"It was ironic, we suppose, that a band famous for being listened to in the dark played in the dark to us."
Everyone knows the frustration of having someone tall stand in front of you at a gig.
Setting aside for a moment the physical predicament of having to strain and shift your weight and steal peeks around big hair or through shoulders, the disconnect of not being able to see the performer is enough to sour the whole deal. So it was with Mazzy Star, but on a scale encompassing the whole space.
Behind them, a huge canvas glowed with sepia-toned images plucked from the burnt-out mind of a Los Angeleno mystic. The silhouettes of the band members swayed in front as they moved through their dusty, sleepy catalogue, playing songs that are like diamonds found amid peanut shells and beer bottles, or under rocks at midnight. They were bathed in black and it felt like a moody gimmick, an attempt to conjure and sustain a cool sort of ambience.
Gareth Liddiard suffered no such gimmick. We were able to enjoy watching his well-lit face going through tectonic shifts as he ripped words from his lungs for our entertainment. Does She Scare All Of Your Friends Away never disappoints, each trembling, frothing verse born and cradled by the melancholy warmth of the chorus. A few wry words cutting through the pomp and ceremony of the Old House and he was done, his coveted title of National Fucking Treasure untarnished.
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Mazzy Star have not performed in five years and they've never performed on an Australian stage. For this to be their debut was a titanic disappointment. No prop lights, barring a fluttering of activity during Fade Into You (in between an usher going full Tyrannosaur on a punter's filming attempt). There were no spotlights. People called out and then started leaving. However, those who stayed and were patient were rewarded with a unique experience, a beautifully performed show full of all the twilight grandeur Mazzy Star could manifest. The crowd were vocal and optimistic, but ultimately were let down by an odd lighting decision.
It was ironic, we suppose, that a band famous for being listened to in the dark played in the dark to us. We should perhaps be thankful for such fidelity.
NOTE: This review has been amended. It was originally stated that stage lighting was not working during the gig. This is incorrect. A statement supplied by the Opera House says: "The lighting set up was a deliberate staging decision by the band."