Gotye – Live

<img src="" alt="Gotye : Live" />Gotye played London's massive Hammersmith Apollo, in the largest Australian expat community in the world....
Gotye : Live

Having cut my teeth as a music journalist on the streets of Melbourne at the same time fellow-Melbournian Wally de Backer (later Gotye) was fine tuning his musical prowess, your correspondent was well aware – and quite a fan – of Backer long before he hit the big time with his phenomenally successful single, “Somebody That I Used To Know”, featuring up-and-coming New Zealand songstress Kimbra (QRO live review).

First released in Australia and NZ in mid-2011, that smash single from his third album reached unprecedented success; it clocked up over 350 million views on YouTube – charted in the top ten in over 30 countries, sold 10 million copies worldwide and became one of the best-selling digital singles of all time.  Instantly, Gotye became one of Australia’s most successful musical exports in recent years.

But with great success comes great expectations, and as Gotye was billed to play the 9000-capacity Hammersmith Apollo on Tuesday, November 13th and tickets were a (little-on-the-expensive-side) £26.50 (US $42), I was expecting a top show from one of my favourite Australian artists.  It’s unfortunate to say, but I was disappointed.

Hammersmith Apollo

GotyeAs the lights went down, the 5000-odd crowd in attendance erupted with excitement as Gotye and his band came on-stage and kicked off proceedings with the upbeat “The Only Way”.  Against the backdrop of a floor-to-ceiling screen playing a cool modern-pop art video of coloured ink swirling, the opening song peaked when Backer jumped on the auxiliary drum kit with the drummer for an impressive drum duet (if you will).  It was a strong start to the night, but perhaps the highlight.

Over the following songs, performances of Gotye’s other minor hits such as “What Do You Want”, “Easy Way Out” and “Thank You For Your Time”, the crowd’s enthusiasm seemed to wane.  The audience wasn’t necessarily having a terrible time, more that it was just okay.  At one point spotted two people smack bang in the middle of the crowd, in the second front row (i.e., prime position!) just casually standing there, the guy eating a ham sandwich and the girl tucking into a bag of crisps.  (Not your usual “I’m having so much fun / time of my life / best night ever” crowd reaction of people essentially in the mosh-pit location, but hey, perhaps they were just really hungry…)

Gotye on drumsOne of the problems seemed to be that there was no real connection with the crowd.  Backer, one of the nicest guys in music, but perhaps not a comfortable frontman (he did start off as a drummer and bedroom producer), only ever talked to the crowd to say “Thank you” after each song and sometimes to introduce one of the four additional band members on the night (all dressed like him in black shirt and trousers and a white thin tie).

In fact the lowest point of the night came when Gotye, winding up the set, announced the band would now play some slower, quieter songs.  When the audience shrugged and murmured in response he point blank said: “Okay then, well who is only here to hear that one song and then go home?”

Perhaps because this was the only real question he asked the crowd tonight, perhaps because at this point his band all put their hands up (which one couldn’t believe – and crowd’s at concerts usually do copy the people on stage), or perhaps because they really were here to only hear ‘that song’ (and of course they were, but sure they spent all that money to hear a concert, too), the crowd erupted in cheer.

Gotye had dug himself a hole and had no option but to play “Somebody That I Used To Know” (the crowd seemed enraptured to sing Kimbra’s part), which screwed up his set as instead of ending on that high, he ended with the slower, quieter songs he was originally going to play.


Gotye on drumsThe crowd did stomp and cheer for an encore, but when the band returned to the stage with a weird rehearsed gag that involved honking bike horns at each other and then jammed out for their first ‘song’ rather than play a song people might know, several people at the very front on the barrier just turned and left.

It also felt as though the band weren’t really enjoying themselves.  It didn’t feel as though they were particularly in party spirits, ready to impress, happy to be there.  At one point when Backer took over the drums, the drummer jumped on a raised platform in the middle of the stage and – perhaps because he didn’t know what else to do or perhaps because this was his way of enjoying himself – began doing ‘the robot’.  If one thinks of a moment when the band seemed to be enjoying themselves most, this awkward robot moment would be it (!)

somebody who used to know Gotye?The venue was located in Hammersmith, widely regarded as home to the largest Australian expat community in the world, and no doubt that many people at the show tonight – like your correspondent – were familiar with Gotye’s back catalogue and didn’t seriously consider him to be a ‘one hit wonder’ and weren’t here just to hear that ‘one song’.

If only he and the band could have put a bit more enthusiasm and confidence in to the show to prove it.

I suppose I was most disappointed by the gig because I’d enjoyed so many Gotye and The Basics (Backer’s other project) gigs in Melbourne in the past that were so much better than this show tonight.

Concert Reviews
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