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Live Review: High Highs, Ali Barter

13 June 2013 | 9:59 pm | Jack Needham

It’s an unrestricted rendition of Open Season that sees us out into the cold, like wildlife staring down the barrel that is a chilly ride home.

Winter is well and truly in the air as Ali Barter takes to the Toff's stage. It would seem that this, along with it being a Thursday evening, has resulted in the skeleton audience present to welcome her. It doesn't seem to matter, though – Barter's solo style suits a smaller audience. Her strong vocals fill the empty space between the stage and the bar, the sombre lyrics not helping to alter the temperature, although the voice delivering them does. We're treated to originals such as Run You Down, as well as a Foo Fighters cover that Barter attributes to a teenage obsession she just hasn't been able to kick. Her voice has drawn comparison to many accomplished female artists, both here and overseas, and it's easy to see why. It's strong yet smooth, with just enough haunting tone to make an emotional impact without taking too much of a toll on the listener. Indeed, the only thing taking a toll tonight is the choice of lighting for the performance. It creates a vibe not dissimilar to a karaoke night – something that really doesn't suit the calibre of what we're hearing. 

The break between performances sees an increase in numbers, enough to now call it a crowd. It's the usual mix of people welcome at the Toff, the middle-aged to teenage, suits to hipsters and everywhere in between. As High Highs take to the stage we're told that it's their last show for a month or so, following their stint back in Australia. The music kicks in, starting a gradual end to the evening that could be likened to falling asleep on a roller-coaster. You see, High Highs' hybrid of electronic and acoustic just seems to inflict a strange dazed energy upon everyone. Every number seems to strive for this balance, which fosters soothing tones while obstructing boredom from creeping upon the weary among us. It might be confusing for those in the front row who are trying to figure out what to do with themselves, but from the other side of the bar it's a perfect way to ease into the remainder of the week. If anything, the live performance of the band's debut album Open Season errs a little more on the electronic side when compared to its recorded state, although there's certainly no discernible loss of quality. The lighting's better this time, soft enough to create an air of mystery matched to what's being played. As the end of the night looms, and with it the prospect of the trusty hot water bottle, Phone Call and Dey emerge as this reviewer's highlights. However, it's an unrestricted rendition of Open Season that sees us out into the cold, like wildlife staring down the barrel that is a chilly ride home.