The jury is still out on whether Gotye will become a member of the one-hit-wonder hall of fame or a recurring Top 40 hit maker, and his headlining show at Crossroads KC presented evidence that things could go either way.
The change to a smaller venue had its benefits. In a smaller space, the light and video shows were more dynamic. And the band’s energy was more palpable. Gotye likes to stay in motion, bounding and bouncing from one instrument (usually percussive) to another.
The 90-minute set was larded with percussion and heavy rhythms. The stage looked like a showroom for drums. At one point, four people were banging on something. There was some organic instrumentation — electric guitar and bass, drums — but lots of synthesized , sampled and looped elements, too, from saxophone to disembodied background vocals. It all added up to a sound that was often as sterile as it was slick and glossy.
The vibrant and captivating videos displayed on a large screen behind the band salvaged what would have otherwise been a static show. Some exhibited various styles of animation (anime, clay animation). Several were a song’s official video, like the film clip to the electro-pop song “Eyes Wide Open.”
That song was one of several that aroused an outburst from a crowd whose interest seemed to ebb and flow noticeably, depending on what was coming off the stage, musically and visually. Gotye (Wally De Backer) is not a commanding vocalist. He can sound a lot like Sting — not exactly a Goliath of a lead singer — but over the course of 90 minutes, that resemblance slowly flagged and so did the crowd’s interest. It was most apparent during the midtempo numbers, like “Night Drive,” which sounds like a mid-’80s Phil Collins ballad. During that one, the crowd around me chatted like the show was in between sets.
Everyone stayed for the big moment. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is no doubt more famous for its sentiments than its songcraft. It has a captivating beat and an enticing melody, neither of which is especially original. But it’s a post-breakup song, former lovers assessing the coldness and depth of their estrangement after time has passed: “You didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing.” It snapped the crowd to attention. Scores of phones were raised, either to video the song or relay it live to someone. And it wasn’t hard to find people singing along earnestly, as if reliving an experience. Caroline Polachek, the lead singer in Chairlift, one of the opening bands, filled in capably for Kimbra on the lead female vocal.
He played a few more songs after that, but by then a good one-third of the crowd was gone. One of the encores was a meandering instrumental called “Seven Hours With a Backseat Driver,” another was a feel-good pop-soul song called “I Feel Better” that sounded like something Chicago might have recorded in the mid-1970s.
Like most of what preceded them, neither registered much more than a superficial resonance — the reward of hearing something predictable and pleasant. It’s safe to say he will always be known for that hit song, one with lyrics so universal it will always be something more than a novelty. But it’s too early for a verdict on whether a year or two from now Gotye will be someone we still care about. Friday’s evidence was inconclusive.
Setlist: The Only Way, What Do You Want?, Easy Way Out, Eyes Wide Open, Smoke and Mirrors, State of the Art, Dig Your Own Hole, The Only Thing I Know, Night Drive, Save Me, Giving Me a Chance, Bronte, Somebody That I Used to Know, Heart’s a Mess. Encore: Seven Hours With a Backseat Driver, I Feel Better, Learnalilgivinanlovin.| Timothy Finn, The Star