Deap Vally - Oxford Arts Factory, Friday April 5
The two Californian rockers lived up to their name - sauntering on stage (on time, they're new) in embellished rocker jackets, ripped fishnets and wild hair - they were serious about their music but playful in between. There were dedications to the ibis, to the enthusiastic woman in the front row, to the "awesome Australians" they'd met. Between Lindsay's raw vocals and Julie's frantic drumming - it was quite an overwhelming performance for such a small venue. It will be great to see what these two can conjure up for a larger show.
Ben Howard - Metro Theatre, Tuesday April 2
The loud, improvisational nature of Ben Howard's live set was a surprise given the mellow, sentimental nature of his music. Howard was quite the character on stage- cracking jokes, humbly receiving shouts of applause and disseminating the boundary between audience and the star artist. Cruising through his last album Every Kingdom, he smoothly navigated between different dynamics, acting as a true storyteller, and with a no-fuss attitude showcased his impressive guitar work. It felt simultaneously like the show of an international pop star but also an appreciated musician with his own niche.
James Blake - Verbrugghen Hall, Friday March 22
In an explosion of colour and sound, James Blake took to the stage with a set that verged into performance art. He demands great attention with stretches of instrumental abstraction and dazzling lights show behind the musicians. The intimate venue fostered the atmosphere of a home-viewing, a taste of what is to come for the James Blake concert experience. Although much of his carefully constructed lyrics were lost in the hall, the sonic quality was unmatched and was truly something to get lost in.
Birds of Tokyo - Enmore Theatre, Sunday March 17
Perhaps it was the timing, a Sunday night, but for a band which has reached anthem-status in Australia over the past half-decade, their concert was tame. This is to say that the audience was patient and quiet - although it did come across as non-responsive. The band has recently released an album moving away from their pop/rock aesthetic into something more alternative, and it works on stage. They know how to order a show and maintain energy right until the final song.