LIVE REVIEW: Jack River’s Sugar Mountain Ball dazzles Melbourne’s Forum Theatre

Words + Photos: Brittany Long

Jack River was Melbourne’s obsession as she brought her Sugar Mountain Ball tour to Melbourne’s Forum Theatre on June the 1st. The theme was ‘90s Prom’ with the goal being to give everyone “the prom night we all never had” and to come together to bring Jack’s dream to life. The “realisation of that ballroom where everything will shine and melt and taste like sugar.”

It was clear right from the moment the doors opened, revealing an elaborately decorated Forum Theatre, that we were there to party, celebrate and have a good time. Every detail of the show was thought of, with intricate details, right down to the flowers adorning every mic stand, amp and inch of the stage, and the silver wall of streamers hanging from the ceiling, that made the audience feel like they’d stepped into another world. But the biggest highlight was, of course, the giant disco ball suspended from the ceiling, because it’s not a prom without one, right?!

Dream pop queen San Mei kicked off the evening, playing hits from upcoming debut album Heaven. With EP song Heaven itself bringing with it sizzling guitar riffs and succeeding in getting the crowd warmed up and ready to dance. San Mei’s dreamy melodies coupled with electric guitar riffs and a strong drum-beat, provided from her backing band, meant she was the perfect opener, for what was to be an unforgettable night. I for one look forward to hearing more from San Mei!

As the night wore on there was a steady stream of people entering the Forum dressed in various degrees of formal wear, taking the chance to get dressed up. Kudos to the people who went all out on the prom theme and did Jack River proud!

Fresh off the back of supporting George Ezra on his Australian tour, indie pop artist Eves Karydas was the next act. Eves stepped on stage rocking a khaki number that reminded us of Bindi Irwin. She got straight into it with First Love a track on her 2018 debut album Summerskin. This followed with 2017 single There For You and Hush. Hush being a well-known track for throwing shade on her ex and proving to be a crowd favourite, and seeing lots of crowd participation. Eves is known for her electric stage presence and this sure proved to be true. She successfully had the audience grooving with her after just a few songs.

She played her Summerskin album almost entirely in full,with Honest, Balance, How Bound, Couch and Damn Loyal also featuring. Sadly, Wildest Ones was the only exception and not included in the set, I’m assuming due to time constraints. Although the audience loved Karydas for her originals it was her cover of Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower that really got the crowd pumping, with Eves remarking, “I didn’t write this one but I’m sure you’ll know it,” and know it the crowd proved they did!

Eves showcases captivating vocals through her unique alternative-pop style and the audience loved it. Damn Loyal saw her “sufficiently out of breath” being one of her biggest dancey numbers featuring some “oooohs” that left me with goose bumps. Eves closed her set with Further Than The Planes Fly, a song she wrote in London and revealed was one that was ‘very special to her’. With final remarks of “cheers,” Eves then headed off to the merch desk to meet some fans.

There was a short break, allowing audience members enough time to grab a drink or visit Eves at the merchandise desk. Before the sounds of American Wild West music blaring through the Forum speakers signaled the impending, and much anticipated arrival of headliner, the Sugar Mountain Queen herself, Jack River. As the final notes rang out the Forum was absolutely packed with fans awaiting their idol.

Off the back of a massive 2018 Jack River aka Holly Rankin is set for an even bigger 2019, with her Sugar Mountain tour celebrating the recent release of her Sugar Mountain deluxe album and elaborately designed matching vinyl. The 2018 debut Sugar Mountain album is itself three times ARIA- nominated and explores the highs and lows of love and tragedy. One by one the members of Jack River’s band entered the stage, with anticipation building for Holly herself.

Waltzing onto the stage and sparkling from head to toe in sparkly pants with matching jacket, paired with a floral top and snake skin print boots, and, resembling the outfit she recently wore in her ‘Like A Version’ feature, she dazzled from the moment she stepped foot onstage. This setting the preface for the night. Atop her head was a tiara fit for a Queen and the welcome that followed her entrance was definitely that. 

Jack got off to a gradual start, building the mood by opening with Fields which followed with Confess. The audience were hanging on her every word, soaking it all in. But, by the encore of Confess the atmosphere was electric and it remained that way for the entire night. Jack kept hitting us with the best of the best. From Limo song to So High, Fault Line to Talk Like That, nearly every track on the Sugar Mountain album was given its time in the spotlight. With notable exceptions being Constellation Ball, Mars, Stardust And Rust, Saturn and Her Smile.

