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Like a friend rather than strictly an entertainer, Gotye-mastermind Wally De Backer addressed the audience at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre on Tuesday night with chummy banter and a lively performance that had him running all over the stage. As the singer bounced between several different percussion and synth-heavy instrument stations, showing the diversity of his musicianship, a large video screen played captivating cartoony clips behind his five-piece band. Seemingly always eager to get back to a ruby red drum kit in the rear, where he led the evening’s most forceful breakdowns, all the shifting about made for an exciting and heavily rhythmic show that had many at the outdoor amphitheater on their feet from start to finish.
The Aussie showed his gratitude between songs with a “thanks” or cheers.” Dressed in a light grey shirt and loosened black tie, when he wasn’t swaying to the movement of his playing, he would stand in a knee-bent power-stance grasping the microphone with both hands and belting out entrancing vocals with passion. Gradually, as things warmed up, De Backer interacted with the audience more directly, guiding the crowd through sections of handclaps or sing-alongs.
“This is a little song about the weather,” he said before launching into the steady drive of “Eyes Wide Open.” Long-exposure landscapes took shape behind him — images from the track’s popular music video only without its claymation characters.
Later, he introduced a number with another backgrounder: “This song’s about a special instrument that lives in my lounge room. Sometimes it sounds like this,” said De Backer playing an intro riff one way — “and sometimes it sounds like this” — playing the same riff in a different tone. Quickly, the groovy bossa nova beat of “State of the Art” kicked in with the track’s bizarre Ren and Stimpy-like music video accompanying it.
The chatter didn’t end there. “Can you help us out with this next one? There’s lots and lots of backing vocals, and lots and lots of people out there?” De Backer asked the crowd. Finding an agreeing applause, he thenled the men and women through various “vocal exercises” while delivering the song “Save Me” against a supernatural animation playing on the screen behind him that showed a sort of robotic alien being assembled by some small dust mite extra-terrestrial beings.
Nearly every song throughout the night had an accompanying video, and the clips were often so engrossing that one might actually forget to watch the band playing in the foreground. They ranged from Hayao Miyazaki-inspired animation for the song “Bronte” to magazine cut-and-paste mod psychosis for “Thanks for Your Time.” Fantastically crafted with a well-developed theme of struggle and longing, fans have been able to watch some of the videos online but the clips were still utterly mesmerizing. So much so, in fact, that it was almost a distraction from the group’s strong performance.
That was not the case for “Somebody That I Used to Know,” however. The mega-hit single that has earned Gotye massive international success and drew the nearly 6,000 people gathered at the outdoor amphitheater that night got he crowd’s undivided attention as only a simple video of watercolors shifted in the background. Before the first chorus, massive cheers erupted, and when the female vocals came in, which are sung by Kimbra on the recording and sometimes in concert, nearly every woman in attendance filled in for the absent chanteuse.
We have one more song left,” De Backer said afterwards and then began the 2007 slow-builder single “Hearts a Mess.” Like a blowout baseball game, some of the ticket holders were beginning to leave the venue as soon as the members of Gotye hit the last chords of “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Sure, the L.A. traffic is a bitch, but the early exit was a shame because that meant they missed some of the show’s best moments. Gotye’s hard-rocking return to the stage started with the night’s opener Jonti joining the band for the meandering instrumental “Seven Hours with a Backseat Driver.” That transitioned the evening into what felt like a ’70s pop-soul revue with the upbeat “I Feel Better” and “Learnalilgivinanlovin” to close out the night. In an extremely jammy finale, synthesizer and keyboard player Tim Shiel roared through a synth-saxophone solo on one of his programming pads that was so lively, it had the crowd almost foolishly cheering as if it were a real, acoustic instrument.
Again, De Backer addressed the audience with a simple “thank you” and a beaming smile. It had been a good night and a great year for the Aussie dreamer who seemed to appreciate and relish in every moment.
The Only Way
What Do You Want?
Easy Way Out
Eyes Wide Open
Smoke and Mirrors
State of the Art
Thanks for Your Time
Dig Your Own Hole
The Only Thing I Know
Giving Me a Chance
Somebody that I Used to Know
Hearts a Mess
Seven Hours with a Backseat Driver
I Feel Better
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