Sydney, Australia’s The Jezabels released their third album, Synthia, early this year, a record that marks a distinct evolutionary step forward in the band’s songwriting. More varied and mature sounding than their previous efforts, the album shows a band that has grown confident in their abilities and more ready to experiment and take chances with their music. Their recent US tour brought them to DC at the Rock and Roll Hotel, where they played to a packed crowd of fans.
The best way to experience The Jezabels’ music continues to be their live show, which strips away some of the recording studio production to reveal a more raw, immediate sound. Singer Haley Mary made full use of her wide vocal range, often jumping from soaring heights to a low growl within the span a single lyric line, showing a dynamic that is only hinted at on the recorded versions of the songs. Likewise, one criticism of Synthia might be that it frequently buries Sam Lockwood’s guitar under Heather Shannon’s layers of synthesizers to the point that it’s sometimes hard to tell that they’re there at all, but the live mix moved the guitar parts forward, making them a more noticeably integral part of the sound.
The band opened with the first track off of Synthia, “Stand and Deliver,” and didn’t let up on the energy throughout their fourteen-song set. Much of the set was drawn from the new album, including standout tracks “Smile,” “Pleasure Drive,” and “My Love Is My Disease.” The band did look back, though, playing older tracks including “Long Highway” and “Hurt Me” from their 2011 album Prisoner and “Look of Love” from 2014’s The Brink, as well as going back to their 2010 EP Dark Storm for “Mace Spray” and “A Little Piece.” A joke false start covering Tina Turner’s “The Best” turned into a nearly flawless cover of most of the song at the start of the encore, despite Mary’s protest that she didn’t know it, before transitioning into the band’s own “The End,” also from The Brink.
Brooklyn indie pop duo Surf Rock Is Dead opened the show, playing their latest single “In Between” and songs from their self-titled EP released last year.