Ladyhawke, All the Colours @ Metro Theatre, Sydney (18/7/12)
If you’d asked the majority of tonight’s audience about All the Colours prior to their support slot tonight, you’d have been met with a sea of blank faces and head-scratches. Their mystery, however, was quick to unfurl in a spiral of jangly pop guitar, huge harmonies and the sharpest suits you’ve seen since the Pulp Fiction dance scene. All the Colours are here to party like it’s 1969, rolling through some seriously sharp retro-tinged tunes that pop just as much as they rock. Their influences are worn both on the sleeves and in their instruments – the guitars recalling the Davies brothers, while the back-beat bear striking familiarity with the McCartney/Starr rhythm section. Hell, they even pull out a version of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) mid-set with spectacular results. Considering it’s one of the more difficult Beatles tunes to pull off live, it’s notable that the band managed to faithfully recreate the cathartic dynamics found within the song while also adding in their own distinct flavour. All the Colours are no tribute band, mind – as a matter of fact, they’re ones to watch.
After an extended wait, Pip Brown and her cohorts in the Ladyhawke live experience took to the stage and kicked into Back of the Van from her 2008 self-titled album. Interestingly, this opening number said a lot more about the performance that was to follow than it probably should have. In broader terms, it was enjoyable enough – but something was missing.
To be specific, despite given extra time to set everything up, the guitars could not be heard for most, if not all of the set. The four men that make up Brown’s band, too, are more than capable musicians and yet are severely lacking in charisma. It’s almost as if they are disconnected from the music entirely – although playing something as groove-driven and upbeat as Paris is Burning or Girl Like Me, they look as though all they can hear is the voice of Thom Yorke reading the financial review. Certainly, these things can be dismissed as trivial – and, had it not lasted beyond the first few songs, there’s a good chance that they wouldn’t have even been worth a sentence, let alone this paragraph. When these unfixed faults remain throughout an 80-minute performance, however, it takes a far greater precedence than it has any right to.
It wasn’t a night with all hope completely lost, thankfully. There’s a certain something within tracks like Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Sunday Drive and Magic that boosts the energy levels and generates at least some form of movement from a too-cool-to-dance Sydney crowd. Ending on her signature hit in My Delirium was also a great touch, with the song sounding as fresh and catchy now as it did when it first hit airwaves roughly four years ago. These moments, however, were simply not enough to offset the dragging of the set that felt nearly half an hour too long. Including literally every song from latest album Anxiety was certainly part of the problem – tracks like Cellophane, for instance, do nothing to keep the show’s momentum going and there is a very cold, despondent reaction to it from both band and audience.
Brown is a very talented and smart songwriter and musician, but this is still yet to properly translate into the live context even after extensive amounts of touring. However, is a setlist that attempts to throw everything at the wall when clearly not all of it is going to stick. A sharper hour-long set would have lifted this performance significantly; but for now it feels disappointingly flat.