Gotye @ The Opera House, Sydney (20/08/2011)

I think the planets were perfectly aligned when a range of bright-spark animators were tasked with bringing to life Gotye’s latest album, Making Mirrors. His performance at the Opera House last Saturday was phenomenal.

In place of an opening act, the seated crowd was treated to a screening of The Lost Thing, acclaimed animated short film by Shaun Tan. The giddying highs and mournful lows of the film’s musical score were performed by an on-stage mini-orchestra, giving us a taste of the Concert Hall’s acoustics, while the bittersweet animation set a high bar for the graphic artists who were to follow it.

Being a tightly organized show the wait time between opener and main act was limited to the time required to amble out to the bar and grab yourself a beer. About three sips into a schooner, Wally De Backer stepped out onto the stage and started things off with a selection of tracks from his most recent album.

The crowds warmed to the well-known opener, first single of the album, Eyes Wide Open, and were won over by an energized percussion solo at the close of Making Mirrors, with an animated half-bear half-man projected on a massive screen behind the ensemble.

Gotye’s emphatic performance of State of the Art was a standout of the night, perhaps spurred on by the flawless animation that accompanied it. This one was animated by Greg Sharp and Ivan Dixon of Rubber House specifically for the track as its official film clip, and despite not being commissioned for the Graphic Festival, is likely to have made its way into the show due to being so precisely evocative of the feel of this song.

Somebody That I Used to Know roused a cheer that was only overpowered by the screams that went up when Kimbra stepped slyly onstage 2 minutes and 36 seconds into the song. This masterfully crafted track has garnered such widespread approval that a mediocre performance would have been happily met by many, but the two vocalists definitely delivered, belting out the lyrics with chilling desperation. It should be noted that Kimbra stole the show with her green velvet mini dress and humble demeanor. She had already snuck half offstage when Wally tried to thank her after they were done.

Other highlights came in the form of Waiting for You and Hearts a Mess, which has suffered from overplaying since its release back in 2007, but is reinvigorated by Gotye’s charismatic performance. Meanwhile, Waiting for You, complemented by a melancholy anime-style clip and executed expertly in the cavernous Concert Hall, squeezed a tear or two out of…an unnamed individual.

While Gotye’s accomplishments precede him, the animations played an integral role in this show, especially considering the choice of venue. The Opera House Concert Hall promoted a thoughtful mood for the show, great for seated appreciation of Gotye’s music and the animated art, not so much so for dancing to upbeat Motown style tunes with no animated accompaniment. As such, great tracks like Learnalilgivinanlovin, lost a little bit of their clout in contrast to State of the Art and Waiting for You, which were performed to their advantage in this venue, bolstered by artistic displays and a seated audience.