11th Feb 2013 11:34pm | By Hugh Radojev
Sydney electronic-dance duo, The Presets are currently doing the rounds on their first Aussie tour in four years armed with a killer new album as well as a tried and tested back catalogue of hits. We went along to the Enmore Theatre in Sydney to see.
The phrase “having a big weekend” gets thrown around all too often by people with personal integrity and common sense, people who rise before the Sun on the Lord’s day to jog for hours on end. These are the kind of people for whom really “cutting loose” means a second glass of Shiraz with a wedge of extremely strong blue cheese while watching the late news, or maybe a foreign film on SBS.
I have no problem with these people but they know nothing of having a big weekend: the warm, sunny Sunday afternoons lying hobbled in the fetal position, clutching weakly at the Loo seat, fighting the waves of nausea squalling through every fibre of your being. Where no matter how much you brush your teeth, the taste of old vodka, stale smoke and half eaten kebab simply refuses to be shifted.
There’s a point to all this seemingly nonsensical gibberish, a point related to my reviewing The Presets’ show at the Enmore Theatre last night, the first theatre/indoor venue show in their hometown of Sydney in over four years.
I should have been really excited, I had spent my formative years listening to The Presets and music like theirs. Their second album Apocalypso had come out the same year I had turned 18 and I remember it with real fondness.
They were also armed with an excellent new album in Pacifica which I was actually keen to see reproduced live. All should have been well and good, but something was rotten in the state of Denmark…
I was terribly, fiercely, grotesquely, unbelievably hungover. It snuck up on me like a brushfire or a really lethal dose of radiation poisoning; slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, only to rear around like a cobra about half passed midday, when the caffeine and carbohydrates from breakfast had worn off.
My eyes swam in and out of focus and my hands seemed to swell to twice their normal size and seized up into rigid, vermillion coloured claws. I quietly begged for death and longed to be home, face down on my bed in a dark room in total silence.
I was with some friends on a train instead, drinking heavily from a plastic bottle filled with an ungodly mixture of Bison Grass vodka and apple juice, which looked vaguely like a sick man’s urine sample and tasted bizarrely of cinnamon and I was becoming almost hysterical with fear. I was in no state to be jostled by strangers in a cavernous dark room full of noise. I didn’t need or want any of it. It was a Monday night, for god’s sake!
The Enmore’s front bar was heaving with the usual crowd and when we arrived my friends scattered to the bathroom and I was left standing by the side entrance to the general area in front of the stage, gazing fearfully at the dark, huddled mass of faces bobbing along to Light Year's support set.
It wasn’t a life changing set by any means, but it was an eminently easy set to nod one’s head along to. A few of the crowd were really getting into it, but the whole time Light Year was playing, The Presets roadies were going about their business around him and the excitement in the crowd was quietly building.
Then all of a sudden Light Year was hauled off with a nod of a roadie’s head and the crowd began to yell, stamp and clap, one couldn’t help get caught up in all the excitement, so much so in fact that I braved a trip to the bar for a single can of Lager to quench a growing thirst. I got back just in time for the covering to be swept off of the drum kit and the house lights dropping down.
A rising crescendo of synthesizer’s blared out across the crowd, as the darkness gave way to a single piercing purple light and we all waited, spellbound for our first glimpses of The Presets in what had been a long four years. Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes emerged in an explosion of technicolour light provided by four hollow, rectangular LEDs, which formed the bulk of the band’s stage set-up, each giving a perfunctory wave to the swelling crowd before launching into a top rendition of Push from their new album.
The tone of the bands setlist was laid down early with Apocalypso’s A New Sky being followed by an unexpected but very well received rendition of Girl and the Sea from the band’s first album Beams, being played third. Indeed throughout the gig, the two were able to effortlessly switch between material from their three albums, often merging the end of one song into the beginning of another. It just goes to show that The Presets have lost nothing from their live show during their self imposed exile.
The absolute highlight of the night came when the excellent Youth in Trouble, one of my favourite tracks off of Pacifica was followed by the hugely successful My People. The whole of the standing area of the sold out theatre were jumping up and down, throwing elbows and strange shapes in equal measure, while the people in the seats on the balcony above were on their feet as well. A group of three or four 50 something’s at the very front of the balcony were as into it as anyone, indeed one of the older gentleman even unbuttoned his shirt completely, although to be fair it was an absolute sauna in there.
Indeed after My People finished the standing area around me suddenly became awash with sweaty, shirtless men. One guy standing directly in front of me took off his singlet and rung it out on the ground in front of him with a fearsome splash, and still his bare back was so beaded with sweat he looked like he had just stepped out of the shower.
Everything gets a little hazy after that, the area around me smelt like a maximum-security wing in a recently abandoned Albanian prison and I had mysteriously stepped in chewing gum.
In truth the energy and excitement that had run consistently through the first half of the set fell off a bit in the second half, with the band giving slightly flat performances of Promises and A.O. While this did suck a little of the energy out of the room, this might not have been a bad thing upon reflection. If nothing else I was becoming increasingly aware of how soon my alarm would be going off and not relishing the long haul train trip home.
The Presets finished strongly though with a thoroughly engaging version of Fast Seconds before closing out a fairly emotional encore with a mashup of a couple of older tracks in Steamworks and Anywhere.
This wasn’t the most mind blowing live music experience of my life, but it did leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. A bit like the feeling you get when you sit down with an old friend who you haven’t seen in a long time, which in a way is exactly what I did. Julian and Kim also looked genuinely happy to be back in Sydney and seemed touched at how much love the crowd had been showing them all night.
Hopefully we wont have to wait another four years before they play a show in Sydney again.