There’s something in the Air as the iconic French group shine at the Sydney Opera House


Something in the air? A buzz perhaps? Or maybe it was just the manic crowd gathering in Circular Quay? No, Air, performing an exclusive debut set as part of Sydney’s Vivid were gathering and providing a rush of excitement from the confines of the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall. 

Moon Safari, their debut record, released over 26 years ago, was and continues to be, the benchmark in French electronica chill-wave. There is no surer way to relax on a weekend as you’re walking, cleaning the house, doing anything really, than to bung on this album in the background and let time just while away.

Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin are Air. Despite being joined by a drummer for most of the set, they are the centrepiece of the production. Dunckel pivoted between synthesisers, rotating left and right throughout the night, whilst Godin would take up the guitar, bass and keyboard to recreate the sounds present on their eponymous album.

Does the live rendition hold up to the evolving textures of the recording? Simply, yes. The acoustics of the Concert Hall complimented the rich tapestry of sounds, however you couldn’t help but wish that a larger ensemble were delivering the horns and orchestral contributions, even though synths are the core instrument of the duo. 

It’s safe to say that the first four tracks of the record (and the set) are the highlights. “La femme d’argent”, a regular on the SBS Chill ‘Chillest 100’, is a perfect way to ease into the evening, the expanse of their sound immediately evident. The cheeky and almost incongruous “Sexy Boy” remains one their most popular songs from their catalogue, even though it was seen as a ‘joke’ song originally.

This leads us to “All I Need”, which – with it’s vocal line and lyric penned by Beth Hirsch is certainly the most iconic of all their tracks. Unfortunately, it was also the track that didn’t translate to a live space as well as the others. The track felt almost remixed, as opposed to matching the melodic structures of the original. There was a feeling that the song really relies on the strong vocal line and without an actual singer, something was just – off.

If redemption was needed, “Kelly Watch the Stars” was certainly it. This glorious and ethereal space-pop track was complemented with shining lights and sparkling visuals that enhanced the already amazing track. It’s also a song that will stay in your head for days afterwards.

With the four big tracks done, the rest of the album was more of a sit back and enjoy kind of appreciation. The whole album really resonates, but more in a close-your-eyes-and-dream kind of way. Having said that, a new appreciation for “Ce matin là” was achieved and highlighted the eclectic sounds from the pair that still stand up today in modern electronic music.

After a brief intermission, the pair of white-clothed musicians (plus unnamed drummer) returned for the second half of the set, which was taken predominantly from their third album, “Talkie Walkie”, including crowd favourites, “Cherry Blossom Girl” and “Run”, but it was the set finales of “Don’t Be Light” and “Electric Performers” from 2007 album “Pocket Symphony” that showcased the myriad of imagery and lights that were at their disposal.

There is little doubt that Air are masters of their craft and the use of instruments, vocoders on their voices, as well as samples and myriads of unique sounds filling the Opera House space gave us all the feeling of euphoria and warmth that only Air can do.

It was a special night and one worthy of the hallowed Concert Hall. 

Bright Young Women


Air performed at the Sydney Opera House on 25th May 2024. They next head to the UK, for dates and details head HERE.

Photo Credit: Mikki Gomez

Mick Radojkovic

I like to consume stuff. Music, comedy, TV, films. Also, nachos and doughnuts. Thank you for your time.