Is it possible to fall in love with a man based solely from hearing his music? I wonder. If I had been alive in 1810 and lived in Vienna, would I have fallen in love with Beethoven just because I attended a performance of his fifth symphony and loved the musical complexities that permeated the fabric of the concert hall? If the music adequately reflected the man, then I would have to say an emphatic yes! and this is also the case with Wouter DeBacker, aka Wally, aka Gotye.
A friend of mine asked me late Thur. night if I had plans on Fri. because she came across a set of tickets for the Gotye show the next night. Gotye? Who is that? was my initial reaction, but I trust her taste in music. So we made our plans, and I found myself at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia on Mar. 23. We got there almost two hours early and the line stretched down the block. This is a good sign, I thought to myself. When we were finally let in, we scored seats in the front middle orchestra section. Things were off to a good start…and it only got better.
The opening act was another pleasant surprise. After a lukewarm start, New Zealander Kimbra warmed up the audience with her velvety voice and rocking band who, if judged by appearance alone, would have been composed of 1980s Adam Sandler, House Party‘s Kid and Play, and two random guys. Kimbra herself looked like she raided the closet of one of the children from Toddlers and Tiaras, but she exuded such sensuality that it could almost make a person uncomfortable from the paradox of sights and sounds she was giving off. Very effective. Anyway, Kimbra remained upbeat and energetic and got the audience to follow her three songs into her set.
Having never heard of Gotye before, I had no idea what to expect. No preconceived notions, no snotty bullshit reviews from “industry experts,” no history of singles overplayed on radio stations to taint my opinion…just myself and the musical and visual experience. I choose the word experience because what I witnessed that evening was a culmination of musical genius against a backdrop of corresponding animations that engaged nearly all of my senses and pulled me in. Within minutes I was oblivious of the sold out crowd around me and completely entranced by the various threads of talent weaving together in front of me to create a beautiful and warm blanket of musical experience in which to wrap myself.
Gotye’s set list included many from his new album, Making Mirrors, as well as some from previous albums. I wish that I could have sung along like the girl behind me who would occasionally burst out between songs with, “Oh yessss, Gotye, do it to me!” But alas, part of not knowing what to expect includes not knowing the words. However, this gave me a chance to really listen to the lyrics instead of letting them bounce off of my consciousness. Poetry–sensations, expectations, yearnings, happenings, sufferings, excitations–it was all there. He moved far past the radio-friendly “Somebody I Used to Know” and included lesser known, but probably even more musically endearing songs like “Eyes Wide Open,” the dark and twisted soundscape of “Smoke and Mirrors,” the catchy crowd participation of “Save Me,” and the hauntingly beautiful and simple “Bronte.”
I don’t want to make a mistake in overlooking his band. Each performer seemed to be a master of his instrument and they all worked together to help create the magic of the evening. Everything came together to make this the best concert I’ve ever attended.
Rarely has a live performance inspired me, but I can say that this show made me want to uncork the creative fury that has been brewing inside of me for months now. If you have an opportunity to see Gotye live, please don’t pass it up. You might just find your own inspiration…and you might just fall in love with the music and the man.