Please believe me when I say I wanted to love this gig. Shamir’s debut LP Ratchet is one of my favourite dance albums in recent memory, and so believe me when I say I wanted to love this gig. The mambo percussion and down and dirty bass that drives the songs elevates the record beyond the norm, and far above the IDGAF attitude of the lyrical content. I was expecting big things. I was expecting to be blown away by the latest groundbreaker from Nevada. I was expecting Sam Smith meets Azalea Banks.
What I got was more along the lines of Elmo on acid, which in all fairness should have been far more fun than it was. In short, what I was hoping would be a night of challenging the norms and celebrating great, modern electro pop ended up being a night of challenging my resolve and celebrating great, modern electro pop.
The super high pitched tone of Shamir’s vocals are a producers dream, but live were borderline comical. The guy is ridiculously talented, that much is clear, but the dominating hold of his crazy, often kinda sharp, high notes were grading.
Call It Off the track perhaps suffering from this the most. If you want to blame the audio guy, it may have been the levels, but even a step away from the mic may have been worth a shot. Not to be outdone, the bizarre mic effect that transformed a gorgeous tiny back-up singer into Barry White ensured confusion all round. And perhaps that is the best way to describe this one… Confused.
But hey, there was a lot to like. Perhaps the saving grace of the night being that what there was to love, there was in spades. The room pulsed with rhythm, while on stage there was a lot of jumping around, and the one-track acoustic guitar break for Darker was a nice touch if not a little out of place. Crowd pleasers Vegas and On The Regular went off as expected but the real standout track of the night was, by far, Demon. This is a beautiful song the epitomises what I hope will be the sound of success for Shamir – gone was any aggression or bitchyness, replaced only with heart and vulnerability that let his voice shine and the melody tell a story.
Admittedly, for the show as a whole I was the only one in the small Howler crowd that seemed to be missing the memo. While his fans applauded Shamir for his stance that “it is better to be naive than jaded,” while I was left scratching my head. How can you challenge the norm if you really don’t give a fuck? Surely carefree isn’t so carefree if you have to try so hard? Maybe I just didn’t “get it.”
What I did get, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was that Shamir is an artist on the verge of next-level stardom. One banger away from the big time and one kitschy Grammy performance away from nailing his niche. I just can’t quite pinpoint exactly what that niche is. Brilliant or bratty? Androgynous or conflicted? Carefree or confused?
The songs, oh the songs, are pretty fantastic and as soon as they can translate live consistently I am sure Shamir will be a must-see artist. Which makes me wonder, how much pressure am I putting on a very young, emerging talent? Perhaps that in itself is the point. To shut the fuck up, hit the dance floor and not take it all so damn seriously.
Gallery: Shamir in Melbourne 2016 / Pics Nikki Williams