Live Review: Genesis Owusu + 1300 + Bukhu – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (09.03.22)

ARIA 2021

It has been rapidly coming together for Genesis Owusu. After releasing an EP in 2017, and some singles in the following years, everything was set and bubbling, on the threshold of an explosion; a big, dramatic and impossible to miss kind of explosion.

With the release of his debut studio album, Smiling with No Teeth, in March of 2021 Owusu immediately made ripples throughout the music scene in Australia and beyond. His dynamic style and frenetic energy immediately heralded calls to get him on a Gorillaz track. That collaboration has not yet materialised but what has, has been incredible. A multitude of awards, including the 2021 ARIA Album of the Year and the Australian Music Award, amongst others, has only confirmed what everyone already knew.

That was clearly anticipation on the night, with the crowd cheering at every mention of Owusu’s name. That anticipation was even greater considering that during the initial performance for the show (a week early on March 3rd), the floor collapsed after two songs and had to be rescheduled. But, before Owusu, were the two opening acts; K-Hip-Hop group 1300 and traditionally trained Mongolian singer/instrumentalist, Bukhu.

1300, a rapidly rising group based in Sydney, knew what fans wanted: energy and a good time. Their half Korean, half English rhymes got the crowd’s heads bumping. Although many probably weren’t familiar with their work before arriving, it soon became obvious that they’d be leaving with plenty of new fans.

Following them was the criminally short performance from throat-singer Bukhu. His traditional Khuumii music was both atmospheric and staggeringly beautiful. His far gentler sound managed to get a rowdy audience to fall into a mesmerised attention, receiving a raucous reaction from the crowd upon finishing each piece.

Then, “Let’s try this one more time, Sydney!” came from behind the drawn curtains. Cue uncontrollable screaming.

It was from this moment onwards that Owusu revealed his biggest asset in performance: a Prince-like ability to control the energy and space. Every moment from then on was in Owusu’s hands, like a master chess player orchestrating all of his pieces.

The curtains drew to reveal the Owusu sitting in a cone of red light, the Black Dog band scattered across the stage alongside him. It was fitting that the Black Dog band was accompanying Owusu, having been with him from the original home studio sessions. The band consisted of natural born performers Kirin J. Callinan, Touch Sensitive (Mikey DiFrancesco), Julian Sudek and Andrew Klippel. From the get go you could feel every note in your chest and throughout your body. Many rose from their seats to satiate their uncontrollable urge to dance.

Owusu wasted no time getting into songs such as “The Other Black Dog”, a song that he once, fittingly, described as “feel[ing] like a movie chase scene”. It was immediately clear that the few who hadn’t engaged as much with the opening acts were in fact saving their energy for this moment. Loud, brash and indomitable, it was quite a moment. This led into “Centrefold”, a dark but an impossibly funky cut. On stage, Owusu was on full display, flailing arms and smooth dance moves altogether. The crowd was understandably raving.

Songs like “Waitin’ On Ya” and “A Song About Fishing” reinforced Owusu’s ability to instantly draw it back, almost commanding the crowd to settle into a rhythm of waving arms and singing. Launching into “Black Dogs!” perhaps the most energetic song on the whole album, had everyone screaming the lyrics, and Owusu even managed to summon a football crowd chant on the chorus of “Whip Cracker”. Even the older, “Wit’ Da Team” summoned a sea of excited expressions.

The set was a backdrop to Owusu’s incredible performance and a focal point, with four banners dropping down throughout the performance, displaying four remarkable graphics. It was matched with equally impressive lighting. Bold and velvety purples soon turned into fallacious gold. Pernicious reds turned into white strobe lights. It was a set that was harnessed by Owusu and the Black Dog Band, who together stepped and danced on stage in disjointed unison. A palpable dynamism bounced back and forth on “Drown” between Callinan and Owusu on their alternating verses.

“Everyday is a holiday if you can’t tell the time” announces Owusu on “Waitin’ On Ya” and this night certainly was; a holiday of a night, in which the only thing Owusu didn’t command was the ceaseless passing of time.

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

With Gensis Owusu’s Australian tour now come to a close, it moves onto the United States and then to Europe. For more information and tickets head HERE.

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