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Posted on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 7:38 a.m.

Gotye keeps it low-key in EMU performance

By Will Stewart

What did you think of the show? Leave a comment and/or vote in the poll at the end of this post:


Gotye publicity photo

Combine a hot young singer riding a smash-hit single with a lean rock band and an adoring audience and the onstage results should be unbeatable, right?

On Monday at Pease Auditorium, Gotye, the Belgian-Australian phenom, combined all those ingredients into rather a thin soup.

Not that there was anything unpleasant about it the performance; it just didn’t really have enough of an identity to register.

Instead, the singer—born Wouter De Backer—and his four-piece band maundered through 80 minutes of vaguely atmospheric, sometimes soulful, highly sampled material that, to our ears, never really found its way.

For instance, it probably isn’t a good sign when the short films playing behind the band are more compelling than what’s happening onstage.

“It’s lovely to be here in Michigan, for the very first time,” Gotye said by way of introduction several songs into his low-key performance. “Thanks for having us.”

The singer made for an interesting frontman, partly because he had so little to say, but also because he splits his time between singing and playing various percussion instruments.

In fact, most of his band members were also multi-instrumentalists, moving around the stage to man samplers or other electronic gadgets in an attempt to create sonic landscapes to envelop the singer’s somewhat anemic songs.

On Monday at least, the songs seemed there to serve the atmospherics—samples, vocoder, drum triggers, you name it—rather than the other way around. This melding of effects and Gotye’s faux soul vocals resulted in a somewhat schizophrenic collision of styles that failed more often than it succeeded.

The roomy acoustics within Pease Auditorium probably didn’t help the situation, swallowing up some of the nuances and rendering some of the heavier passages a soup.

Of course, when the opening act, Kimbra, came onstage to sing her part with Gotye on his smash, “Somebody I Used to Know,” none of this really mattered. As a sea of smartphone videographers captured the moment, the pair recreated their hit and all was right throughout the sold-out house.

The fact that the tune is by far Gotye’s best song, means that the remaining half-hour of the set couldn’t help but go downhill. Without the material to maintain the momentum, the main set limped to a conclusion amid mopey readings of “Bronte” and “Hearts a Mess.”

But by then, the air was already out of the balloon.

By the time the band re-found its backbeat for a three-song encore, it was academic. The band and the singer could have used some of that energy earlier in the night.



Thu, Apr 5, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Not sure that you were at the same concert that I was, sir. I think the voters on the poll would agree. If the poll question was "How would you rate Will Stewart's review of Gotye's performance at EMU?", the results would be inverted and 66% of respondents would say "Fail". Perhaps you should try and learn a bit more about the artists that you are reviewing, rather than showing up as a 50+ year old guy at a show aimed at a more appreciative, younger generation. Both Kimbra and Gotye are fresh in their careers, respectively. They are off to a great start so far. 7 of 10 people that I polled had no clue who they even were. I didn't go to their show expecting them to carry the stage presence of U2 or the Rolling Stones.

Will Stewart

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

50+? Ouch!


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Is that pronounced like goatee? Or is it

Jimmy McNulty

Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.



Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

The replacement of the lighters with smartphones at arena-rock shows is cold and disconnecting....