Since it was announced, there’s been quite a bit of hubbub about Soulfest, a brand new festival devoted to hip hop, funk and, surprisingly enough, soul music. Considering that festivals have been falling apart left, right and centre of late, the announcement and subsequently huge lineup left punters speechless. And a part of this massive tour is Bec Laughton, Queenslandian soul singer who is halfway through one of the biggest years of her life. As such, this year has brought her all around the country, with the last few nights in the lovely land of Victoria. At the Toff in Town, Laughton truly let her skills shine. But did she follow the hype up?

Such a fiery act needed one hell of a warm up, and acting as heater was Gena Rose Bruce. A singer songwriter from Melbourne, Bruce had a lot more of a classic folksy feel to her music which complemented the intimacy of the venue beautifully. Constantly shifting between solo and full act pieces, her song writing abilities shone despite the differences between the two. While there was definitely talent in Bruce’s songs, they lacked a certain distinguishing trait to mark them as hers. Still her naturally frail voice and twinkling melodies made for a delight to listen to. Overall, there’s a lot of potential in Gena Rose Bruce just waiting to be developed, which should be a joy to watch.

Laughton grooved out from behind the curtains of the Toff, a massive grin lighting her already charming face. Starting with the first track from her M & R EP, she rung out through the room with a voice both powerful and smooth. Genuine right from the get go, she laced the show with anecdotes about her songs and how she got to where she is now in such a blunt way you couldn’t tell that the same person wrote the lyrics sung just 2 mins ago. Still, there were much more surprises in store.

Through the next 45 mins Laughton:
• Informed the crowd how she wrote her songs and what they are about
• Hopped behind the drums while her guitarist rapped a few verses
• Got jugglers and dancers to join her for the finish
• Improvised soul versions of TV themes to feed everyone’s nostalgia.
If that sounds like a lot to fit into a show, particularly one as relaxed as it was, you’re right. And I’m not sure it quite worked.

Structure seemed to disappear altogether. Some songs were stretched on until you could see the seams holding it together, while others drew to a close far too quickly. Laughton and crew definitely have skill at what they do, there’s no doubt about that. But it felt as though the set was thrown together last minute.

That’s not to say that the show was bad in any sense, it just threw me into a little bit of a loop de loop.

Ben Spencer

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