Getting intimate with Donny Benét: in review at Urban Spree

Australian post-disco king Donny Benét brought his unique brand of sensuality to Urban Spree on Sunday night, in collaboration with Shameless/Limitless.

His sound is self-described as “a club band featuring Alan Vega, Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers, Prince, Falco and Demis Roussos” – naturally, we had high hopes for the evening’s performance. Having just about recovered from his last venture into our humble capital, we were apprehensive and excited and deeply concerned.

We were treated to a zesty opening set by the ineffable Karolini, whose charmingly absurd charisma made a warm reception from the crowd almost an absolute certainty. It’s always rather uplifting to stumble across an artist who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and this guy very much falls into this category. Sure, he was keen to please the crowd – who, incidentally, seemed to worship him – but ultimately, he’s not concerned with their reaction. It’s never particularly enjoyable to watch an artist who is completely overthinking his every move, and the effortlessly cool Karolini had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.

Step forward Donny Benét. His latest endeavour The Don is comprised of eight intimidatingly smooth tracks, and it’s clearly a step up from his previous works, both lyrically and in songwriting terms. Donny’s maturing as a composer, whilst retaining the whimsy and charm which truly define his character. Naturally, he was keen to showcase standout tracks from his new LP – instant classics such as Working Out, Sophisticated Lover and Love Online were very well-received, while Santorini sent his devoted crowd into something of a frenzy. Of course, no set of his would be complete without a soaring rendition of Konichiwa, and Mr. Benét certainly did not disappoint.

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He’s not afraid to utilise his physicality when performing; he fully recognises that his style of music embraces a very carnal energy, but doesn’t let it dominate the music. The welcome addition of his touring saxophonist was a real gift – the set was punctuated with virtuosic solos and exquisite harmonies, and added another layer of genius to the show. We almost couldn’t handle it.

What’s so refreshing about Donny is how he so unashamedly embraces human sensuality, without fear of judgement or concern for the opinions of others – he’s here for a good time and a long time. Sometimes poignant, often unexpected – this set was full to the brim with the inimitable energy Donny brings to all his projects. In addition to a stellar performance, he’s clearly someone who holds a great deal of gratitude towards his fans – he was more than happy to stay behind after the show to make conversation with the dozens of eager concertgoers who waited for him, despite the fact he was most probably suffering from pretty severe jetlag.

The highlights of the night (bold sartorial choices and gnarly synth melodies aside, obviously) were, without question, Just Leave Him and Night In Rome. Donny has a way of viscerally captivating his audience which I’ve never seen before in an artist – there was none of the subconscious animosity that’s normally found at gigs; no passive-aggressive shoving to the front, or subtle-elbows-in-ribs. Everybody came there to dance, and the atmosphere was all the better for it – he has some powerful moves and he’s not afraid to use them.

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Donny’s a guy committed to having a good time, but still managed to grasp on to moments of brilliance under the guise of nonchalance. He’s incredibly dedicated to his craft, and it really showed in his performance. The world is a pretty sombre place right now, and sometimes you need to let loose to a bit of 1980s post-disco with childlike indifference. Donny for president!

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