There was the familiar buzz of sawing synths, hopping basslines and even drum pads nicked straight from Phil Collins (or the intro to Art Attack). Whatever Leads Me To You mined a fine pulse in its New Order hooks, but soon succumbed to its cool affectation. Though the blue-light new wave of O’Connor’s album works well at home, on-stage, it translates as ‘music to pout by.’
A duet with his keyboardist skirting perilously close to a karaoke parody. Ironic or not, the sight of the two engaging in a mock embrace before standing mawkishly at front of stage was awkward. Overall, it was more Berlin’s Take My Breath Away than Depeche Mode’s Violator.
Though Melbourne duo Big Scary have graced the Corner’s hallowed stage countless times as a support act, tonight marks “the first time we’ve played last,” notes Tom Iansek, opening proceedings alone at the guitar with newly returned “studio beard,” his bronzed falsetto in fine form.
Rejuvenated from their American sojourn playing dates at SXSW, Canadian Music Week and their first international headline slot in New York; the pair of Iansek and Jo Syme (Melbourne’s Coolest Female DrummerTM) are nothing if not creatively restless.
Though they settled into a masterly mode of delicate introspection for debut album Vacation, their full bag of tracks includes explosive garage rock, finely polished piano pop and more than a few stripped-back duets. A feat all the more convincing when performed with just two bodies on stage. Though they’ve transcended the early sonic comparisons to The White Stripes, they still share the magical ability to generate, bottle and subsequently unleash terrific bursts of energy as much as evoke poignant reflection. Tonight, on the first of two sold-out shows, they provide both - as well as a handful of impressive new tracks.
Following the rousing march of ‘Autumn’ and the scale-tastic ‘Mix Tape’ we are treated to the first of the fresh material. The deep melancholic chords of ‘Secrets’ lap against Syme’s hip-hop worthy shuffle as the pair coo “your mouth was open/but you waited for too long.” Another newbie finds Iansek strumming big flanged guitar chords straight out of Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ against a stripped-back rolling drum pattern. Stylistically it suggests Springsteen’s Nebraska has been getting a workout on the tour stereo.
Latest single ‘Leaving Home’ is a set highlight, the duo sharing a warm smile after reaching its cathartic apex featuring Iansek’s Jeff Buckley-worthy wail. Also tapping into Buckley’s 'Dream Brother' for another new song entitled 'Belgian Blues', Iansek encouraging some “wolf howling” to buoy its enigmatic shapes.
The final half of their set features a slower take on fan favourite ‘Bad Friends,’ and the fragile, hypnotic ‘Of Desire;’ juxtaposing the slow-burn introspection favoured by their debut with their louder, rockier material. Namely, the Zeppelin-esque corners of ‘Tuesday Is Rent Day,’ and the infectious blues groove of ‘Purple.’
With their strictly ‘no encores’ policy, the pair close with ‘Gladiator,’ perhaps their most well-known and loved song, combining their passion for intelligent songcraft with a visceral performance. It summarises all of the group’s best qualities, musical and otherwise, in just three-ish minutes and provides a fitting end to another splendid evening with one of Melbourne’s finest musical duos.