I WAS THERE | CITY CALM DOWN @ THE CORNER HOTEL, 09.04.16
Continuing along their sold out tour to support their stellar debut In a Restless House, City Calm Down took to the stage at the Corner Hotel for the second of three shows there.
Romeo Moon opened the night. A short but sweet set where a carefully looped acoustic guitar and hazy vocals captured the attention of those who were present. The set list was short, but gave a clear indication of the artist’s material and style, with untested material integrating smoothly in with his more established work. The set didn’t quite fit the night, not so much due to any fault of Romeo Moon, but more a disjoint in atmosphere between him and the following acts.
If you weren’t familiar with Airling prior to her support slot you could be forgiven for thinking her silver boots would be the most distinctive feature present. The singer, a clear controller of her synthy yet soulful style looks pretty cliché on paper with her and two band members on stage. By the second song however, it was clear she was making waves across the room. Her delicate song writing and enthusiastic vocalisations were impossible to ignore. The set was comfortable, each song worked well with on its own, and Airling comfortably interacted with the crowd to break up the set. A teasing of new material revealed an excellent piece that we can only hope to hear soon, preferably as a part of an extended release. It was her rendition of ‘The Runner’ that was a climax of the set, sending chills across the ever growing crowd.
City Calm Down’s performance came nothing short of being absolutely stunning. The four piece oscillated in band size, hitting a top of nine members on stage for some tracks, but lingering around the main four plus a guest bassist. Dressed all in black, they looked sharp and broody, and became little more than a series of silhouettes performing in front of what has got to be one of the most intense light shows seen at the Corner Hotel. Framed between the notorious columns found on the floor of the venue, the band were captivating to watch from the get go. Front man, Jack Bourke was a controlling figure, for each and every track he gave it his all. Short of a few handlings of a Tamborine he was largely free to do his own thing across the stage. The audience was left to absorb his jerky, fragmented dancing across the stage as he whipped out each line in a fashion even more chilling than when recorded.
It was rare to have a pair of back to back songs across the set, with Bourke frequently breaking up the set to introduce each piece, allowing for the variable number of members on stage to arrange themselves suitably. The result was the fragmented interests of the audience coming out strong. While ‘Son’ had the entire audience singing along with ease, for the most part it was quite clear that as a result of the high quality of In a Restless House, there were few dominant tracks, each one received and overwhelming positive response from isolated pockets across the room. As such, it became almost impossible to define a set moment as a highlight of the set. From watching Bourke seemingly rise above a green smog (thanks to an interesting light set up) for ‘Falling’ to hearing his vocals cut through the crowd with a harsh simplicity for ‘Rabbit Run’, every track was seared into your mind from the instant it started. Throwing to their recently recorded Like a Version, the band took on Foals ‘Spanish Sahara’, an unexpected and gutsy move that proved to be one of the most amazing parts of the night. Every member of the performing band was fully engaged, and Bourke was lost in the piece, the end result was a wrangling of a clearly defined piece into something blurrier, something that was undeniably under the control of City Calm Down. This contrasted heavily with the other cover of the night. Having blitzed through material from their album, and a single track from their EP, they teased that having performed for Sydney prior to their Like a Version performance they needed another cover. Juxtaposing the somewhat grittier sound of the band’s usual recordings and the rest of the performance, they took on a bubbly cover of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. It had the stage lit in pulsating blue and red lights, as the crowd grooved away under the spotty reflections off the venue’s disco balls. In a way, the most amazing part of the show was that each track had a defining moment that would linger on your mind long after you left the venue. Waking up the next morning, you might find yourself reminiscing on the cutting of sound and power to build suspense mid-way through ‘Your Fix’, or Bourke’s particularly commanding presence in the closing run of ‘Pleasure and Consequence’. By the time the set was coming to a close, it was already running overtime, but no one seemed to care. The band were more jovial than ever on stage, and had been joined by the two back up vocalists, and a saxophone and trumpet player. The stage was bristling with activity as they took on ‘Pleasure and Consequence’. The over filled stage led to the sounds blurring together a little, but it was impossible not to be enthralled by Bourke’s presence, bouncing off each member on stage, to standing on the speakers at the front or merely leaning on the microphone stand. It was captivating for every moment. While the focus may have been consistently on Bourke, it was here that the antics of the other members came out strongest, sliding comfortably around their positions with a certain ease. It’s easy to see why City Calm Down have sold out this tour, and where the hype comes from. It’s rare to see an album translate so perfectly to a stage. It’s likely that we are going to see City Calm Down hit our stages more than a few times through the upcoming festival season, we can only hope that we don’t have to wait another three years for new content to spice up their shows.
By Ayden Measham-Pywell
Check out City Calm Down’s brand new video for ‘Your Fix’ below