I knew this gig was going to be special when I marked it my diary weeks ago. Valar’s hauntingly beautiful EP, The Belly of The Whale, has received quite the work-out on my iPod. But that wasn’t the reason that had me feeling so confident; my true marker of success was measured by the fact that the gig was going to be held at Paddington Uniting Church. I was fortunate enough to see UK songstress Laura Marling perform there earlier this year and, as always, she was simply breathtaking. However, it was the venue that made all the difference. The angelic acoustics and divine nature of the church created the perfect atmosphere for otic delights. Lit only by the dim glow of candlelight, Valar managed to revive this beauty once again.
Support act for the evening was multi-instrumentalist Tim Fitz. Unfortunately, his performance did not take advantage of the wonderful acoustics that the church had to offer. The volume was too loud, which caused a clash of sounds rather than cohesion. I’m not really sure if this was the experimental nature of his songs, or just a bad day at the office. Whatever the case, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get into it. I don’t think his performance was a reflection of his talent – even the greats are allowed one bad gig; it was more the fact that he underestimated the sound abilities of the church.
Whilst I failed to enjoy what Mr Fitz brought to the table, there were some children in the audience having the time of their lives interpretive dancing around the church. Their whimsical display of innocence was very sweet and kept the audience entertained. I too was enjoying their silly games until a friend of mine leaned over and said, “Imagine they’re drunken midgets”. I will never look at children the same way again… But that’s a whole other issue.
Despite rocky beginnings, by the time Valar took to the stage all past misgivings were well and truly forgotten. Their genuine love and respect for each other was tangible and shone through in their music. They kicked off their set with a mash-up of new tracks, Transplanetary and Battery Hen. It became apparent rather quickly just how skilled these guys actually are. For a good 5 minutes I couldn’t take my eyes off drummer Tim Parsons. His timing and dexterity was a sight to behold.
Managing to balance their sounds with the acoustics of the church perfectly, Valar pleased the masses with old favourites, including East of Here, Silverman, and my personal favourite — the uplifting Uptight. However, the real gems came in the form of their new tracks. Worth particular mention was Baby I Like The Feeling. I don’t like to drop the “R” bomb unless I really have to, but the comparison has to be made: there is a very Radiohead-esque vibe emanating from these little-known Sydney-siders. Frontman, James Blackwood’s chilling vocals cascading over sparse percussions and one very electrifying bassline resulted in aural perfection. I’d go as far to say that this would be their equivalent of Fake Plastic Trees. Big call I know, but I’m sticking to my guns.
Other new treasures included Waterfall, which like its namesake built to a dazzling percussion-driven crescendo; and final track of the evening, Anoesis. Blackwood’s radiant voice preaching, “Take me to the outer regions, so I can dance with the angels,” was very fitting considering the surroundings. At one point he mentioned that playing to quiet audiences is very disconcerting. My answer to this is: the only appropriate reaction to a Valar gig is complete and utter silence. Even the tiniest sound has the potential to hinder the amazing flow of music. They’re that good.