After 20 years, Air have become something of legends – making a space like the Sydney Opera House the natural fit for their suave style of electronica. And now in their first visit in nine years, their last being for the great V Festival (RIP), Air have finally returned to the iconic venue for two exclusive shows as part of Sydney’s Vivid Festival.
The French quartet were glowing in their white suits as they arrived on stage, garnering a heroes’ welcome en route. The stage, adorned with nine or ten keys and synths, xylophone, drums, guitars and some sexy bass, looked like a musical wonderland. Though a soon-to-be-spectacular light display would prove to be one of the most memorable parts of the evening; one of few words but beautiful, immaculate music and a rather gleeful audience – this writer no exception.
“Venus”, off their now classic Talkie Walkie kicked off proceedings, with “Don’t Be Light” – one of their best live songs – and “Cherry Blossom Girl”, one of their most iconic, right behind it. Though the band barely said anything beyond a “thank you”, in a robotic voice no less, they already had us hooked. Their musicianship was so flawless they made it look easy, and the venue itself had rarely enjoyed a mix that fine.
The shows come off the back of their latest album Twentyears, a collection of the much loved group’s greatest hits and fan favourites from the last two decades. The set very much felt emblematic of this sentiment for nostalgia; 1998’s Moon Safari and 2004’s Talkie Walkie filling up the majority of their set with tracks like “Alpha Beta Gaga” off the latter proving one of the night’s best moments; Nicholas Godin donning the banjo as the song developed into something of an epic jam – something that happened again during “La Femme d’Argent”, which closed out the night, and the band’s hour forty minute set, in style.
Earlier, “Run” (one of the many songs that were cranked up a notch for their live incarnation), “How Does It Make You Feel?” and “Kelly Watch The Stars” helped close the main set, while their three song encore was kicked off with “Alone in Kyoto” – a song immortalised by Lost in Translation – and the band’s biggest hit, “Sexy Boy”, which even after almost twenty years has lost none of its charm.
You’ve be forgiven for thinking that Air were phoning it in tonight; they look so suave and make it look easy, with little effort to exchange with the crowd. But to be fair, that’s always been their style. But with a stellar light show and a flawless mix, it didn’t take away from the show whatsoever; I had a grin from ear to ear from start to finish. And for a band who often sit suitably as background noise while I’m writing, it dawned on me just how happy their music makes me. Equal parts ambience, impassioned musical precision and intensity, Air’s style has been replicated by hundreds of bands but there’s only one group of French men who sound like this. And damn do they sound good.
Air play the Sydney Opera House again tomorrow night, 31st May. Vivid continues through 17 June. For more details on the festival head to vividsydney.com.
The reviewer attended the performance at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live on 30th May.