The Split Personalities of Gotye

March 28th, 2012

Gotye – Webster Hall – March 27, 2012

There’s certain schizophrenia to Webster Hall: Is it a dance club or a rock club? Is it half and half? That dual personality was the perfect setting for Gotye, who last night split his live sound into three overlapping personalities: one-third dance, one-third indie rock and one-third hypnotic dreamscape. Webster Hall was sold out, which seems to mean different things on different nights—not all sellouts are created equal. On Tuesday night, it was truly packed from front to back, the audience bubbling in a multilingual, multiaccented din while awaiting the start of the show.

The band took the stage and immediately launched into “Eyes Wide Open.” While Wally De Backer uses Gotye as his professional pseudonym, it’s clear that in the live setting the name covers everyone in the band who plays an equally important role. The multitalented guitarist added a nice flourish of lap steel to the opening song (and later played an electric mandolin) while the bassist took control of the melody. Still, the story of the band was drums and rhythm, with De Backer surrounded by all sorts of stuff to hit in addition to the drummer behind him and plenty more taken up by the other three musicians. The sound sat on the verge of digital and analog, mallets hitting drums and electronic pads and xylophones in equal amounts. There was something scientific to the music, with the band acting like a single-celled organism, Gotye at the nucleus pulsing messages electronically to the other band members in their organelles. Opening-act Kimbra joined Gotye for lyrics on “Somebody I Used to Know,” getting an even bigger reaction from those in the audience screaming for every song like each one was a favorite.

Behind the stage a single backdrop held a constant stream of projected images, scenes flipping through ultrarealistic time lapses of landscapes and cityscapes and other animated scenes and psychedelic colors. These matched up well enough to the music that it felt like every tune was more than just a song, but also a live-action music video, with the audience sucked into the action. “State of the Art” matched a killer multisynth attack with a weird retro-cartoon music monster perfectly. Gotye worked several audience-participation moments into the set, more or less playing the beloved Making Mirrors album in its entirety, constantly splitting his personality to the crowd’s constant delight. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross |