To say it was a long-awaited gig down-under, the premiere show for California’s Mazzy Star would be an understatement. Sydney’s Opera House was abuzz with a ‘whos who’ of the Australian indie-music scene eager to catch a glimpse of this previously unseen live performance, an exclusive for the Vivid Music Festival.
Opening for the duo is Modern-Australian rock stalwart, Gareth Liddiard (Drones/ Tropical Fuck Storm) and he preps the half-full Concert Hall with his Billy Bragg-esque ballads and spoken word utterances– reminiscing those ‘other times’ he has played the Opera House. “I’m just here for the money” he jokes and… “feel free to ignore me”. It’s hard to not pay attention to his rich yet laconic vocals for tracks from his solo album offering including ‘Did she scare all your friends away’.
A quick interval and it’s not long before the full band is assembled on stage and Hope Sandoval and David Roback take their place, amidst darkness– something that will continue well into the show, presumably to keep the ever-shy Sandoval cloaked in shadow and barely visible to her adoring fans.
‘Flowers in December’ is where the show starts and the audience is invited to settle-in and receive the familiar and all-too comforting, lilting harmonica played by Sandoval herself. Those iconic lovelorn lyrics: “They say everyman goes blind in his heart and they say everybody steals somebody’s heart away” from 1996’s Among My Swan album are delivered with equal levels of hush and breathy pace from Sandoval, and she continues the love theme, penning ever so prettily with her voice, a love letter to home via ‘California’. It’s from there opener of the recent EP: Still, ‘Quiet, The Winter Harbour’ we truly start to feel immersed in the outer reaches of the 30 year, four album/ one EP catalogue of this masterful duo.
Evocative with neon stage lighting and the reliance of mostly black and white photographic stills as visuals with moving elements like curtains on a caravan or stars overhead there’s a cinematic wonder that is being communicated via these musical vignettes. In fact the full Hollywood flood cinema lighting effect comes to life throughout world-renowned hit: ‘Fade into you’ and neon dusting is best utilised throughout Among My Swan’s ‘Look on Down from the Bridge’.
Without a doubt it is the demonstration of their individual instruments when brought together in arrangement that signifies the reason why so many have signed on for tonight’s show. David Roback is completely at ease with his reverb work in the very recent reversioning of album title track ‘So Tonight that I might see’ (now featured on the Still EP) and likewise the moodiness and melancholy of moments is magical like those heard from early debut record: She Hangs Brightly’s which ‘Halah’ affords.
The show feels like a tribute to those elements of a slow-paced Californian lifestyle perhaps known to many a resident of those parts, a quality that Roback and Sandoval have retained and consistently found their integrity for. Their deep appreciation and understanding for their American Life resonates and with merely ten words uttered by Sandoval in-between the musical fodder, we’re left to lap up the meandering tour through yesteryear as captured through their hazy lens.
Catch Mazzy Star tonight and tomorrow @ Sydney Opera House.
Photo credit: Prudence Upton