Image: Vasili Papathanasopoulos
Last night, Ziggy Ramo made his long awaited return to the stage, performing his debut album Black Thoughts in its entirety for the first time in front of a live audience. Having played the album last year at the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Hammer Hall, the COVID-19 pandemic limited the showcases to live-stream events.
With St Mary’s cathedral looming in the background, Ramo entered the stage with the sounds of chains dragging behind him, the imagery present of the musician and his band dressed in outfits suggestive of an oppressive uniform. Opening the set with The Beginning of the End, Ramo captivated the socially distanced crowd, with his evocative and conversational lyricism taking centre stage.
In what came to be seen as something posed almost like an essay, each song could be viewed as a response to a news report or statement put out into the world, similar to the format of the record. Demanding an explanation as to the actions of an ignorant parent who sent their child to school dressed in black face for book week, Black Face reinforces the position that, “black skin isn’t a costume”. Ramo’s passion evident, reaching its height mid song. That energy was met with cheers and applause from the audience, with Ramo ultimately overcome, dropping to his knees upon the songs conclusion.
White Lies was proceeded by Interlude: Survival Day, comprised of a collection of statements in response to the actions and significance of January 26th. With an electric stage presence, Ramo was stamping his messages on the stage. Furiously jumping across the floor and gaining complete control of the space surrounding him to the chanting of, “white lies, real lies”. The movement drawing key symbolism, with words such as “joining dot to dot”, putting pieces together, stating, “we can achieve anything that we like”.
Heading into Black Thoughts, the revolutionary track recounts the everyday oppression Indigenous Australians face, with lines such as, “Lest we forget our stolen youth”, feeding into the following song, April 25th. Concluding Black Thoughts with the lyric “blacker the skin, the police shoot”, at the sound of the word shoot, Ramo falls backwards. Opening with an altered version of The Last Post, April 25th juxtaposes the treatment of Anzac soldiers with Indigenous Australian’s who fought for their country, making direct comparisons and urging people to “love our blacks the way you love our Anzacs”. The emotionally driven performance built to a crescendo, with Ramo falling to his knees, weeping and uttering the phrase “I can’t get my culture back”.
Stand for Something saw the musician shed his chains, still clutching them throughout the song and Secondary. The latter saw frantic pacing from Ramo, before throwing the chain to the ground whilst reinforcing “black is beautiful, don’t you ever mistake it”. Opening with an orchestral string version of the Australian national anthem, a news report is over-layed detailing the possible punishment of Australian boxer Damien Hooper, who wore an Aboriginal flag into the ring for his Olympic fight. Ramo talks about Aboriginal culture, being one of the oldest empires in the world still standing today, “Rome is fallen, Babylon too, but Aboriginal’s still here that’s true”. Ramo ended the performance stating: “Always was, always will be. Sovereignty was never ceded”.
Altering the instrumental and opening lyrics of Fire, Ramo brought more movement to the stage, dancing and swaying from side to side whilst performing the melodic track, before launching straight into Pressure. Good Things explores the musicians mental health, creating raw and emotional moments of a different nature within the set. Having picked up the chain again, Ramo used the chorus to really hone in on how he’s feeling, pressing the matter to the audience, before exiting the stage.
After a brief moment of instrumental violin plucking with a trumpet interjecting, Ramo returned to the stage, wrapped in an Aboriginal flag where the yellow sun has been shaped as a love heart, as Kids began to play. The track serves as a message to future generations to own your identity, and the importance of understanding where you’ve come from. Ramo ended the song by stating, “It’s hard. It’s fucking unrelenting. It’s systemic. It’s overwhelming and it’s hard, it makes me want to fucking give up cause if we’re ever gonna change shit how can it be on the oppressed? How can the oppressed be oppressed, and also be the people that fixes this? We’re 3%, we need to come together as 100. We all have a part to play in this, all of us.”
Ramo takes the flag, placing it on the ground, before ending his set with Tjitji, his collaboration with Miiesha that appeared on the Deadly Hearts - Walking Together compilation album. Again, touching on themes of mental health and Aboriginal rights, Ramo reflects on his relationship with his father, ending the song on bended knee with a call to action, “the solution’s in your hand.” He was quite emotional at this point, awith an audience member yelling out to comfort him, “love you bro”, with applause and cheers from the audience following this proclamation.
The musician thanked fans for attending the show, and for creating a space to take in the content of the tracks. Ramo futher displays emotion as he recounts the initial creation of the record, recalling the time he found himself in hospital. Ending the concert with a moment of reflection, “It’s so simple we’re human, and we’ve been wronged time and time again and I know that we have the strength to be able to change this” Ramo pauses, trying to stay composed. “ I genuinely thank you all for holding space for me tonight, because so many of my community we’re marginalised, we don’t have a voice and we change this together. I wish I had some articulate shit to say but I’ve been burnt out ,so thank you all so much this is a very surreal moment and this is the start of our journey right? Like this is, It takes every day, it’s not a post on instagram its not you know “I’ve got that one black friend” like, this is everyday for us and the fact that you guys are here, listening, taking it on, this gives you know, these songs aren’t just observations its my life, I’m not an observer I’m not free from it I experience it, just like my community experiences it and this gives me hope and you know having been very hopeless before, thank you for coming on this journey and I’m gonna go lie down and cry for a bunch more and then get back up and keep going, so thank you.” Receiving a standing ovation to cheers and applauds, as church bells ring in the background.
Bringing his electric stage presence to the set, Ramo crafted an engaging and mesmerising live performance of Black Thoughts. Evoking emotion through each track, laced with unapologetic delivery, the sit-down format of the event allowed audience members to take in and understand the heavy lyrical content, and engage within the conversation. The shared experience of live music transcended Ramo’s previous performances of the record, culminating in unique and stand out moments for audience members to take away. Ramo was able to bring people together to stimulate thought and conversation, whilst taking them on his own personal journey.
Images: Vasili Papathanasopoulos