After a rocky 2020, it’s been a quiet beginning to a fresh new year, and that vibe was apparent at Sooki Lounge in Belgrave last night. Standing on stage in the luxe surrounds of the Sooki Lounge with its plush furnishings, velvet draped walls, and antique classiness, John Floreani acknowledged a quiet crowd in front of him.
Though we were all attentive yet perhaps shy at first, Floreani broke the ice by diving into anti-vax territory… before realising that the typically new age/hippy area of Belgrave might have different leanings.
It’s this awkward and honest banter that makes Floreani shows an enjoyable intimate experience. And it’s funny without trying. The guy comes with no facade or stage persona. You’ll hear him realise that he ‘should probably play a song since you’re paying for that’, and it all unfolds like we’re in his (easily distracted) head.
The ‘need to talk’, by way of the name of the tour, is Floreani’s own. He needs to talk, and we are along for the journey. But we can talk too. Though we didn’t have too much to ask of him last night, Floreani makes room for question and answer sessions along the way. (Just so you know, he’s 6 foot 6.)
Nothing is firmly fixed in this set. Even the setlist is ever-changing, as Floreani confesses how he doesn’t think much of particular older songs, and will even throw out a question to the crowd as to what we want to hear next.
We’re the sounding board, the backup singers, the ones to bounce back our reactions to his jokes and commentary. We’re essential just by being present, but we’ll absolutely hear it if our attempts at enthusiasm are weak. The Floreani flavour of truth can be cutting, but it’s hilarious, and delivered with love, of course.
As casual as all of this may sound, there’s many moments along the way where Floreani’s amusing and self-deprecating banter subsides and a mystical force of vocal talent roars forth through him, filling the space and sparking emotion. The songs, their stories, and the person that created them are showcased in these gigs.
Personally, it was a lovely start to live music in 2021; getting lost in songs from sin (and “Cleveland, OH”), in cosy surrounds up in the hills.[Photos by Liam Davidson]