While Brisbane fans notably missed out, and, were left slightly disappointed after the expected Truly Madly Deeply cover was not included, lucky Melbourne fans however were delighted with its inclusion.

The cover of Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply was recently performed by Jack River for Triple J’s ‘Like A Version’ and Melbourne attendees were treated to a special performance of it. Before the song commenced Jack pre-warned her audience to “keep an eye on the stage because something special was going to happen”. That surprise was in the form of Alex Lahey making a surprise appearance on the saxophone,and what a surprise it was! Jack River’s cover drew on our collective teenage heartstrings and had everyone singing along with the crowd left suitably impressed. I know personally it is a moment that I’ll never forget.

In Infinity featured next,  followed by Head To Stars, one of her oldest tracks from her first album, Highway Songs No.2 of 2016. The Highway album brought the nostalgia, and was in fact played almost entirely in full. With crowd favourite Dream Girl a welcome addition to a jam-packed setlist. 

Jack River showcases dreamy ballads that float between indie rock all the way to dreamy Sugar Mountain. Jack announced “are you ready to dance” and Ballroom was just that. A dancey number that perfectly echoed the atmosphere of the ‘Sugar Mountain Ball’ tour and captured the essence of the ‘prom feeling’ felt by everyone in the room, with many having a boogie and getting their groove on.

Jack became rather emotional when sharing the origins of her album Sugar Mountain. Revealing that it “came from a place of darkness initially” but acknowledging that it “brought you to me, and me to you”. This heartfelt sentiment was echoed by many members of the crowd who were truly grateful to have been brought together by Jack and her powerful music, and to have both in their lives. She shared about how she had ‘used music as a healing tool’ to get her through some of her darkest times, leaving many in tears or on the verge of them, myself included.

There’s something about the way in which an artist can channel their own life and personal experiences into their music, and Jack River is one of the best examples of it. Every word she sings is filled with power, passion and feeling.

Jack announced, “we have a couple more songs, you’ve been absolutely incredible, I can’t tell you how insane this is,” following with electric gem Adolescent. The crowd loved this track and it proved to be a hit, with the audience singing every word, and, most notably collectively screaming the chorus, “so f***king adolescent!

As if the night couldn’t get any sweeter, Jack’s song Sugar, which Jack revealed was the result of a “sparkly dream” that same “sparkly dream which brought her to this room” was a definite stand out. Jack announced that from her dream “comes beautiful sugary things” and it sure did. For those lucky audience members at the front, its performance brought with it a sweet and sugary surprise in the literal sense – FAIRY FLOSS! Yes! Jack River had an actual fairy floss machine and handed out fairy floss. She truly is the Sugar Mountain Queen!

Closing her set with Fool’s Gold, the lead single off Sugar Mountain, she left her audience clinging to every word and ‘dying to be by her side’. As the opening lines of the first verse, “you don’t like rollercoasters, how could you ever love a girl like me,” rang out we couldn’t look away. But it was the chorus that really saw the audience get involved. I don’t think there was a single person in the room who didn’t join in singing, “fool’s gold, shining in the night, so easy on the eyes, fool’s gold…” I’ll admit I joined in on this one, and it was easily my favourite track of the night.

As Jack River disappeared from the stage fans were left screaming for an encore, so hard they shook the floor. She returned for a two song encore opening with a unique cover of Cigarettes After Sex’s Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby! This was a spectacle in it’s own right, the lyrics were soft on her lips, like sugar, and accompanied by the familiar guitar rift, with her own sugary twist worthy of the night. Of course it wouldn’t have been Sugar Mountain without much loved track Palo Alto, one of Jack’s first songs that debuted on 2016 album Highway. This was the final song of the night.

Jack River definitely succeeded in giving us the prom night we never had, delivering on every level to give us what was definitely an unforgettable night. The Forum, which was our Ballroom saw everyone celebrate the Sugar Mountain album and pour their hearts out on the dance-floor to ‘heal and cry and become strong’ just as Jack had imagined. This woman is as sweet as it gets and I can’t wait to see what she delivers next! Sydney you better get ready because the Sugar Mountain Queen has arrived! See the full gallery of photos from the show here.

Jack River Setlist

Limo Song
So High
Fault Line
Talk Like That
Truly Madly Deeply cover– ft Alex Lahey
In Infinity
Head To Stars

Dream Girl
Fool’s Gold

Never Gonna Hurt You Baby
Palo Alto

Eves Karydas Setlist

First Love
There For You
How bound
Sunflower (cover)
Damn Loyal
Further Than The Planes Fly

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