Last week, our wildly adventurous photographer Debi Del Grande took a trip “Down Under” to check out Sydney, AU’s Vivid Sydney: Light, Music, & Ideas Festival. It’s a spectacular adventure that paints the popular city with a “canvas of light, music, and ideas,” and as the festival’s website indicates, includes “breathtaking immersive light projections on the iconic Sydney Opera House sails, performances from local and international musicians as part of Vivid LIVE and a free outdoor exhibition of interactive light sculptures.”
We decided to scope out Vivid LIVE.
As we reported a month ago, legendary UK goth troupe The Cure planned on reuniting with older faces at the event and dusting off their first three albums, performing each in their entirety. Luckily, Del Grande captured this moment, in addition to some other favorable performances, including sets by Architecure in Helsinki, Cut Copy, and what appeared to be a breathtaking gig by Spiritualized, who brought their 1997 seminal album, Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space. Now, admittedly, this isn’t Consequence of Sound‘s traditional festival coverage. But we truly felt that there were some important moments in the live scene happening here, and we wanted to share some glimpses with you.
Spiritualized – May 28th
You couldn’t ask for a better setting than the Sydney Opera House. The historic landmark was perfect for the English space rock group Spiritualized to revisit their 1997 effort, Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space. On Saturday night, the celebrated UK outfit arrived at the surprisingly quite intimate venue, squeezing onto the stage with their gospel choir, brass section, and string section.
Although Jason Pierce (J. Spaceman) is on vocals and is arguably the main focus, he still chose to sit on the right side of the stage, where he sat with his guitar, leaving the middle front section bare. This was actually ideal as the focus was on the band as a whole. In other words, you just sat back and went on a trip (sans any cannabis, of course, especially at this venue).
Starting off with “Ladies and Gentlemen”, complete with the sampling of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, spectators were immediately pulled into an idyllic dream world. Quickly following, the brass section and guitars came into heavy play on “Come Together”, though just as you started to rock out and move a bit via “Electricity”, the music settled and the trip took a different turn.
Spiritualized is a test of patience at times, but at the Sydney Opera House, it all worked. It was refreshing to not have your eardrums pounded with manic drumming, shredding, and high-pitched vocals. Instead, the set commanded your attention (“Broken Heart”) and soaked you with full-on noise (“Home of the Brave”, “The Individual”). Listening and watching a full band like this without the cheat of tracks was unreal and because of the sheer size of the performance, I knew this was the only time I was going to have this experience. I wasn’t alone, either.
Architecture in Helsinki -May 29th
Before heading to the USA, the Australian (they are not from Finland) indie pop band Architecture In Helsinki also made a stop at the Sydney Opera House. Down now to six members, it’s been at least three years since we’ve heard from the lively Cameron Bird, Gus Franklin, Jamie Mildren, Sam Perry, and Kellie Sutherland. Performing songs from their latest LP, Moment Bends, the quintet were also accompanied by a couple of sax players and sort of “choir” of friends who they need a name for.
Bird, sporting a Lyle Lovett hairdo, let his smooth whispery vocals soar across the vacuous and world adored acoustics the Opera House offers. The mutli-vocal/multi-instrumental band made some easy transitions from poppy numbers to beautiful ballads. It wasn’t until more than half way through their set, however, that Sutherland observed how odd it was to play to a seated crowd. He insisted for people to enjoy the music and dance, stating, “It won’t be disrespectful.” Thankfully, everyone got up and moved.
Cut Copy – May 29th
There are two places at the Sydney Opera House to hold shows. One is the Sydney Opera House and one is the Concert Hall, which is slightly bigger. The dance party was held by Cut Copy at the latter. With a stage set up by foilage to mostly hide their equipment, it seemed as if we were partying in a modernized rainforest. Unfortunately, what’s difficult about the Concert Hall is that it’s entirely seated, exactly like the Opera House. In fact, it’s almost impossible for a dance crowd to actually get their groove on with no room whatsoever. Still, life found a way, and soon enough, people poured on the side aisles to finally break free. Band members Dan Whitford, Tim Hoey, Mitchell Scott, and Ben Browning did what they do best and, as a result, there were no hiccups on sound or with the lights. Lesson learned? The electropop band needs a general admission floor to have the proper energy it craves.
The Cure – May 31st-June 1st
Fans of The Cure from all over the world did whatever they could to get inside the Sydney Opera House. Why wouldn’t they? It was hands down the most anticipated event within the Vivid Sydney lineup. As rock history has shown, Robert Smith’s The Cure remains one of the most influential bands in the world. At Vivid, they did the impossible: They reunited with former bandmates and performed their first three albums in its entirety: 1979’s Three Imaginary Boys, 1980’s Seventeen Seconds, and 1981’s Faith. Roger O’Donnell (keyboards) returned to the band for the latter two and original member Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst (keyboards/percussion) for Faith.
The night started off with Smith (vox/guitar/iconic hair and bad-ass outfit), Simon Gallup (bass/moves like a cat), and Jason Cooper (drums/hair almost as high as his drum kit) for Three Imaginary Boys. What was surprising is that it took forever for people to get out of their seats. When the set came to “Foxy Lady”, I, personally, was dying to hear Smith sing this as he didn’t on the actual recording and from I hear, he wasn’t too fond of it. But to hear him play the guitar and belt out the lyrics during these shows, it worked and it actually yanked fans out of their seats. (Finally, right?) Although they left out “Weedy Burton” the first night, they did include it on the second night, especially after the band was made aware that people noticed the first night’s slip. Sneaky guys, but diehards notice these things!
When it was time for Faith, however, Tolhurst joined the aging rockers and received plenty of cheers to welcome him back. All of the songs on this set were as solid as can be, with “The Funeral Party”, “All Cats Are Grey”, and “Faith” invoking so much passion, placing The Cure at a level like no other. A nagging idea lingered, even long after the performance: These are songs that make you feel. During the show, I was completely motionless and tears came out of nowhere. Fingers crossed you can experience that, too.