As soon as her show began at the Wests Diggers showroom at midday on Thursday 26 January, I could tell that the Harmony James v. 2012 was very different to the version I’d seen play at the Southgate Inn in January 2010. Harmony in 2010 was far less confident, almost apologetic about being there on stage in front of us, despite the fact that Tailwind had been one of the best albums for years and she had every right to feel like a superstar. She acknowledged then that she’s an introvert, and she said it, too, at Wests this year. But the difference is that she’s found her ‘gig legs’ and worked out a way to put on a show that means she doesn’t have to give up her personality just to make it in showbiz. It’s the internal arrangement a lot of performers probably make – possibly she learnt it on the road with the McClymonts – and one that is more helpful than harmful: they find a version of themselves that can go on stage and tell jokes and banter with the band, a version that does not take anything away from their true selves and, perhaps, protects it. And in Harmony, it’s a version that works.
Harmony took the stage at the front of a band full of very accomplished musicians: Glen Hannah and Dan Conway on guitars, Jeff McCormack on bass and Steve Fearnley on drums. Glen and Steve had played with Felicity Urquhart the night before, so I could only admire their ability to turn around and play a completely different set so well. Jeff did his usual outstanding job in the rhythm section and Dan, while looking like a teenager, played like someone with years and years of experience.
But the star was definitely Harmony. Her voice – that powerful instrument that seems to have all sorts of nooks and crannies – soared clearly over the band, and she delivered a show for fans to enjoy and to win over newcomers alike. It was a great showcase of her songs from both albums. She has said in the past that she’s a songwriter, not a performer, but she served those songs very well in performance. She’s also touring extensively this year, as a support act for Troy Cassar-Daley and headlining her own shows, and I can now thoroughly recommend that you get yourself along to a gig.