Gotye with Chairlift and Jonti @ Orpheum Theatre – August 31st 2012

Last night was a busy concert night in Vancouver. We saw Gotye, Jane’s Addiction and Young The Giant all play within blocks from one another. With this in mind I expected to arrive at the venue and find little to no lineup, boy was I wrong. I arrived at the Orpheum Theatre about an hour before the door open mark, and there were about 300 people already queued up. I took my spot in line, and began waiting with the others.

After the doors opened, we all quickly took to the orchestra level seating area and claimed our real estate. The venue was a buzz with excited energy, I too was mildly swept up in it.

The lights to the venue were chased away by darkness, a single figure stepped on to the stage. It was the first of two opening acts, by the name of Jonti. He is a multi-instrumentalist, arranger from Australia. He proceeded to delve into an eclectic wash of harmonious electronic tones mixed with a sweeping array of samples. He added highlights of quick fingered licks on his turquoise Fender Stratocaster, and topped it all off with sentimental lyrics delivered with a droning vocal set. It was all very interesting and pushed the boundaries of what is normal these days. For me it was reminiscent of the anti-pop sounds from the likes of the Butthole Surfers during the early nineties.

I was surprised at the lack of respect the audience gave Jonti. While a few very enthusiastic and vocal members of the crowd cheered the artist on, others were just being rude. People were yelling conversations across several rows of seating, which at times nearly overpowered the more subtle portions of Jonti’s set. I was ashamed of our hometown. Well ashamed of some of them.

The first act quickly exited the stage and within about 20 minutes the second act had started to migrate forward. Chairlift is a synthpop band from New York. The lead singer, Caroline Polachek, is a tall, thin, beautiful woman with an angelic voice and flower child essence. Her partner in crime is Patrick Wimberly, on lead guitar. He stalks the front of the stage with just the right amount of rocker attitude. The band is rounded off with a keyboardist, a bassist and a drummer, all of whom seem to fit the same bill as Wimberley.

They delved into their set and for a moment I was taken back. Caroline has such a powerful voice, and she uses it to create these intense harmonious tones that rattle you. The entirety of the band delivers such a rich and intense sound, but it is not overbearing or self-indulgent. My favorite part of their set was when they sang “I Belong In Your Arms” but switched the language to Japanese. It seemed to have the Sigur Rós effect, whereby you didn’t need the words to truly appreciate the sentiment. I was impressed.

The band thanked the crowd and left the stage, and then we waited, and waited, and waited. After nearly 40 minutes, it was time for the last act.

The house lights once again lowered, and a series of quick-moving shadows took to the stage. Various blue stage lights slowly brightened the venue. Wouter De Backer, better known as Gotye stood behind one of many drum stations. With no introduction the band began permeating the air with their beautiful music. The sound was vibrant and deep. I was thoroughly impressed with their live show. They backed their stage with a 40 foot tall screen which allowed them to accompany each piece with its own video. This allowed the night to be interesting from both a visual and an auditory perspective.

I was taken back by how well the bands catalog was received. Well I know a few of the bands major pieces, I looked around the crowd and saw, what mostly appeared to be a female contingent, singing along to almost the entire set.

The culmination of the evening was of course when the band played “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Moments prior to the song Gotye invited the audience to flood the front area near the stage. When the band started into the xylophone introduction of the song, the venue erupted. During this song and this song alone, the entire theater joined in for the sing-a-long.

I have to say I was impressed with all three acts from last night, each on a separate level. Jonti’s experimentation opened me up to interesting musical textures. Chairlift’s frontwoman swooned my ears with her beautiful words. Gotye’s set was the complete package and sealed the night off perfectly. I would suggest checking any of these bands out should you ever get the chance. Thank you to Jonti, Chairlift and most of Gotye, you brought a wonderful thing to us last night, and I am happy to have witnessed it.

Photo © Jamie Taylor

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