In the 9+ months or so since I first laid ears on Gotye’s big hit “Somebody That I Used To Know”, Wally De Backer became an unlikely mainstream radio (lower-case s) star. The song, featuring that never-before-written-about-in-songs-concept of breaking up, features the vocals of New Zeland popstress Kimbra, and is a quirky thing. And such was it charms that it became the launchpad for Gotye and propelled him into sold-out venues.
Still, I don’t think a lot of us were xpecting a theater full of doe-eyed young girls and quaint middle-aged couples. Or maybe we were, and were nervous about this.
See, Gotye straddles a ledge: his music’s alternative and edgy in places, exciting to those of us who get hives at the thought of being trapped in a AAA playlist. His albums owe a debt to the 80s and electro, are incredibly percussive (de Backer’s an excellent drummer himself), expansive, and playful. He can belt, when he wants to, too. “I Feel Better” will totally mess with your head. Izzat Cee-Lo singing? No, it’s a weedy dude from Australia. Awesome!
But then there’s the quiet stuff. Maybe the stuff for Sarah McLachlan, who was hanging in the back of the venue for the gig. It’s the radio-friendly stuff. It’s the singalong stuff of “Save Me”, and “Heart’s a Mess” which on this night sounded warm and…accessible. It’s good stuff, sure, but to me, it’s the stuff that lacks the confidence I want it to possess and the adventurousness I know he’s capable of. In fact, musically, Gotye sometimes darts all over the map. Where’s Wally? What’s Wally? Some songs sound big, others flat.
But live? He’s energetic, sincere, nice. So what more can one ask for? The musicality on stage was impressive – his band’s fantastic, Wally surrounded by drums, drumpads, fancy xylophones and tech gadgets – and they looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves. From the get-go, “Eyes Wide Open,” “Easy Way Out” and “The Only Way” filled the Vogue, with tight, triple percussion. And the vocoder’d low dub-meets-(Thomas)Dolby of “State of the Art”? Great. Inserting “Somebody That I Used to Know” mid-set rather than the cliché ender? Nice one. The rest? Uh…hey, he was energetic, sincere and nice!
Gotye might not be MY thing all of the time, but what does that matter? Does it matter to him? ‘Course not, why should it? Music’s subjective. And it’s his thing. And it might be your thing. And while I’d love if his thing swung back around my way, the love of young doe-eyed girls and radio programmers is a good thing, too. Right? \m/