Caribou at Becks Festival Bar, Sydney Festival 17/1/08

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Each time Caribou tours Australia he seems to add another member to the live band. I was involved in touring Dan Snaith as Manitoba back in 2002 when his live show was a laptop loaded up with samples. Even though his music making still revolves around tight digital editing, his live shows have gotten progressively more ‘live’. His subsequent Australian tours added band members and more and more live instrumentation and on his last tour the vocals that have crept into his recordings were delivered off an accompanying video backing.

Now, on the back of the fabulous album Andorra, the computers are are almost invisible on stage, and the vocals are live. And what a difference it makes. Despite the intermittent showers, the slightly muddy sound that is an annual hallmark of the shows at the Festival Bar (especially compared to the high fidelity of the Speigeltent), the inevitable ‘I’m just here to do coke and mingle’ hangers-on, Caribou managed to create some sublime moments and a muscular re-versioning of Andorra and The Milk of Human Kindness.

Two drumkits up front, Snaith on one set and Brad Weber on the other, Snaith and bassist, Andy Lloyd harmonising the vocals, and Ryan Smith on guitar and keyboards, Caribou’s line up is now flexible enough to move from a wall of sound to delicate tinkles and then out to a polyrhythmic mish mash of overlaid grooves. Freed from the constraints of a recorded vocal track, many of songs/tracks were now extended and transformed.

The quiet of ‘Hello Hammerheads’ was spoilt by the aforementioned coke hangers-on incessant chatter, but they were silenced by the rhythmic pummeling of ‘A Final Warning’. ‘Melody Day’, ‘She’s the One’ and the sunnier psych-pop moments of Andorra were more testosterone-enhanced live, and the presence of the drums right at the front of stage kept everything foregrounded in rhythm, the melodies and Lloyd and Snaith’s vocals subservient to their rush and flow.

All up it was the most engaging Caribou live show yet, and one that would have sounded even better in a slightly different setting.

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About Author

Seb Chan founded Cyclic Defrost Magazine in 1998 with Dale Harrison. He handed over the reins at the end of 2010 but still contributes the occasional article and review.

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