Live Review: GRAPHIC Festival - The Cinematic Orchestra - Sydney Opera House (06.10.13)

The Cinematic Orchestra at The Sydney Opera House

The Cinematic Orchestra are a difficult act to pin down, given their fluent hybridisation of often unrelated genres. The Jason Swinscoe-led act were to take to the iconic Sydney Opera House as part of GRAPHIC Festival, and with the inclusion of the forty piece Sydney International Orchestra, the show was set to have a natural inclination towards the latter part of the British outfit’s name.

Commencing shortly after the ticketed time of 9pm, the sextet entered the fore, with the orchestra nestled unassumingly behind. Swinscoe remarked on the privilege to perform under the Sails, like all touring performers prior to him seem to earnestly offer, and without further ado opened with the bouncy, playful samples of "Burn Out". From this point, the Opera House crowd were taken on a Jazz Odyssey unlike anything the band formerly known as Spinal Tap could ever produce. With an appearance almost stereotypical of jazz musicians, Swinscoe’s band quickly established themselves as awe-inspiring, improvisational masters - their faces of ecstasy accompanying every moment in the spotlight accordingly - and consequentially shifted away from the typical band dynamic, with the 'frontman' essentially leading from the shadows. Make no mistake, however, this was still very much Swinscoe’s vision, and it became increasingly apparent throughout the set that every musician on stage was directly or indirectly feeding off his cues and energy.

The visual facet of the performance was a perfect complement to the music, rather than a highlight in its own right. Created live by The Light Surgeons, the visuals blended clips of landscapes, astral planes and atmospheric light swells with live clips of the musicians at work. The results weren’t as enthralling as those for a previous project of the Brits, Amon Tobin’s ISAM set production, but afforded the music the attention it deserved.

While the fuller sounding orchestral and jazz sections of the performance were predictably stunning, it was the moments of sparsity that stood out as highlights. Grey Reverend’s acoustic guitar and vocal renditions of "Music Box" and "To Build A Home" were both considerably different to the studio versions, particularly in the latter’s case. In the case of the irresistibly-syncable "To Build A Home", the arrangement was so different that it almost felt like an entirely new, reimagined song, that was equally as stunning as the Patrick Watson-led original. The climatic swell of strings and percussion toward the end of the track made for a fitting encore track.

As the final notes of "All That You Give" rang out, there was an air of calm amongst the two thousand-odd Opera House crowd offering a standing ovation. The Cinematic Orchestra create more than music for soundtracks, they don’t play a traditional brand of jazz, and they aren’t an electronic or soul band. The Cinematic Orchestra defy conventional genres, preferring to create emotionally stimulating pieces of art - an aspiration rarely sought after in the modern age of disposable music.

And when the final clap of applause was sounded, long after the music had stopped, it was all too evident that this audience had indeed been moved.