Thursday, 26 January 2012

Odd Future live at the Enmore Theatre

It’s not often that a crowd is told to chant ‘nigga’ on cue over and over, but for Odd Future it’s just a part of their provocative act. The group headed down under for Big Day Out, and their much anticipated sideshow gave fans a live taste of the west coast charisma and controversial lyrics that have accelerated fame via internet for the young troublemakers.
At only 20, Tyler, The Creator, frontman and LA personality, captures his audience with his out-of-control dancing and dark humour. The audience was gulping it all up – bouncing when instructed, settling down during the lyric-laden verses and going nuts at the bass-heavy drops. At one point, Tyler even got OF’s funky female DJ, Syd Tha Kid, to restart a song: “No, no, we gotta do the drop properly!”
The rap collective seems slightly deranged, but with their energetic and mischievous hip-hop their stage show is sloppy but seamless. Bouncing around with tremendous energy, the group performs their own sets with passion and anger, leaving the audience in awe at their acapella rapping at full speed- Left Brain looks around -” Y’all couldn’t keep up!” “I’m too intelligent.” With no support act, the crowd was left to wait in suspense while the stage was progressively filled with smoke and hypnotic lighting. In suspense, shouting “wooolllf gang- gollfff wang” a short intro by Syd kicked off the riot of OF’s two-hour set including tracks French!, Transylvania and Sandwitches.
Since their performance at last year’s Vivid Live, OF has gained more fans and some young, angry ones at that- with plenty of kids packing into the tight venue to show off their knowledge of the free-thinking lyrics. There was a mixed audience- with weed-smoking hipsters, hip hop bros and trendy girls all doing their own thing and all dressed similarly in OF merch t-shirts. No one was worried about the absence of mysterious member Earl Sweatshirt by the time Tyler got to his hit track Yonkers with the crowd unleashing all frenzy and anger brought with them to the show.
Ending with Radicals hyped up the crowd to unpredicted levels, even rapper Hodgy Beats was getting aggressive in his dance moves. But when the crowd chants along to the little-less-than-subtle chorus it’s clear that this is all an act. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All know that their inherently white audience doesn’t actually ‘burn shit’ and ‘kill people’ but it’s entertaining enough to let loose and pretend to be a rebel for the night.
Published on Purple Sneakers.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Film Review - "The Descendants" directed by Alexander Payne

The Descendants (2011)               ★ 

Recent winner of the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture –Drama, The Descendants is a summer film which reminds us that sometimes it’s okay not to exist as an ideal, model family –and its descendants often stray from their allotted path. It’s not altogether a happy ending for the film, although there is a sense of resolution from the rippling drama running throughout it. Director Alexander Payne maintains the motif of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel- with the protagonist reminding us that families are like an archipelago (take Hawaii- for example), closely clustered yet inherently individual.

The film begins rather suddenly, with Matt King (George Clooney) sitting by his wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastle) in hospital, as she lies unconscious (and in a powerful coma) before him. Meanwhile, he is responsible among his extended family for deciding what will become of the Hawaiian virgin land on pristine Kauai which has remained in the family trust for 150 years, and is now too much of a burden to hold on to. All this unfolds while Matt, alone, juggles raising his tricky 10-year-old daughter Scottie (played by Amara Miller) and dealing with his misbehaving 17-year-old Alex (of TV fame Shailene Woodley, who received a Golden Globe nominee for her role as supporting actress). The story is mainly filmed from Matt’s eyes, but through its portrayal of generational interactions it tackles the complexities and intricacies of family life, anywhere really.

The entire film is seeping with raw emotion, tension and temperamental intensity. George Clooney’s performance is worthy of his Golden Globe win (Best Actor- Drama). His impassioned soliloquies throughout the story seem difficult to perform, yet are executed theatrically and with dignity. It’s almost as if his enraged frustrated rants at his comatose wife could be performed on stage with the same level of personal involvement for the audience. In fact for a drama, The Descendants is particularly melodramatic, but it does not seem artificial. These are real family crises. Even Shailene Woodley delivers her lines as angsty 17-year-old Alex with an acute intensity and energy, swearing enough to shock the audience into wondering how she gets away with it.

The cinematography is well executed, breaking up the heated dialogue-laden moments with silent landscapes, allowing the audience to contemplate and deliberate while the characters on the screen digest the often harsh and hard-hitting conversations. Hawaii, as a setting, complements the film’s atmosphere with stunning backdrops suiting the active easy-going lifestyles of the characters but also acting as a classic antithesis to the total dissonance of the King family life. It’s hard not to get sentimental –even close friends are dragged into the swirling mess of misunderstanding and madness surrounding Elizabeth King. And to top it all off –before the accident she was having an affair.

