The late Woody Guthrie once sang that “there ain’t nobody who can sing like [him],” but it’s not a stretch to take that idea one step further to suggest there ain’t nobody who performs like Kirin J Callinan. At once a playful, childlike figure and an imposing, immediate threat, the gaunt guitarist makes his presence felt on stage to the point where it is impossible to deny.
That’s the case in a regular gig scenario, too – just imagine the sheer spectacle of the man arriving on the grand Opera House stage. Here, Callinan took a mostly-unfamiliar crowd and lured them into his private universe of screeching guitar, thudding beats and grand-gesture eccentrics and it worked far better than anyone could have possibly anticipated.
A handful of guests joined Callinan on stage at various points, including his father Brendan and Seekae’s Alex Cameron. The single greatest moment of the set, however, came when Callinan made good on playing “two-and-a-half” songs. The “half” was an a-capella version of older song The Toddler. Replete with jolting dance moves and swinging limbs, the crowd was simultaneously stunned and in stitches. One of the more creative minds in Australian music continues to bubble.
Three-and-a-half years removed from their previous visit, there’s a lot to catch up on as far as TV on the Radio are concerned. A new album has emerged, Seeds, which is where a lot of tonight’s performance stems from.
Thankfully, there is no despondence or lack of interest as far as the newer songs are concerned – as a matter of fact, they often received some of the most enthusiastic responses. Happy Idiot and Lazerray both lock into the wilder side of the band’s spectrum; while ballads such as Careful You and Trouble stand up considerably in the live environment.
It’s worth noting that, for all of the critical acclaim TV on the Radio have received for their multiple albums released over the last decade and change, they are generally agreed upon to be an act one has to see live in order to properly comprehend them. As far as that was concerned, tonight was certainly indicative of why this is the case.
When the band were last in Australia as a part of the Harvest festival, it was still in a transitional period as the band learned how to be a six-piece – drummer Jaleel Bunton had moved over to bass and keyboards, while Japhet Landis took up the drums and Dave “Smoota” Smith was introduced on trombone, keys and percussion.
At this stage, this is a cohesive and well-oiled machine – they can build from the droning soundscapes that introduce opener Young Liars into the biting rock of set staples Wolf Like Me and Blues From Down Here without even so much as blinking.
Tunde Adebimpe remains an irrepressible and engaging frontman, leading syncopated clapping during Golden Age and prowling the Concert Hall stage with a definite sense of purpose. Even his right-hand man, Kyp Malone, grew so excited at the performance he quite literally leapt for joy during an extended run through Repetition.
As the last gasps of the song that started it all for the band, Staring at the Sun, rang out and signalled the end of Vivid for another year, the Brooklyn natives stood triumphant. Their dark, unconventional and avant-garde take on experimental indie rock had lead them to one of the grandest stages on the planet – and it was not something that was lost on them whatsoever.
Gallery – TV On The Radio @ Sydney Opera House / Pics: Joelle Miller