SAN FRANCISCO — Tash Sultana, the young Australian upstart who catapulted to fame via her ingenuity and a little help from YouTube, hit the stage to a sold-out crowd at the Swedish American Hall Thursday. In her San Francisco debut, on her first U.S. tour, the dynamic artist hit all the right notes with a diverse catalogue and a lack of timidity not typically seen by a new artist. The maturity and presence shown by Sultana was remarkable considering she was 7,874 miles from her home in Melbourne.
There are many ways to describe Tash Sultana: brilliant, spiritual, funky. But fun is the one that stood out the most. She was feeling the vibe, moving constantly from the guitar to the synthesizer, to the keyboard and bouncing her bare feet off the array of pedals she had laid out in front of her. She was like a shark, knowing that if she stopped moving she might die.
At one point, after banging on what appeared to be a drum pad, she grabbed a trumpet from a bearded roadie, put her hand up to shush the wailing crowd, and pulled off her best Miles Davis impression with grand aplomb; stopping only to let out a laugh while glancing toward the roadie at stage right.
Opening for Sultana was John Cashman, a talented, if not slightly melodramatic, fellow Aussie. Also, an instrumentalist, Cashman played several songs and covered Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” in a slow, deliberate, melancholic fashion. It made the song sound different, and the lyrics stood out even more, as the true meaning and anxiety of the song jumped out as Cashman methodically emphasized the words that Michael Jackson made famous 35 years ago.
The night was about the making of a star. Tash Sultana is woman so talented that Australia could no longer hold her in its grasp. To a world starving for a fresh talent, Sultana is the answer. It’s hard to pin down her sound to a genre; she’s that special. The show will be remembered by many as the night they saw a young woman become a pop star.