Comic relief is aplenty and sometimes it’s hard not to laugh at Clooney’s over-developed infuriation at his impossible circumstances. Alex’s slightly dopey friend Sid (Nick Krause) delivers his inappropriate butt-ins with spot-on timing and their blatantly offensive manner is a recipe for chuckling. As the film progresses we delve deeper into the characters and their relationships, and there are several heart-warming moments that will see this film become a “timeless classic” – as Alexander Payne claimed when he accepted his Golden Globe. One thing is for sure; it’s a must-see, or at least an excuse for a good cry.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Arctic Monkeys live at the Hordern Pavilion

Call it revived British invasion- all the same the Arctic Monkeys live set at the Hordern this January was less a pyrotechnic rehearsed stage performance than a Cavern Club rock show. Fans of the Sheffield foursome packed into the dark snug venue to be immersed in smart and articulate Brit rock. The band has abandoned its mod aesthetic, which could be attributed to their initial success, for a more spunky rock look- with Alex Turner and his band mate guitarist James Cook decked out in Grease-inspired leather gear and slick haircuts. The Monkeys really took advantage of the live show to bring out the most from their instruments and deliver more than a rendition of their studio-recorded tracks.

The Arctic Monkeys have come a long way from their first Australian performances in 2006- now cool and collected, and very comfortable in live settings. “We love coming down under! The monkeys love coming down under!” Alex Turner exclaims in between tracks- constantly referring to the crowd as Sydders! Apart from the predictable banter: “Are you having a good time tonight, Sydders?” and sense of effortlessness on stage – (Fair enough, the band only had to stand on stage to receive unending applause) – the Monkeys kept their audience enthusiastic and satisfied.

Their list of tracks came to a round number of 21 and the set list pleased fans with a mélange of old and new. It is primarily the Suck It and See tour but the Arctic Monkeys weren’t afraid to return to their much-loved and played-to-death old songs. Early tracks were greeted with roars of applause- including hat trick Brianstorm, The View from the Afternoon and I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. The band has previously admitted that they are not quite the ‘sing-a-long’ band but this did not deter the audience from singing along to EVERYTHING. Even, and especially, drummer Matt Helder’s song Brick By Brick on the 17th repetitive lyric ‘brick by brick’. Oh well, we’ll leave the words to Turner.

Some lyrics are nonsensical, some are witty – but whatever strings of playful imagery or alliterative rhyme the audience was chanting it all right back. The vaguely unpopular third album Humbug actually gave the band some great live material- maybe because they aren’t yet sick-to-death of performing it, or are revel in its fiery lyrics and heavy tunes. Pretty Visitors stood out for me-it is a dark, dynamic and lyrical song and was amplified in a live performance. The show had great atmospheric lighting, matching the energy of the crowd and performers. The Monkeys lingered after each track, replacing breaks with drawn-out endings, intermittent pauses and false starts.

Ending the main set with When The Sun Goes Down showcased how the band works well together- with Cook and Turner’s suspenseful guitar strumming in sync with a deliberative bass line and Helder’s strong and vigorous drumming, which holds the band together. Turner is definitely the ringmaster but all are talented musicians, especially showcased during the Library Pictures solo.

The Arctic Monkeys blend lovable youthful spirit and dark brooding attitude. They have harnessed the sensitivity of ‘70s romantic ballads, the noisy submerged sound of ‘90s grunge and utter control over their instruments to create a musical style and execution that is all but their own. In a live show they ensure a smooth, flowing set with all the energy required to distract a crowd from their sweaty, unpleasant surroundings.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Fleet Foxes live at the Sydney Opera House

Seattle sextet Fleet Foxes is touring Australia this summer but it’s their sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House that got them most excited, with drummer Josh Tillman exclaiming: “Do you guys actually come here often? Is that what Sydney people do?” and likening playing at the house to being at the Taj Mahal. The Concert Hall proved to be the perfect venue, maintaining a sense of intimacy which a FF concert fosters and providing the ultimate acoustics for a live show purely about the music.

Fleet Foxes have achieved their own sound in the midst of a folk-hippie revival. It is not often that a band of humble proportions receives a standing ovation at a major city landmark. They are versatile as musicians – each member is not exclusively tied to one instrument, bringing out flutes, dulcimers and Tibetan singing bowls during the show- and skilled at performing their multi-harmonised songs. The vocals seemed to be drowned out a lot of the time, with lead singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold straining to be heard above the layered sounds in the hall- which is a shame as the lyrics were lost to any new listeners, especially the more poignant ones of 2011’s Helplessness Blues.

The lighting for the show was simple but effective; at climactic parts of the songs it shone into the audience. The concert focused on the music, with the patient audience sitting silently while the artists shifted around instruments between tracks. Background graphics enhanced the viewing experience, ranging from nature scenes to psychedelic patterns. However, the folk enthusiast audience was pleasurably immersed in the sound of FF’s dense vocal arrangements and Pecknold’s masterfully created music.

The set list included new songs such as Battery Kinzie and Grown Ocean as well as the much-loved Your Protector, Blue Ridge Mountains and White Winter Hymnal. The opening strums of 2008 favourite Mykonos early on in the show let the audience know that the band wasn’t about to abandon its classic tracks. Pecknold was in the spotlight for most of the concert but the live setting allowed the audience to see the dynamics of the complex music, with the six musicians performing well together and skillfully in their own right. The songs flowed beautifully into each other but it was the new track The Shrine/An Argument that stood out for me – even receiving a cheer when it began.

Overall a more humble and traditional approach to stage performance worked well for Fleet Foxes, whose unique music and exceptional talent was deeply expressed to an audience of devoted fans.