Our packed second instalment of music highlights from Dark Mofo, brings in a strong mix of genre bending sounds, from the orchestral hip hop sounds of Kelsey Lu to the aggressive guitar growls of Anna Calvi, read through for more.
serpantwithfeet + Kelsey Lu @ Odeon Theatre 13th of June
“..uniqueness of a genuine performance(in the true sense of the word) was refreshing and welcomed.”
Kelsey Lu doesn’t like it when you use her full name, so for now I’ll refer to her as Lu in this piece. Lu’s presence was engulfing and pure, walking on stage to bird sounds you would find on a Spotify playlist for relaxation, Lu’s act was highly sensory and visual - gracing the stage dressed in an incredible silk like draped gown, her character and presence were layered heavily through her performance. Playing a multitude of tracks from her latest release 'Blood' which in it's own right is as ground breaking as the artist herself.
So captivating was the performance, that I felt guilty for looking down and tapping notes into my phone - particularly when I could feel the eyes of with her (cult) following in the back of my head, but to be honest, there eyes were warranted- the show was magic and to look away was sacrilege.
The foundations to Lu’s music - embodied by the classical - with the upper levels, topically based around RnB, warranted interesting portrayals within the lyricism.
Her interactions through the set were largely reciprocated, taking time to note the atrocities happening in Sudan at the moment, the air & respect creating a very safe space, that encouraged the crowd to let go and be present with her words, voice, music, and the entire production. V good.
Stripping the stage of all instruments and banners, we're left with a single nord keyboard and synth set up, off to the side of stage which means its now time for serpentwithfeet (yes, you best make it all one word and lowercase). Josiah Wise bringing his eclectic neo-soul stylings to the Odeon theatre. The peculiar delivery of songs, at times, very shambolic and sporadic in tempo, with many many ad libbing moments involving the audience, at times was all too much for some punters, a steady flow of people receding to the exit, but for those into it, the uniqueness of a genuine performance(in the true sense of the word) was refreshing and welcomed.
Given the tone of the show, specific songs within the set were touched on & sometimes never played in their entirety. The vibe was very much “run off the cuff”. Whilst this formula is very much enjoyable to witness, it can be at times monotonous (also hard to write a review to). All things considered, Wise's performance instilled everything one would want and expect from a Dark Mofo show.
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FKA Twigs @ MAC2 14th of June
“…visually emotional, Barnett wipes away tears and we're left realising that we were witnessing an artist at their most visceral.”
Walking into the MAC2 performance space, it's hard to not be taken back by the scale of the venue(an old ship hanger), the dim lighting and echoed ominous sounds carry throughout the venue creating an eerie, yet relaxed atmosphere. Something like a dreamy festival, that you're somehow floating through from space to space and not really having any bearing on where you are or how you got there.
A giant red velvet curtain covered the entire stage which drapes at least 30m in height(yes, huge), the lights dim and we're introduced to FKA Twigs, donned in an outfit that can only be described as a mid century "jesterial" like number. She stands silent as a spotlight slowly comes up. At which point Tahliah Debrett Barnett goes through a 5 minute tap routine, with ease, before opening officially with track 'Hide' from 2012's 'EP1'.
There are so many elements to tonights production - layered with technical dance performances, large scale backdrops, literal scaffolding with pole(for moves words cannot even describe, but alas I'll try). And the costume changes, sweet jesus, the costume changes. Second track in the set commences with a thick layer of haze bellowing out from the crack in the curtain, which slowly opens to scattered strobes, silhouetting a now goddess like Twigs, donned in an elaborate white silk number that is hard to describe(see pictures), bring on the sombre industrial sounds of 'Water Me' from 2013's 'EP2'.
Costumes curated and styled by Mathew Josephs are gorgeous pieces of art, which Twigs works into each scene seamlessly. The overall look, feel and execution is flawless, given that Twigs has taken a break from performances prior to the release of Cellophane, it would be easy to assume she hasn't been on break at all. Every element of the production for this tour has been thought out, which leaves almost zero downtime in the 90 minute set.. Literally none, the first time Tahliah greets the audience is at the end of the final song(pre-encore), which is an all too brief "thank you so much Hobart" in its short simplicity a sincerity reigns through harder than any rehearse monologue I've had to bare witness to.
This production, complete with pole dance routine, which in it's own right was a spectacle unto its own, had travelled around the world to land in Hobart.. Hobart of all places! Yes, Sydney too, the fact this would only be seen in two locations in Australia makes the experience that much more a noteworthy happening.
In much the same regard, the closing resemble the opening, with a single FKA Twigs standing spotlit against a red velvet curtain. 'Cellophane' the latest single from the yet-to-be-released EP/LP was delivered in such a special and captivating way. Somehow all the glitz and spectacular artistry that was on display, not moments prior, all faded away to a single solitary emotional Twigs. The sincerity and emotion was not lost on me as the lines..
"And didn't I do it for you?
Why don't I do it for you?
Why won't you do it for me
When all I do is for you?
And didn't I do it for you?
Why won't I do it for you?
Why won't you do it for me
When all I do is for you?"
are strained out, only just composed enough to maintain their structure. By the time she sings her last note, visually emotional, Barnett wipes away tears and we're left realising that we were witnessing an artist at their most visceral.
The gratitude ran thick as the crowds cheers and claps didn't close until the curtains did and we're left trying to put into words what we just witnessed. God bless Dark Mofo.
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Anna Calvi @ Odeon Theatre 15th June
“..were moments where Calvi's guitar stylings were truly on display, taking the time to build and then explode..”
It's an early one, like super early. I'm actually quite stoked. 6 pm gigs are few & far between. The fact I get to witness the shredder stylings of one Anna Calvi makes this early show that much sweeter!
Swaggering onto the stage, amongst ominous cymbal rises & old western like guitar licks, Anna Calvi commences her set with 'Rider to the Sea' from her 2011 'Self Titled' album which subsequently leads into following track off said album 'No More Words'.
The style and mystic around Anna's performance is a well oiled machine with glimpses of humility shining through, in the form of outraged guitar stabs, yet to retreat back into the calm and composed reserve of a verse sung.
Taking time to get lower and intimate amongst the crowd during 2018's 'Hunter' track - 'Dont Beat The Girl out of My Boy' Calvi's dynamics were on display belting out the interlude on her knees before quietly whispering the chorus to a select punter in the front row.
'Indies or Paradise' from the aforementioned album, were moments where Calvi's guitar stylings were truly on display, taking the time to build and then explode as the visual accompaniment to the sounds she was creating through the road worn fender telecaster.
Whilst "Indies" showcased the guitar prowess, the synth heavy title track off 'Hunter' would showcase Calvi's incredible vocal range, at time dipping into a David Lynch-esc fever dream of whimsical and imaginative audible planes.