Gotye keeps it low-key in EMU performance
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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.