SAN FRANCISCO — Tash Sultana took The Fillmore stage on Saturday to the feel-good sounds of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.” Though early into the sold-out show, the crowd’s cheers confirmed that it was, indeed, all love for the Australian multi-instrumentalist.
Sultana, with sheer passion, dove straight into “Big Smoke.” The multi-part opening song showed off Sultana’s funky guitar phrases and voice, which wavered between a hearty rasp and soft, glossy hums. In between it all, Sultana would throw their (Sultana uses the their/them pronouns) hands in the air, freeing themselves in the music just as the audience did.
In an endearing way, Sultana exclaimed “What the fuck?” in awe of everyone’s receptive energy. “Right on.”
Before the evening ensued, Sultana took some time to lay down a few house rules. “If you’re racist, get the fuck out of my view. If you’re homophobic get the fuck out. If you’re transphobic, get out. The world can be a harsh place and I’m trying to leave it in a nicer state.”
And with the crowd yelling in solidarity, the show went on.
In concert, Sultana brings the concept of a one-person band to an otherworldly level. On top of fierce vocals and guitar, Sultana also takes charge of synths, a drum pad, trumpet and even a pan flute. Every song overflowed with elaborate interludes that explore a spectrum of sensations, from electrifying and euphoric to mystifying and orchestral. Just as expressive was their body language, candid and full of jumps, sways, headbangs and smiles.
“Murder to the Mind,” a single from earlier this year, had an especially captivating build-up. Starting off with beatboxing on a live loop, Sultana shifted to the drum pad and synths, and then cranked out a dreamy guitar riff before finally singing. With so much precision in unfolding every melodic layer, everyone marveled as they constructed the song before their eyes.
The rest of the set featured fan favorites like “Harvest Love” and “Jungle.” Neither Sultana nor the crowd showed signs of fatigue during the late night, dancing until the very last minute.
Fellow Australians the Pierce Brothers started the concert strong with a set of passionate folk rock. Their performance consisted of mostly fun, upbeat jams that showed their craftiness with instruments from an acoustic guitar to a snare drum and cymbal to a didgeridoo. Spreading infectious spirit, the duo had the crowd jumping along and cheering early on.