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Live Review: Tom Vek, Kindness, and Jonathan Boulet - Sydney Opera House

28 May 2012 | 11:14 am | Daniel Crichton Rouse

“Did you say ‘Play something old’? We don’t have anything old, we’re brand new. But we will continue to play covers of 1990s songs.”

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It's Vivid LIVE and once again Modular – whose founder Steve Pavlovic curated the whole shebang last year – is involved. After bringing out the likes of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and WU LYF in 2011, tonight it's Londoners Tom Vek and Kindness – the former a mysterious absentees from Australian tours over the past five years and the latter a brand new thing brought over super early. Sydney's Jonathan Boulet, making something of a comeback with their upcoming new album, rounded off a triple-bill of acts who all could've been headliner.

Jonathan Boulet took the early slot as a chance to preview material from the new album. Set opener Black Smokehat, the album's early highlight, is a powerful opener, not least due to its chorus-chant of “Oh my god, you are dead”. It's murky, murderous, and magnificent.

New single This Song Is Called Ragged starts out naff as fuck (that whole Vampire Weekend thing has been done to death) before descending into a swarm of distortion, which is missing from the studio recording (the song's infinitely better live); Hallowed Hag is like early Klaxons, whilst Trounce, which has been kicking about online for a few months now, is a shouty, tribal frenzy that turns to complete sludge by its end. The crowd response was impressive considering it was almost exclusively a set of new material, but with a one-two ending of A Community Service Announcement and You're A Animal Jonathan Boulet ended their night in a rapturous frenzy.

Next up: Kindness, a group that makes music on the knife's edge of cool and daggy. It's soulful and funky and incredibly '90s, and so it's strangely serendipitous that they're here at the same time as the master, Prince.

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The huge bass noodles of Cyan set the rhythm for the rest of the set, with massive lashings of groove and soul. Frontman Adam Bainbridge casually strolled on stage with a shitty camera, taking snaps of the crowd and band (which he did throughout the set, even offering the camera up to a frontrower to snap the band). He wandered the stage all night, casually at ease with being on a small intimate stage on the other side of the world.

Bainbridge is a beguiling watch. He lulls about as if the audience weren't there, croons away in pitch-perfect fashion, and engages with the crowd in nonchalant manner. He replies to a heckle to 'play something old!' with, “Did you say 'Play something old'? We don't have anything old, we're brand new. But we will continue to play covers of 1990s songs.”

Most tracks from their debut album World, You Need A Change Of Mind featured, including a spectacular over-the-top made-for-TV-esque version of That's Alright, a song that still feels like a lost track from 21 Jump St or Beverly Hills Cop, whilst Gee Up was the party's highlight; its mere two minutes offset by a superb vocal medley of Womack & Womack's Teardrops and Anita Baker's Sweet Love.

Australian fans of Tom Vek have been waiting since 2005 for a tour, and whilst we only got three songs from his debut album, We Have Sound, both albums are a product of their time and so on tonight's bill the Leisure Seizure hits work better. (That's not to say that I Ain't Saying My Goodbyes –dedicated to the fans that've been patiently waiting for local shows – wasn't the highlight; nothing from the new album comes close.) The new material is bigger – so much so that the speakers took their first pounding for he night and the noise hits a level not even 2 Many DJs could match last year – and a lot poppier. The funk comes through thick on the likes of Hold Your Hand and Aroused, whilst set closer A.P.O.L.O.G.Y gets the biggest response from the crowd. But for those in the crowd who've been waiting for over six years it was all about C-C (You Set The Fire In Me), A Little Word In Your Ear, and …Goodbyes – which sounded as fresh live last night as they did the very first time we heard them.

Let's hope we don't have to wait another five years before he's back.