The anticipation of seeing Ta-Ku in such a majestic setting as the Sydney Opera House peaked as we sat down to enjoy what promised to be one of the best sets of the year. The gloss of the performance was hardly taken off by the fact that there were some technical difficulties as the gig got underway. The theatre was looking remarkably empty at that time anyway, remarked Ta-Ku. “Perhaps they’re all on Filipino time”, he quipped as he and his crew left the stage. He returned with the full contingent not five minutes later and what followed can best be described as epic, although even that doesn’t quite encompass what Ta-Ku achieved on this particular evening.
He opened with I Miss You – having explained how he was driving in the car with his sister when he discovered the Willow Smith vocals that he eventually would go on to sample for this track. It was a smooth, building effort that perfectly set an emotive yet relaxed mood for a seated audience (at a show that could easily have been played to a mosh).
Following that, Ta-Ku played a number of songs from his Songs To Break Up To and Songs To Make Up To EP’s – complete with string quartet, the presence of which added an intensity and depth to the sound he created that samples would never have quite achieved. Following that he introduced his main guest Wafia and told the story of how when they met she asked a mutual friend “who is this Ta-Ku lookalike with a Ta-Ku haircut”, before realising it was indeed the man himself.
His use of lights, and accompanying screen visuals was also amazing with everything from flowers bursting through more flowers, to firey landscapes and bubbles, suiting the Vivid performance to a tee. Wafia’s biggest single Heartburn came next next and at another gig such a moving and impassioned performance would have been the highlight but Ta-Ku and Wafia had more to show us.
The song that followed was a previously unheard effort from a forthcoming collaborative EP by the two artists called Treading Water – this was not only an amazing exhibition of perfect vocal dialogue between Ta-Ku and Wafia but also was a demonstration of Ta-Ku’s mastery of arranging music. At this point there were no fewer than 11 people on stage; with drums, vocals, backing vocals, keys, and strings all playing their part in executing the recital.
If any other musician had the vocal quality that Ta-Ku possesses, they’d surely spend most of their time writing music in an attempt to feature it. Not Ta-Ku though. Part of his brilliance as a performer and composer comes through a selfless desire to feature those around him but when it comes time for him to sing, the purity of his tone is almost unmatched.
As with all good performers Ta-Ku saved the most unexpected parts of his set til last, revealing that both Oscar Key Sung and Thandi Phoenix had in fact been singing backup vocals for a number of tunes over the duration of the set. He then featured both singers on individual tracks, with production and arrangements that complimented their respective vocals styles, possibly even better than they could have done so themselves.
Gallery: Ta-Ku @ Sydney Opera House, 3/6/2016 / Photos By Ashley Mar