Live Review: Mutemath & Big Scary

27 March 2013 | 10:58 am | Rebekah Barnett

It’s hard to imagine how they could get any better than this, but they’ll probably manage it.

More Mutemath More Mutemath

It's a big call to pack out the Astor Theatre within half an hour of doors, but then with Mutemath back in town it's not surprising. Tuesday night brought the first show of Mutemath's Australian tour, supported by Melbourne duo Big Scary.

Neither big nor scary, Tom Iansek and Jo Syme hit a mellow note in what was their first live show of the year. It was a shame so many punters continued their conversations at volume throughout the set, as Big Scary are quality and played with all sincerity. Wedged in among Mutemath's enormous amount of stage equipment, the contrast between Big Scary's simple-sweet sound and MuteMath's audacious celebration of genre-hopping madness was all the more obvious, and served to make Big Scary seem that much sweeter (and Mutemath that much madder).

As Mutemath's crew set up, the anticipation built. Will they bring the inflatable mattress? Will they do their signature minstrel-cum-congo line entry? Will Paul Meany whip out his wriggling-fish dance moves?  This is the thing about the New Orleans foursome: they've made human memes out of themselves and, like the screaming goat and the grumpy cat, we all want to see them do their tricks over and over. Unlike said goat and cat, however, Mutemath have much more to them than a few clever party tricks. But we'll get to that.

Yes, they did do their signature entry from the back of the room, much to the delight of punters who got up close and personal. Getting out the big guns straight away with Odd Soul and Blood Pressure, energy levels were high and drummer Darren King's chin-strap threatened to come loose. Incredibly, all four maintained this intensity for the entire set, such is their commitment to putting on a great show.

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Mutemath return to Australia well-rehearsed and as tight as ever. The lighting design in particular was outstanding and made the most of Meany and King's theatrics and of the musical complexity of the band's arrangements. It is unfortunate that the same cannot be said for the sound, which was too heavy on bass, too muddy on guitar and swallowed Meany's vocals in the mix. It was disappointing, especially when they played new songs that were unfamiliar, as it was difficult to pick out the main riffs and melodies at times. Being the first night of the tour, hopefully this was simply a teething problem.

And yes, they did get out the inflatable mattress, but not before playing some new tunes and even jamming out an as yet incomplete song that Meany said they hope to finish while on tour. Where We Once Were has 'high rotation' written all over it and will likely be a single off the next record. Mutemath were, as ever, generous with the audience. Clocking in at two hours' playing time, their focus never wavered and though literally drenched with sweat, they continued to play, sing, fish-dance, and call out to the audience until curfew time. It's hard to imagine how they could get any better than this, but they'll probably manage it.