Dan Sultan and Rag'n'Bone Man: a soulful Splendour clash

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Three great acts, one brutal hour. The almost unforgivable clash on Saturday at Splendour,

The clash is an unavoidable pitfall of any festival. For every set you love, there’s another one happening at the other side of the grounds you probably could have enjoyed just as much.

Constructing a timetable would have to be a frustratingly difficult job for a festival, as they try and offer artists the set times they want/need for the scale of their show (a great light show is no good at 2pm) and keep the audience’s experience at the front of their mind.

But sometimes they just get it plain wrong. Saturday night at Splendour In The Grass was one of those times.

Dan Sultan and Rag'n'Bone Man stand alone as the two prominent rock’n’soul artists on the Splendour bill. Both men with outstanding soul voices and a grab bag of incredible songs ripe for festival singalongs. There’s no one else who sounds like these guys on the bill this weekend, so why put them on at the same time?

To throw a little more salt in the wound, the clash also coincided with the set from Melbourne space funk ensemble Harvey Sutherland & Bermuda.

For music lovers of a certain persuasion, the hour between 7pm and 8pm Saturday night was the toughest of the Splendour weekend. Three great sets, one packed hour. But we just have to deal with it as best we can. This is why you wear comfortable shoes to these things.

The first half of Dan Sultan’s set showed that his live show is retaining the rock’n’roll that has been such a large part of his music for most of his career. This isn’t surprising until you hear his new album Killer, which is an expansive modern-soul record full of beats, synths and spacious arrangements.

Interestingly, it was his rendition of ‘Drover’, the first track from that new album, that showed Sultan at his most powerful. By this stage he had settled into the set and his voice had warmed up, ready to knock us all down. What a shame it was time to leave.

For some reason, British soul star Rag'n'Bone Man had been scheduled at the Mix Up Tent (the dance/electronic stage), but that didn’t deter a mammoth crowd from rolling up to see him on his first Australian tour.

You’ve almost definitely heard his song ‘Human’ by now. It was the inarguable highlight of the set (in fact, hundreds left after he played it) but the entire second half of his show proved that the hype around this guy is justified.

His voice is so powerful it feels as if it’s from another planet. But he used it judiciously, his gentle croon is as effective as the big, belting soulful moments.

The space funk of Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda proved to be magnetic. Quite literally. Dozens of revellers innocently walking past found themselves drawn into the Tiny Dancer tent to experience the retro-futuristic grooves on offer.

By the time I arrived - late, thanks to the aforementioned epic clash - their ship has already launched into the stratosphere. But it's easy enough to jump onboard, hold on tight and explore a new galaxy of psyched out electro funk.

Whether you consider yourself a dancer or not, there are some shows where standing still simply isn’t an option. That was definitely the case here. Their elongated jams were so brilliantly upbeat, so infectious and so much fun. The musicality on display was astounding too, but it never felt as if they were showing off; they were just having a good time and taking us on a galactic journey.

These were three great sets from artists who absolutely should not be missed when you next get a chance to see them. If only they hadn’t been scheduled at the same damn time. Them’s the breaks…

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