The precise level of downpour, gentle yet steady with the odd trickling of water over the hilly town was an unexpectedly perfect backdrop for Zoë Keating’s performance at the Clarendon House. Katoomba, especially is probably one of the places in Sydney most closely resembling a forest, fitting with the sound of her latest album, Into the Trees. With a simple stage setup – two launch pads hooked up to her laptop, and a cello, the sound produced, a steady flow, filling the room. Zoë Keating made playing the cello seem effortless as her every bow stroke was amplified crisply throughout the room. As an audience member, I was purely transfixed by her fingerwork, skating across the cello’s fingerboard, all the while operating the loops at the correct time. It was a breath of fresh air to hear the cello being used in a contemporary setting, and not subject to classical music confines.
Zoë Keating used a range of techniques, showing the versatility of the cello is, plucking and percussively tapping with the back of the bow in Tetrishead, a song about fitting together musical ideas. This did not detract from the flow, the audience mesmerised by her subtle swaying movements with her cello, an extension of her instrument. The basslines were hauntingly beautiful, especially layered together then harmonised. Exurgency (from the early EP, One Cello x 16) was a song that demonstrated the complexity of setting up her music live. Zoë explained how she was only able to play it as a result of significant improvements in RAM, trading in loops for the laptop. It was great to hear several songs, including The Path played very differently to the record, incessantly transforming over time, with the use of the cello’s bridge to produce rhythm, Zoë joking (probably not) that tonight’s was The Path version 4.3. She rounded up the evening with a more upbeat song, Optimist, which was written after becoming a parent.
Alot of people were at the venue for some Friday night entertainment, but by the end of it, it was unmistakable that the crowd appreciated Zoë Keating’s talent, and watching her playing an instrument she truly has a passion for.
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