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Live Review: Austra, Lilt

3 March 2014 | 12:06 pm | Taelor Pelusey

Despite the lack of definition and abuse of the encore tradition, Austra lived up to their reputation of energetic and dramatic entertainment.

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An eeriness fell over the Chevron Gardens as local electronic outfit, Lilt, took to the biggest stage they'd ever performed on. Despite a slight uneasiness, lead vocalist Louise Penman performed with hauntingly beautiful finesse, her vocals resonating throughout the gardens and most likely beyond. Combining synthetic textures, ambient vocals and elements of drum and bass, Lilt made for a satiating, if slightly moody, appetiser.

Soon after, Austra erupted in a flamboyant flurry of fluoro, sequins, retro prints and an unabashedly tacky mankini. The energy lifted and the crowd shifted forward with the hypnotic opener What We Done? setting the scene for a high-energy, high-drama performance dominated by upbeat hits from the band's second album, Olympia. Cinematic pads built the anticipation right before Lose It hit with enthusiasm roughly mid-way through. As well as being the most successful track from their debut album Feel It Break, Lose It is the ideal song to showcase the incredible vocal capacity and unmistakable vibrato of the classically-trained Katie Stelmanis. Her voice was complemented by the complex harmonies of the Lightman twins of Toronto-based Tasseomancy and drummer, Maya Postepski. Though the twins no longer tour with the band, their vocals were included via a backing track while Postepski's harmonies were performed live. Despite being imperfect, they were refreshingly juxtaposed with Stelmanis' flawless operatic flair.

More synths on stage than musicians, three vocal mics, bass, drums and layers of recorded instrumentation and vocals made for a slightly messy mix. The retro riffs and melodies integral to Austra's sound lacked definition but thankfully, the funky bass-lines and smooth drumming held it together, pushing Stelmanis' vocals centre stage where they belong.

With the voice of Florence Welch and the mannerisms of Bjork, Stelmanis' on-stage persona made for a hard sell. Sitting somewhere between ostentatious, idiosyncratic and beguiling, it wasn't until the menacing darkness of Beat & The Pulse that it was rendered imperceptible. The barely audible trance-like chanting over a backdrop of red lighting, wafts of smoke and an (almost) full moon personified the melancholy vibe of Feel It Break and would have made for a powerful finale, had it not been for the weak encore call and the anticlimactic performance of two unmemorable songs. Despite the lack of definition and abuse of the encore tradition, Austra lived up to their reputation of energetic and dramatic entertainment.