A sun rose in a blood red sky as Gotye unleashed the first notes and lyrics to "Eyes Wide Open," one of the more upbeat tracks -- and first single -- off of Making Mirrors, the album he released in the late summer of last year. And so began the show, an experience that was at least as much visual as it was audio.
Kimbra, who's touring with Gotye so she can contribute vocals on "Somebody That I Used to Know," opened with her own songs; the New Zealand pop singer waltzed onto the stage in a ruffly pink dress reminiscent of a birthday cake. Her soulful vocals were stunning, and despite a weak last song -- it was a new one, she said -- she left the sold-out crowd clamoring for the main act.
Gotye's set was mostly an ambient trip through the tracks off of Making Mirrors, the album that pushed him into the international spotlight from Australia. His songs have a produced and sound effect-heavy but thought-provoking sound that really works on the album; Making Mirrors -- which showcases heady tracks like "State of the Art," weird songs like "We'll Be Watching You" and poppier ditties like "Save Me" -- is a perfect soundtrack for driving without a destination or a day on the ski hill. But Gotye sounds equally produced on stage, which is not just odd, but also a little suspicious; I heard at least one person nearby wonder aloud whether the band was just synching to a track (Gotye has said before, though, that he plays his shows completely live).
More impressive was the artist's visual focus. Anyone who's seen a Gotye video -- the one for "Somebody That I Used to Know" went viral -- knows that he has an affinity for imaginative art, and that was as important to his stage show as the songs themselves, as various scenes projected on a screen behind the band during each song: A comic-like character took on physical feats during the thrashing "Easy Way Out," a black and white drawing of a man shed his skin to become a bear and then a man again during the wandering "Smoke and Mirrors," and a smiling fuzzy cactus multiplied its limbs to the joyful tune of "In Your Light." It was enough to make me a little jealous of the numerous pot-smokers in the crowd; this was probably the best show to see high ever.
This wasn't a one-hit show, but to say that most of the crowd wasn't waiting for "Somebody That I Used to Know" would be a lie -- when Gotye re-introduced Kimbra, who emerged in a sparkly figure-skating getup, the response was cacophonous, and camera phones appeared en masse. That track came in the middle, against a backdrop of a heart that was divided and shaded in parts, similar to the abstract art of the video.
Gotye finished his main set with "I Feel Better," which, notably, lacked a projected background, coming as almost a rebirth under bright blue, red and orange lights. The anthemic track sent the crowd out on a high note and ensured we'd call him back for an encore, even if there was a bit of an exodus at the end of the main set.
At one point during the show, Gotye made an off-handed comment about having played a lot of seated shows on this tour, and I immediately wished he'd been booked into the Paramount here. Some tracks bounce along and invite dancing, but I can't help thinking that the full effect of his show would be better appreciated and absorbed from a space where you could sit and think.
Personal Bias: Making Mirrors was in frequent rotation for me this winter.
Random Detail: Gotye gave a shout-out to his stagehands at one point, thanking them by name. I dig that.
By the Way: Gotye's given name is Wouter "Wally" De Backer. Gotye comes from the French (Gaultier) for Walter.
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