Older and wiser, Conrad Sewell is back
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Older and wiser, Conrad Sewell is back

Conrad Sewell
Oxford Art Factory, September 6
★★★★

Conrad Sewell.

Conrad Sewell.

In 2015, Conrad Sewell became part of Australia’s next generation of artists, alongside the likes of Vance Joy and Troye Sivan, making a great impact internationally.

But after winning an ARIA award and earning platinum sales by the end of that year, the Brisbanite learned the hard way that a lifestyle of excess that can follow such success can have a detrimental effect on careers and relationships.

He has clearly found catharsis in his material since, the first of which we heard on May’s Ghosts & Heartaches EP.

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On this night Sewell boldly came out all guns blazing with three new songs, before launching into his older, pop-driven anthem Hold Me Up and a well-received take on his Kygo collaboration, Firestone.

Declaring he is now sober, Sewell proved he’s not taking this opportunity to start again for granted.

These days his music is more soulful, with touches of gospel and blues alongside his soft-rock sensibilities, while his lyrics openly deal with love, loss and liquor.

His raw yet agile vocal acrobatics move between a striking grittiness and soulful suaveness, conjuring a more powerful intensity than his recordings.

Accompanied only by keys, a guitarist and backing singers, he performed crowd favourites including the riveting piano ballads Changing, Come Clean and Start Again, before the audience played choir to the exhilarating and anthemic Healing Hands.

That isn't to dismiss the versatile new tracks he premiered, such as Neighbourhood (which he says he wrote especially to play at Britain’s famous Glastonbury festival) and Unbound, which he hopes will become as timeless as the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah.

This self-assuredness could be viewed as arrogant but it’s actually refreshing to see Sewell be so passionate about the potential of his latest work to flourish.

It is onwards and upwards for this self-described “changed man”.

Nicole Economos is online producer for Daily Life, Sunday Life & GW.