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Live Review: Phosphorescent, Ali Barter

17 December 2014 | 9:33 am | Alex Michael

Phosphorescent transported the audience with singer Matthew Houck's captivating vocals.

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Holy shit! Phosphorescent put in a brutally intimate performance Sunday night. So much so that the announcement late in the set that it would be their last show for “quite some time” made a whole lot of sense. It brought the set full circle. They played with the reckless abandon of a band with nothing left to prove.

Sydney audiences continue to be petrified of standing anywhere near the stage for the support acts. The already large crowd was content with standing uncomfortably close to each other instead of in the gaping chasm of the mosh pit. It’s like a subconscious challenge to the bands: “We didn’t come here to see you, so prove yourself.” Ali Barter did so.

A synthy, melodic drone washed over the crowd for the opening track and it could have gone anywhere from there. The buzz threatened Sonic Youth-infused punk before eventually bursting into a pop-rock number led by tight, rhythmic drumming.

A powerful mix of clean, jangling guitar riffs complimented Barter’s enchanting vocal range for the remainder of the short and sweet set, a performance that had all the makings of stadium rock, sans the confident dancing and prop-based gimmickry. Ultimately, those who came down early were treated to a band on the rise who perhaps just need that one great song to push them to the next level.

The curtains were drawn as the excitement grew, the eventual release was the familiar sounds of Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction), the opener to last year’s stellar Muchacho record. The band played the rocking opener in the dark before eventually being bathed in the Oxford Art Factory’s exquisite lighting. Matthew Houck came out like a bad-arse, a true Lebowski – wearing his own band’s merch shirt. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of self promo.

Phosphorescent were truly relentless. There wasn’t a single song that clocked in at under five minutes, with long, building jams that rose and fell with delectable unpredictability. Every track took on a completely new persona to its studio counterpart. The songs that work on their albums weren’t necessarily the stuff that worked here.

Houck’s unique voice was captivating. He always manages to miss a note at the most opportune time, delivering a commanding naivety that’s hard to accurately put into words.

Song For Zula was met with rapturous cheers towards the end of a varied set that was just coming out of its mid-tempo phase. A new bed of streaming, whirling guitars met pounding heartbeat kick drums and warbling synth.

Houck came out on his own for the encore, delivering an amazing performance of Wolves. You could hear a pin drop as the lyrically immaculate tune dissolved into a cacophony of ever-growing vocal loops. The full band came out for one last track, each awarded a few seconds in the spotlight before disappearing into the night, while the audience disappeared to the merch stand.