Monday, December 7, 2009


Friday, April 04, 2008 
Palais Theatre

We count eleven synths. Possibly each key has a mic. It must be a full-time job keeping Air’s arsenal of synthery up to scratch, indeed one guy scampers onstage to readjust the Moog's settings between each song. It’s this very necessary attention to detail and impeccable sound replication that impress a crowd that often seems like they either didn’t pay or had the tickets bought for them. It’s an oddly muted response given the enthusiastic ticket price and that it’s the band’s first ever Australian show. Still, is this music we’ll get really excited by or more genuinely feel warmth toward? A typical Melbourne D begins to form with the front rows nearly empty (possibly pointing to some ambitious and disappointed scalpers) through an earnest and satisfying set from New Buffalo, who again proves her worth as one of our greatest musical treasures. A delicate Cheer Me Up Thank You and a new song that seems like it’s called I’m A Girl Who Needs Her Space both work as a perfect set closer. When called upon, her band - now consisting of Raquel Solier (of Sir) on sparse but effective drums, Jess Venebles (guest of most indie-pop bands a some point) and a sorely-missed Isabel Knowles (ex-AiH) - are tight and thrilling, ensuring the intimacy of Seltmann’s compositions aren’t lost in the cavernous hall.

Air. Rarely has a band been more appropriately named. From the glass sculptures of themselves adorning the album cover, to their tight white jeans, shirts and ties that would blend in against any new apartment’s wall, to their sexless funk and anonymous background cafe soundscapes - music that avoids both mind and pelvis, yet seems to be effervescent and everywhere, we know them better than we think we do. Those that do come to see this music played live tend to be thoughtful types in their early 30s, very few of whom could leave disappointed. Kicking off with an almighty Radio 1 and Electronic Performers Air’s instantly impressive light show and crisp, hard sound indicate their experience and detonate any ideas that this will be as coffee-table an experience as many treat their music. Interestingly, all of their songs from Moon Safari (whose opening bars get the biggest crowd responses) get a sped-up, tougher makeover, a plan which works really well for set highlights Sexy Boy and Kelly Watch The Stars, but which makes Talisman sound almost perfunctory. The languid Cherry Blossom Girl and Mer du Japon are sumptuous Gallic breaths of song, enhanced beautifully by an artificial starscape behind them, while other songs off the recent Pocket Symphony (Photograph especially) are snoozeworthy bores. Air themselves, however, seem anything but. Guitarist and bassist Nicolas Godin cracks up many of us with his vocodered banter while Jean-Benoît Dunckel is all elegance with his chin in the air, living out a childhood dream; hands rarely on the same keyboard. The Beck-duet Don’t Be Light is lovely and causes much applause, but it takes until the politely requested (well, it is a hard band name to shout in an impassioned way) encores of Playground Love, Sexy Boy, the completely transfixing closer, and song that actually does sound like a moon safari, La Femme D’Argent, with it’s crunching, driving and artfully groovy bassline, warpspeed keyboard passages and precision-thwacked drums, to bring us to our feet and sending us to the merch desk in droves. A surprisingly dynamic and exciting night for such a typically gentle band.

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