photography by Kevin Nguyen
Gotye revisited Upper Darby’s Tower Theater for the second time in a six month stretch, touring for the 2011 album, Making Mirrors. Back in March, Kiwi songstress Kimbra had been paired to the tour, but this time the Gotye ensemble was accompanied by Jonti and Missy Higgins, creating a veritable Australian showcase of sound.One-man act, Jonti, kickstarted the evening with from within his EDM-esque stage setup–huge wall of lights, Apple laptop prominently displayed high up on a stand, centered within an array of keys and other gadgetry. Delving into Jonti’s work prior to seeing him live would lead most to believe he couldn’t reproduce his music without a huge ensemble; however, Jonti navigates the complexity of his rich sound through songs like “Hornet’s Nest”, and controls precise vocals while playing a ukelele through “Saturday Night Songs”, in a way that demands as much awe as respect.
(Disclaimer: I understand that Jonti is originally from South Africa, and later moved to Australia where his music career took off. I don’t want to piss him, or any of you fact-checkers, off, so I’ll just drop that info right here. Thanks. And Jonti, thank you for giving me my sunglasses back at the bar before heading off on the rest of your tour. Honestly, I would have cried.)
Second to the stage was Missy Higgins. Despite lacking the psychedelic total effect of Jonti, Missy’s songs offered an introspective set, replete with sweet melodies and the visitation of deepest emotion. Though not as well-known as Gotye in The States, the catalog of songs Missy played have achieved long-lasting success in Australia, from 2004’s The Sound of White, through 2007’s On a Clear Night, all the way to 2012’s The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle. She was, in fact, an odd fit between Jonti and Gotye–artists that heavily utilize sampling, visualizations, and electronically produced sound–but Missy’s live, instrument-wielding quintet played great and sounded great. But the energy just didn’t fire up the way every trigger and note signaled that it would. I truly hope to see her back in town soon because something was amiss that evening. Philadelphia can be a tough crowd and also a very forgiving place, but rarely both on the same night.
And then there was Gotye…
Back on March 23rd, on the very same stage, what Wally De Backer & company brought was a contraption of absolute sensory warfare. The amazing part about that show was the persons controlling that very contraption–five humble, delightful players jiving together to operate a truly amazing sound machine. And on September 29th, I was a little bewildered and completely overwhelmed when I realized that this show was even better. Some of the subtle differences that those who attended both shows could see were: instruments now strategically placed around the stage allowing Gotye’s actors to move unobstructed and easily seen; even more striking to the eyes, some new and some improved visualizations; better setlist, and the nice addition of some older songs. The only downfall to those folks who never delve past pop charts: no Kimbra.
But the true fans didn’t miss Kimbra a bit. Sure, Missy Higgins reappeared on stage for “Somebody That I Used To Know”, and she sang it fabulously. But the best live experiences come through the driving bass line of “Easy Way Out”, or through Wally’s hollow whispers in “Bronte”, and definitely through the jazzy, gospel riffs of “I Feel Better.”
Of course, there’s the all-out assault of “State Of The Art”, where every member of the band seems to crack their knuckles, psyching themselves up for the main event. Right before taking the tour stateside, Gotye literally geared up for this particular song, and back in March they exclaimed how they “brought out all the toys for this one.” It’s a phenomenal team effort to bring to life the nightmarish vintage organ music inside of Gotye’s mind, and they do it on each and every stop of the tour.
Saturday night peaked, and the energy gently faded out. Gotye wrapped the evening with “Learnalilgivinanlovin”, a tune reminiscent of old doo wop. The aisles of the Tower Theater flooded with people dancing towards the stage, feeling the vibe; and Wally preached his message for the evening: “Give away love, give it for free, no strings attached, just don’t ask for it back.”