First published on 29 May 2012. Updated on 29 May 2012.
This one-off Opera House show was Danish indie-rock group Efterklang’s first in Australia, and the world premiere of the group’s as-yet unreleased fourth album. Joined by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, it was to be all-new Efterklang in a fantasy setting. And to top off the surprises, not long before the show, the group (who lost their permanent drummer earlier in 2012) announced their drummer for the Sydney show would be Budgie from Siouxie and the Banshees.
The band members spread themselves out across the Opera Theatre stage in an eye-catching configuration around the SSO. Casper Clausen (vocals) and Rasmus Stolberg (bass/keys) were installed front-stage centre before the orchestra; Budgie and his drum kit in a glass booth to their left. The two synth-players were bent over their instruments up on the brass-players’ pulpit. And stage right stood the orchestra’s three sirens, perennially smiling and swaying like reeds.
It was choreography fit for the theatre, with costumes to match: a white suit and bowtie for Rasmus and a delicious brown and salmon combination for the irrepressible frontman. There were projections, too: grey Bauhaus shapes; bobbing icebergs; bedsits in falling snow – all barely perceived, like the flashes of daydreams. Though it lacked screaming psychedelic colours, the detailed scene was altogether “vivid” to behold. (Come on, how could we not?)
Efterklang’s new material unfolded in perfect harmony with the orchestra. The string section popped in and out of songs with fantastic restraint and clarity, underscoring the emotional moments but rarely drawing attention to itself. When the strings pulled back, however, the synthesied sounds – even just a vinyl hiss – would sing out and touch the crowd. The acoustics of the space proved second-to-none. The bad certainly seemed to be enjoying it – we don’t think they stopped smiling once.
Casper, despite the moustache and adult-contemporary shtick, has a boyish look and manner that might be awkward if it weren’t for his confident stage manner. With a loose grip on the mic, he shimmies randomly about with an almost evangelical air. On smoky new number ‘Ghost’, he practically talked the refrain, while on other tunes he went full soprano.
When we shifted our focus off Casper, there was always something unexpected to see, be it one of the synth players singing his heart out or the saucer-eyed, supernaturally spritely Budgie standing behind the drum kit and wiggling his pelvis. Mid-way through the album, Casper remarked how “weird”, but “great” this all feels, and most of the audience was no doubt thinking: “We’re with you.”
For closers, the band brought out two fan-favourites from their back catalogue: ‘Monopolist’ and ‘Modern Drift’. Standing ovations out of the way, the audience – and band – left the theatre aglow.
Efterklang’s performance was a brilliant example of the winning art-design combo for which Vivid is earning its reputation. And although it is hard to tell exactly how the new songs will sound without the grandeur of the SSO, it is safe to say that fans should find a lot to love in the new album.
Efterklang played the Opera Theatre at the Sydney Opera House Sat May 26.
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