Australians are under no illusion that it’s easy for international acts to tour down under, so when an artist takes the time to start their world tour in New Zealand and Australia, we take note. And when it comes to for KING & COUNTRY’s matinee show at Melbourne’s iconic Palais Theatre, it was most certainly a homecoming the sold out crowd was hungry for.
Full of energy and bravado from the first spine tingling note, Joel and Luke Smallbone provided Australia’s Bible Belt with a recollection of some of their greatest hits, as well as tracks from their Billboard top 10 album Burn The Ships. And they delivered in volumes.
Starting a solid two-hour performance with the compelling tones of “Fix My Eyes,” it was clear the Grammy-award winning brothers were perfectly in sync. Microphones flew through the air, a double bass was tossed across the stage, and all the while the two interacted effortlessly.
The drama of “Never Give Up,” was elevated by audience interaction, and irrespective of whether they were fluidly moving between the clever cuts and strobe lights of “To the Dreamers,” or were creating still, introspective moments like “The Proof of Your Love,” there was a symbiosis between stage and crowd, feeding an atmosphere of worship and unity among Melbourne’s many churches.
Given for KING & COUNTRY performed on one of the hottest days of the year and were following a matinee with an evening show, it would be fair to reserve some energy. But to their credit, every single member of the band held nothing back. If Joel wasn’t singing, he was leaping from the drum kit and playing cymbals. If Luke wasn’t playing the drums, he had tambourine in hand or was samba-ing across the stage to “Joy” (with maracas none the less). And their touring musicians were no different.
Vince DiCarlo went between guitar and trombone, percussionist Teddy Boldt appeared with a xylophone near the end of the show after playing the Glockenspiel, and Daniel Jones was akin to an audience prompter, somehow finding time to heighten the already intense atmosphere when he wasn’t behind an instrument.
The most pivotal moments of the show followed the brothers’ stories of pain and hope. Joel gave a well-thought out speech on toxic masculinity and the sanctity of women before a moving rendition of “Priceless,” and later used his own struggle with trusting God to fuel his performance of “Control.”
Luke went on to discuss his family’s experience with homelessness and poverty when they were kids, and somehow gave the words to “It’s Not Over Yet,” and “Need You More” even more power. His recount of his wife’s struggle with addiction cleared any stigma or pretences from the place, and as they sang, “Burn The Ships,” you could sense people opening up and surrendering to something greater than themselves.
The Palais Theatre is by no means a small venue, but it’s no stadium either. Yet the band delivered a nuanced and perfectly crafted performance across every inch of the Palai’s historic stage, taking every opportunity to interact with the crowd and embrace theatrical elements normally reserved for big budget arena tours.
Shouts of “mate,” and references to Australian sport abounded, leaving little doubt the Smallbones were leaning thoroughly into their Aussie heritage. Yet there was still camaraderie and sameness between the platinum selling artists and everyday Aussies—not an easy feat in a culture that often revels in small poppy syndrome.
If the Melbourne leg of the Burn The Ships World Tour is anything to go by, it’s fair to say for KING & COUNTRY will perform the rest of their dates in Australia and America absolutely fearlessly. Vocally they were flawless, and each had the opportunity to let their musicianship come to the fore in notes that filmed the room.
Musically, instrumentally and with every step across the stage, nothing was without purpose during their homecoming. for KING & COUNTRY’s ability to balance honesty with world-class performances was only beaten by their genuine joy upon interacting with the audience.
Finishing with an encore of “The Little Drummer Boy,” the crowd was in raptures—all the while knowing in only an hour and a half, Luke and Joel would return to the same stage and do it all again with the same commitment and flair.
By far, this was one of the best-executed and perfectly crafted performances I have seen in a long time. It’s clear the Burn The Ships Tour is for KING & COUNTRY at their absolute best, and there’s little doubts crowds across the world will relish in it.