The Avalanches (& Friends) @ Sydney Opera House
The sun was still fading as homegrown producer Jonti began his set at roughly 5pm. Boats of all shapes and sizes drifted across the harbour, decked out in technicolour lights as an extension of the magic Vivid was already spreading across the city. The northern boardwalk – sandwiched between Sydney Opera House and the water – was this year’s host to The Avalanches’ Block Party. Spread over two nights, with two entirely Avalanches-curated line ups, the block parties were a chance to see their ARIA award winning album Since I Left You “performed live in full at Vivid LIVE for the first time since 2001.” Supposedly.
The night without a doubt took a while to warm up. Jonti, famously known for his replication of The Avalanches’ album Since I Left You at Vivid LIVE 2014, played to only a handful of scattered crew workers and media. It was a disappointing turnout for someone who seamlessly transitioned through a set of blossoming electronic music but what can you expect from a five-hour event that starts on a Saturday afternoon? The crowd steadily grew through rapper Briggs’ quick fire half-hour set as he threw as much energy into the little time he had, even including a mini five minute set from his right hand man for the night DJ Total Eclipse.
When DJ Shadow took to the stage at the mild hour of 7pm, a sea of bodies greeted him. Night had well and truly fallen by now and the scenic outdoor location was filled with a diverse crowd, all waiting with anticipation to see what the award-winning DJ would bring to the table. Much like Vivid itself, Shadow put on a show of haunting, expansive beats paired with visuals so captivating that even the most blasé punter stood still in awe. An hour and a half set may have seemed like an ambitious feat, although it was cleverly set out in two parts: the first being a series of ambient tracks to immerse yourself in, followed by a half hour of DJ Shadow flexing his party starting skills. Just when the crowd were getting a little restless, they were taken down a more amped up, hip hop directed path. Shadow’s technical skills (namely, scratching) are second to none and this set only re-enforced his status as both a DJ and artist.
To put it bluntly, The Avalanches’ highly anticipated live debut at last year’s Splendour in the Grass fell short. Sound issues, missing members and general flatness overpowered their usually dynamic stage presence, so there was a little apprehension in the air before the start of their Vivid set. However, all this uncertainty left within five minutes as the supergroup came bouncing out with full throttle energy straight from the get-go.
For a set that was marketed as Since I Left You played in full, The Avalanches strangely – but pleasantly – featured a lot of highlights from their recent album Wildflower. The magnetic, feel-good anthem ‘Because I’m Me’ kicked things off, followed by a rousing version of ‘Frankie Sinatra’ that saw early support act Briggs make a triumphant cameo. ‘The Noisy Eater’ made an appearance, in all its sample-heavy glory, fusing together Sesame Street with The Beatles in a childish wonderland. Even the dreamy ‘If I Was A Folkstar’ got a spin, featuring Julian Hamilton from The Presets on vocals.
With every hyped performance and technicolour dance break, it was clear The Avalanches are back and better than ever. From Paris Jeffree holding nothing back on the drums to Eliza Wolfgramm and MC Spank Rock charismatically bookending each number, the set never faded. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ and 2000 title track ‘Since I Left You’ were obvious standouts for the diehard fans, executed in full with all the quirky touches The Avalanches are known and loved for.
Despite the warm crowd reception to The Avalanches’ colourful and chaotic set, the night ended abruptly after only an hour and fans were left patiently waiting for an encore that never came. It was one of those performances that left the whole crowd wanting more, but for what it’s worth, that hour of power was gold.