World Police and Friendly Fire
As a band known for their performance on stage, Foals didn’t disappoint last night at the Oxford Art Factory. It was the second of an exclusive two night run of Big Day out sideshows and a return to the more modestly sized venues that Foals’ music started off at – compared to the arena tours that they’ve embarked on as of late. On a stage that was just large enough to fit all the equipment, they were clearly enjoying themselves as they comfortably jammed to a string of fan favourites. Everyone sang along enthusiastically to Olympic Airways and Miami Blood as the lead singer could be heard telling everyone to ‘up the BPM’ in between songs. The night was not complete without its fair share of stage dives, crowd surfing, and at a point which the lead singer performed from atop the bar, much to everyone’s delight.
Sydney was also treated to three new songs from their yet to be released album Holy Fire, with the fans already singing back the lyrics to My Number and Providence. My first impression was they were headed towards a heavier, even ‘hard rock’ sound, but still managing to retain the distinctive dance-punk sound that they pioneered two albums ago, the first taste leaving everyone eager as ever to hear their upcoming album.
Total Life Forever
Red Socks Pugie
Two Steps, Twice
Tonight being the third time I was seeing Crystal Castles, I had a much better idea of what to expect from their live performance. And being the first time I was seeing them in an indoor venue like The Hi-Fi where the sound didn’t just dissipate into the atmosphere, it was perfect. From watching Alice Glass, the mysterious lead singer innately diving into the crowd more than a few times, to the convulsing sequence of lights, the experience was visceral. For me, it was difficult to pin down a specific highlight, as the energy sustained for the entirety of their 90 minute set with praise for their live drummer. Ethan Kath looked in his element as he head banged whilst operating various keyboards and synths. Wrath of God from the latest album, and Doe Deer were intense – but even more surprising was how engaging songs like Telepath, Reckless, and especially Intimate during the encore were. The 1500 or so people present had been caught in a trance by two elusive figures whom which most people don’t even know their real names, for an inexplicable mindfucking (for lack of a better word).
Wrath of God
Not in Love
After a day of relentless heat and humidity, the refreshing rain proved to be the perfect setting for Sigur Ros’ final show of the year. Perhaps out of place, they were one of the only international bands playing at the Urbanscapes festival, which from the outset appeared to be dominated by urban acts. Many of their fans in the audience had travelled from all over the country (and even further) to see them.
As the band came on stage to pick up their instruments, I felt I could finally stop holding my breath. The glockenspiel’s ethereal tune revealed an unanticipated beauty as they launched into the staple opener for this year’s tour, I Gaer, from 2004 album Hvarf-Heim with Jonsi’s distinctive voice overlaying the band. The backing brass, strings and choir worked well in adapting Sigur Ros’ epic songs for a live setting. And it was smiles all around for the band – especially Jonsi’s delight hearing the audience enthusiastically singing along to Med Bloonasir without any prompting.
Each sound that emanated from the stage seemed to be played in a meticulous fashion. As I was standing closer to the left side of the stage, I got a really good view of Orri, who played the drums with conviction – especially during Brennistein, introduced as a new song which had not yet been recorded. It was drastically different to the more ambient Sigur Ros sound in recent years. If similar to anything they’d done before, it would be the more post-rock sound of Von. The harsh, almost metal sound of the guitar and drums contrasted so well with the vocals.
This was followed by Varud, the only song from Valtari to be played. It sounded more beautiful than on the album, with the live strings and choir which really brought out the dynamics of the album, especially as the song reached its climax. Their final song for the evening was Popplagid, from ( ). Also used as the closer for the 2008 tour, it was still amazing to be in the moment as they slowly built up the song, as the stage lights flickered with the drum beats. The whole experience was quite visceral. At times I felt as though they had captured and held the audience’s attention effortlessly – both sonically and visually, the background landscapes and patterns moving in sync with the music.
Sure it’s true that for some people, it has gotten to the stage where it’s cool to hate Coldplay on account of their shameless attempt to be the biggest rock band in the world – but who cares especially if they produce songs that can be universally appreciated by the masses. As was the turnout, completely packing Sydney Football stadium, from the very young to the elderly, and Coldplay were exactly where they were meant to be.
Shortly after the lights went down, the show began, as fireworks erupted from the stage, the oval was showered with confetti, and the stadium lit up with each audience member’s wristbands, flashing in sync. It was difficult not to get caught up in the lights and sound that was Coldplay, as they played one of their singles from Mylo Xyloto, Hurts Like Heaven. And if this wasn’t enough, they then unleashed the elaborately decorated giant balloons, and lasers during Major Minus. The energy was high throughout the entire evening – the band were clearly enjoying themselves. It was hard to tell whether the audience or the band were happier to be there. their songs brought infectious smiles towards the audience, especially The Scientist and Yellow. A more rock-oriented version of God Put a Smile Upon Your Face was played, which worked very well. There was a good mix of newer and older material, including Warning Sign also from A Rush of Blood to the Head, a nice contrast to how much the band’s sound has changed since their early days. The audience couldn’t wait to join in at every possible opportunity, singing along with Chris Martin to Viva la Vida, and Paradise with not a care in the world.
