and brightest singer/ songwriters and this album feels like a really huge moment in her career. She’s been working on this one for a long time, and it shows.
She’s all legs tonight, wearing the most incredible cotton-candy, high waisted bellbottoms and a shoulder padded, mustard coloured jacket. Moving around the stage with ease and comfort, she goes from the keyboard, to her guitar, to dancing around the stage and back again.
All the big hits are played, like ticking items off a list, before she launches into the new album in playing order. Her rich, chocolatey voice is heaven when mixed with these deep, bass-like piano chords. Then again, it sounds like heaven in any conceivable combination. Navigating the album with incredible range and control, it’s a mystery that she’s managed to hang back in the edge of acclamation for so long. She is a national treasure.
‘Fear of Missing Out’ is an expression of something that we can all relate to, except Ainslie manages to articulate it for us in an incredible, gut-wrenchingly accurate way. Her songwriting approach is so pure and honest that it puts others to shame. ‘Society’ hits the mark in the same style, and it’s likely to leave your knees weak and feeling on the verge of tears.
Our poor lil hearts are given a quick reprieve with the more upbeat and danceable ‘Drive’ and she bounces around onstage with her wicked cool guitar. Her cropped hair flips from side to side as she tosses her head to the beat. Disco moves are all the rage in the audience tonight and I spot not one but two separate groups rocking the Pulp Fiction peace signs over the eyes. These are groovy times, folks.
She keeps ploughing her way through the album and we hear hits like ‘Islands’ and ‘Mountains’, before finally, we make it to the title track ‘All You Have Is All You Need,’. Together we’ve been on an emotional journey and this track feels like a massive thank you, right from Ainslie’s heart to ours. Tonight has been such a pure, unfiltered joy and we listen to the album again in the car on the ride home.