Live Review

Austra, Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London

Austra would be better, in live mode at least, if they were just a little bit more mysterious.

The events which topped and tailed this gig, Austra lead singer Katie Stelmanis awkwardly asking the crowd if anyone had power for a laptop and the band huddling uncomfortably on the side of the stage in full view of everyone, having nominally departed before the encore, are not what you’d describe as slick. In fact, they’re a bit clumsy.

They give rise to the thought that Austra would be better, in live mode at least, if they were just a little bit more mysterious. If they hid behind the curtain more. Hell, if they had an actual curtain it’d help make that encore look a bit cleverer. It’s not that they should look towards full-on Knife style lessons in audience antagonisation, but just the odd thing here and there to make them seem less obviously mortal would help.

Because their blend of the fantastical, the slightly occult – there’s just something about Stelmanis’ ever-so-proper intonation flanked by the nymph like whispers of the Lightman sisters (Romy and Sari) that makes you believe someone is soon going to be dancing around a pyre distributing goat entrails - and a clanking clatter of electronica feels like a dish best served cool, if not entirely aloof.

It’s the idea of keeping the masquerade going, of not shattering the spell that is cast. When it comes together, as it does on ‘Lose’ It and ‘Feel It Break, it is a heady thing. The former is all elegantly dystopian synth lines, the later a crashing, relentless barrage, and both are able vessels for carrying Stelmanis’ ever startling voice. And it isn’t just the material from the first album which works. Of the new ones, the clipped precision of ‘Reconcile’ is particularly powerful.

But ‘Home’ (another new one) misses. The icy, knife-edge melodrama it has on record replaced with a flouncy, lace handkerchief waving melodrama that isn’t as appealing. More surprisingly, ‘Beat And The Pulse’, such a high point of the debut release, is strangely flat.

However, the misses come early, and aren’t terminal. In fact the later half of the show does have a certain sense of momentum building. A sense of getting better it goes, and clumsy preceding asides aside, the closing ‘Hurt Me Now’, with a hint of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ in its gothic posture, is truly excellent.

Tags: Austra, Features

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