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Gotye in San Francisco

Gotye Live
I’ve been living in San Francisco now for just about four months, yet between all my of my song-writing, business excursions, and musical endeavors I haven’t had the opportunity to take in one live show yet - save for a few local gigs at venues such as The Hotel Utah. So, when a friend invited me to check out Gotye (www.gotye.com) with her this past Wednesday night I was eager to tag along.

I’m not the kind of person to get to a show early, and Wednesday’s show was no exception. Honestly, I expected at least two opening acts, but we arrived about 30 minutes after the show started to find that Missy Higgins (www.missyhiggins.com), Gotye’s fellow Australian tour mate was not only the lone opener, but that we had missed all but one song. Oh well… It is what it is.

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was packed with a line half way around the block when we walked up, but we quickly entered the main floor and stood about 2/3 of the way back for most of Gotye’s performance. Now I’ve been to some “weed-smoker” concerts in my time, everyone from Dave Matthews to Alice in Chains back in the day, but wow, the Civic Auditorium (a non-smoking facility) was engulfed in a haze of pot smoke so thick that toward the end of the concert I had to recede to the lobby thinking I was getting a bit “high” myself.

Wouter “Wally” De Backer, known by his stage name Gotye opened his performance with “Eyes Wide Open”, which I feel is one of the stronger tracks on the “Making Mirrors” record. For what Gotye lacks in charisma live he makes up for with musical talent and showmanship. And his strong tenor-type voice sounded live exactly how it sounds recorded, which was another pleasant surprise. What really jumped out me however, was Gotye’s proficient drum and percussion skills. I had noticed while the stage crew was setting up that there were two drum kits, and almost every song Gotye did something in the percussion vein, sometimes getting so into it that I found him overshadowing the actual “drummer”.

With a large projector screen behind he and the 7 piece band, I found the cinema displays and their song synching movies very much like other shows that I’ve been to in recent past, including one from jónsi, of one of my favorite bands: Sigur Rós. And the movies that played during the show to each song were impressively done: sometimes light in nature, sometimes dark and eery and other times almost comical depending on the song.

About half way through the set, Gotye performed “Easy Way Out” - possibly my favorite song that he does, and it was during this track that his live performance reminded me so much of Peter Gabriel, that I had to lean over and express that to my friend who had invited me. I could see how Gotye’s voice could be compared to the likes of Gabriel or even Sting, but even his live show with the lights, movies, band, etc. was similar in many ways as well.

He ended up following “Easy Way Out” with crowd favorite “Somebody That I Used To Know” which brought out even more marijuana and when the chorus hit the crowd erupted into a frenzy. Missy Higgins also emerged back on stage to sing the female accompaniment with him for this track as well, and I’ll admit I liked her voice with him on this song about as much as I liked New Zealander’ Kimbra’s voice on the original track.

Overall, it was a great show, and while the acoustics in the Civic Auditorium aren’t perfect and Gotye seems lacking in the personality department a bit, I’d give the show a two thumbs up. Next time though I’d love to see him perform in a smaller venue and give us a little more back story on a song or two.

NC

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