DMA’S live in Sydney review: trio ditch the dancefloor and dazzle with stripped-back set

Britpop revivalists pare down their sound to reveal songs built to rouse any crowd – even a socially distanced one

Back in the ancient past of 2019, when they were recording tracks in a fancy Los Angeles studio with superstar producer Stuart Price (Madonna, Kylie Minogue, The Killers), DMA’S would’ve been envisioning a very different version of 2020 than the one they’re experiencing now.

Awash in slick dance production, recently released third album ‘THE GLOW’ has clearly been designed to move a sea of ecstatic bodies at music festivals – a function that has been rendered useless thanks to COVID-19 putting a firm stop to mass gatherings of music fans worldwide.

Exactly how the Sydney band’s new set of maximalist tunes fare in a stripped-back live setting is the big question surrounding Thursday evening’s Unplugged & Intimate gig, the first in a series of nine sold-out dates in Sydney where DMA’S play two consecutive shows a night.


Responsibly social-distanced via cabaret-style seating at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre, the crowd are treated to a superb solo acoustic set from opener Hayley Mary (The Jezabels) amid a lo-fi, living room-style stage setup (nothing says “unplugged & intimate” more than a dozen scattered vintage lamps, it seems).

By the time the large, colourful neon ibis from the cover of ‘THE GLOW’ lights up at the rear of the stage – the only notable holdover from the album’s dancefloor aspirations – DMA’S have taken their positions and revealed tonight’s main configuration: Matt Mason on grand piano, Johnny Took on acoustic guitar, Jenny McCullagh on violin, Liam Hoskins on drums and lively frontman Tommy O’Dell, as ever, on vocals.

They begin with an instrumental version of ‘Cobracaine’, which gives an idea of what DMA’S would sound like if their main source of inspiration were The Go-Betweens rather than’ 90s-era Britpop. The left-field opening salvo offers up an intriguing alternate identity that fits them as snugly as O’Dell and Mason’s ever-present baseball caps.

DMAS Unplugged Intimate socially distanced show Sydney Factory Theatre review
Tommy O’Dell and Johnny Took of DMA’S. Credit: Brayden Smith

While DMA’S have already proven they can do the stripped-back thing thanks to their 2018 MTV Unplugged special, they still manage to surprise thanks to stellar versions of songs from ‘THE GLOW’ that manage to hold their appeal even when deprived of their digital bells and whistles.

‘Silver’ visibly enlivens the crowd and claims a spot in DMA’S arsenal of hands-in-the-air anthems, as does recent single ‘Life Is A Game Of Changing’. The latter threatens to instigate a spontaneous dancefloor once a thumping bass drum kicks in, the crowd clapping along enthusiastically to the night’s one identifiable dance beat.


Old favourites also get an airing. A take on ‘Lay Down’ featuring nothing more than two acoustic guitars further establishes its standing as the greatest Oasis songs not written by a Gallagher. O’Dell, likely sensing fans’ desire to bellow the song’s lyrics back at him, manages to rouse the crowd into a spirited singalong during ‘The End’ instead.

DMAS Unplugged Intimate socially distanced show Sydney Factory Theatre review
Tommy O’Dell of DMA’S. Credit: Brayden Smith

By the time DMA’S finish their set closer ‘In The Air’, a grinning O’Dell blowing the elated audience a kiss goodbye, the band have effortlessly demonstrated a gift for delivering feel-good crowd-pleasers irrespective of the musical instruments they have at hand.

Although you can’t help but fantasise about how tracks from ‘THE GLOW’ would go down on a heaving dancefloor, the COVID-created DMA’S 2.0 make a damn good case for why scaling things back in terms of production gloss and crowd size doesn’t have to result in anything less than epic and thoroughly entertaining.

DMA’S played:

‘Time & Money’
‘Hello Girlfriend’
‘Lay Down’
‘The End’
‘Life Is A Game Of Changing’
‘The Glow’
‘In The Air’