Review: BØRNS at Howler

9 April 2018

The first time I came to Howler I failed to spot the live music venue hiding behind a parking lot. But sure enough, across the asphalt sits a venue that’ll make you feel special just for being there. The atmosphere here is seductive, deliberate and expensive. But there’s something about it that makes me feel more at home than I do in the bougie bars on Collins Street.

This is a pretty good analogy for the man I’ve come to see tonight. Garrett Borns. Perhaps you know him as BØRNS. Maybe you’ve heard his duet with the reigning queen of Hollywood glamour, Lana del Rey. God Save Our Young Blood draws you in, sweeps you away and makes you long for LA even if you’ve never been. Especially if you haven’t.

I missed Melbourne songstress WOODES’ set due to a gnocchi-related mishap, but it must’ve been impressive. The room is buzzing when I arrive. I buy myself a plastic cup of red wine and feel like I’m at a strangers’ house party.

His set opens with the quintessential tune from his new album Blue Madonna—God Save Our Young Blood. The pulsing bass and dramatic crescendo sets the tone for a rollercoaster of a setlist. BØRNS describes it as a “fruit and cheese tray of the new album to taste”.

He knows how to tease a crowd and keep the excitement kicking. He’s enigmatic and sultry, but not afraid of the melodrama required to fill a stage, whether it’s ripping into a guitar solo or pouting and shimmying like Prince. He blows the crowd away with perfect falsetto in ‘Supernatural’ and belts out the chorus of ‘Man’ without breaking a sweat. To be fair, he’s dressed for the balmy heat in a sheer black shirt and yellow-tinted sunnies.

It’s BØRNS’ velvet voice that carries the listener through the experience, along with the siren-like vocals provided by his ¾ female backing band. They’re incredibly talented themselves, delivering eerie, sensual synths and drums to mimic a heartbeat while they harmonise.

My euphoria peaks when he seamlessly melds short, snazzy number ‘Tension (Interlude)’ into ‘Holiday by Madonna. Such a golden moment. Almost as golden as the moment an enthusiastic member of the audience calls out that classic line—“I fucking love you!” And he responds—“That’s what I love about Australia. You’re so sincere and concise”

In the inevitable encore, BØRNS apologises for his bad manners. “I’m sorry. I didn’t wish you sweet dreams…” And promptly launches into Sweet Dreams. I buy a t-shirt. Sweet Dreams Tour 2018.


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