Donnelly floods us with emotion

2 April 2023

Stella Donnelly returns to her hometown for the kind of warm and fuzzy house party you could attend over and over again, writes Zali Morgan.

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Stella Donnelly 
Astor Theatre, 31 March 2023 

It’s the second-last show of indie darling Stella Donnelly’s national tour to promote new album Flood and the Astor Theatre crowd is on tenterhooks. 

Boorloo based singer-songwriter Mia June opens the evening with her four-piece band and emerging performer Rosie Dagless, their confessed shock of playing at the Astor clearly matched with excitement. The dreamy indie-rock singer showcases a series of straight-from-the-diary songs, including Try to Cry and Hungry, with the crowd lapping up a story about an ex’s shit poetry. I can’t wait to see what she does next.  

Another local talent, alternative folk singer-songwriter Nika Mo, dives into a combination of poetic flow and earthy, whimsical sounds that make you feel as if you’re lost in Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. Supported by talented musicians, including two violinists and a saxophonist, Mo is a must-see act – her vocal range is out of this world.  

But the crowd has come to see Stella Donnelly and, after a two-hour wait, they’re getting restless. When she finally comes on stage with her band (including new husband Marcel Tussie on the drums) the cheers erupt, almost drowning out Tavares’ disco banger Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel

The singer-songwriter
knows how to tell
a story, too.

Donnelly works her way through a combination of older songs – which she describes as “old period-stained undies that you’re holding onto” –  and newer offerings – “the tight, fresh g-banger that you’re not sure about, but it’s making you feel good”. An ever-present grin balances Donnelly’s gentle vocals, making you question the darkness of her songs. Songs the crowd knows so well that their impromptu choir at times threatens to overpower her vocals. 

How Was Your Day?, Flood and Move Me from the new album, as well as the title track from 2019’s debut Beware Of The Dogs, are all big hits with the audience, despite their sometimes downbeat nature. As the melancholy vibe washes over us, the crowd responds with a little sway.

When Donnelly dips into her debut again and launches into Die with a rehearsed crab dance and an open invitation to join in, the mood lightens. The audience wants more.  

You know you’re in an act’s hometown when their old housemates show up to the gig; they scream and interact with Donnelly, allowing us a peek into her life. The singer-songwriter knows how to tell a story, too, floating us back to the times at her old beach shack next to the iconic Dingo Flour Mill in North Fremantle.  

Throughout the set, Donnelly is supported by stunning musicality from her band, including Jack Gaby and Julia Wallace. She closes the show with the much-loved Tricks from Beware of the Dogs, whipping fans into a frenzy between dancing on the floor and waving her legs around in a handstand.  

We leave feeling simultaneously sad and sunny – and well ready for bed. Donnelly brought us all down to the Astor for a washing machine of emotions and we are all the better for it. 

Pictured top: Stella Donnelly knows how to please her fans, mixing the old with the new. Photo: Olivia Senior

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Author —
Zali Morgan

Zali Morgan is a Wilman, Ballardong, Whadjuk Noongar woman. Currently working at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the emerging writer has a background in fine art and dance, but has a passion for all things creative. You can find Zali swinging around on the monkey bars, reminiscing about her childhood grip strength.

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