The encore was played on a smaller stage in the midst of the standing audience as everyone on the floor scrambled to get a good view. Us Against the World and stripped down version Speed of Sound were both played beautifully. Returning to the stage, they played Clocks, a heartfelt Fix You, and finished off with the more upbeat Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, which was accompanied by a final display of pyrotechnics for the trip home, and a night well spent watching (and joining in with) a quartet of true performers.
Hurts Like Heaven
In My Place
Lovers In Japan
God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
Princess of China
Up In Flames
Viva La Vida
Us Against The World
Speed of Sound
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
It wasn’t until Thom, Jonny, Ed, Colin and Phil finally took to the stage that the fact that I was seeing Radiohead live truly sunk in. They looked comfortable, as they launched into Bloom, the opener from their latest album The King of Limbs. The stage featured twelve LED panels which were repositioned in between songs, to great effect, in addition to the hypnotic visualisations accompanying the music.
Most of their songs were adapted for a more rock-orientated sound from their original recordings, with the help of a second drum kit. Songs like The Gloaming and Myxomytosis sounded drastically different to their album incarnations, retained their original punch.
Sydney was also lucky enough to hear a couple of new songs throughout the night – Staircase and Fullstop which sounded like a continuation of their sound in more recent albums but was well definitely well received by the crowd. It seemed as though each song received a lengthy applause, just in show of appreciation towards the band for making their way over to Australia again.
Radiohead played a string of songs from In Rainbows, including Videotape, Nude, and Lotus Flower, which was probably the first song played so far, which remotely resembled a ‘hit’. The impression that they were much happier playing newer material was immediately dispelled when distinctly familiar intro to Planet Telex was played.
This was followed by Feral which was a surprise highlight for me; especially hearing the vocal utterances live, layered throughout the song, not to mention the build up of bass towards the end of the piece.
After a hugely animated rendition of Bodysnatchers, they came back for the first of three encores, starting with the quieter and more subdued Give up the Ghost with just Thom and Jonny on stage. The band then re-entered as Jonny Greenwood took to the lead, bowing his electric guitar in a haunting performance of Pyramid Song, one of my favourites off Amnesiac. This was in stark contrast to Paranoid Android, which the crowd sang along to almost religiously.
The second encore featured 15 Step, then an epic, drawn out version of Everything In Its Right Place, with the repeating keyboard pattern building up as the band members left one by one, then came back for the final time to play Idioteque, finishing off an unforgettable show that was many years in the making for alot of people.
Morning Mr Magpie
Give Up the Ghost
These Are My Twisted Words
Everything In Its Right Place
After seeing her at Laneway over the weekend, I simply couldn’t pass off another opportunity to watch Laura Marling play, especially at the Opera House. She played two entire sets, with the first half being her latest album, A Creature I Don’t Know in its entirety. Backed by a band made up of drums, double-bass, banjo, a cello and keyboards noticeably different from the more folk-oriented album, they reflected the strength of Laura’s more developed, and flawless vocals from the heartfelt I Was Just a Card (which Laura mentioned was actually written whilst in Australia during her last tour), to a fierce version of The Beast. Sophia was met with the loudest applause, as well as the more upbeat All My Rage.
Following a short interval, Laura and her band were back again to play what were clearly crowd favourites including Ghosts and My Manic and I. She and the band were clearly enjoying themselves, Laura treating everyone to some very amusing banter including interesting facts shared throughout the evening, for instance: that the inspiration for the song Alas I Cannot Swim came from an Iranian poem, or that the Queen is a frequent drinker of alcohol and also possesses a driving licence. When the band were introduced, the crowd was lucky enough to be further entertained by several doses of British humour. Sound wise, the acoustics in the Opera House emphasised the dynamics, especially noticeable during one of the highlights, Alpha Shallows. Laura also debuted an epic Andalucian-styled song for ‘pure self indulgence’ and purposes of ‘living life on the edge’ which was a real pleasure to hear.
For those who’ve not seen Laura Marling before, she explained that they didn’t do encores, as they think it should be something spontaneous (as do I), finishing off with the title track from the second album, I Speak Because I Can, and modestly and humbly left the stage to a standing ovation from a full house at the Opera House.
I Was Just a Card
Don’t Ask Me Why
Night After Night
Rest in the Bed
All My Rage
My Manic and I
Alas I Cannot Swim
New Song (unknown title)
Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)
What He Wrote
Made by Maid
I Speak Because I Can