The first song I ever heard by Grouplove was “Colours”; I think it was an iTunes Single of the Week back in the days before streaming – remember those?! In the months that followed, while the tune had incredibly high rotation on my iPod, I remember having a feeling they’d be kick-ass live. Hitting the Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney on Tuesday night as the second stop on their world tour, my several-year-old gut feelings were wholeheartedly confirmed.
Frontwoman Hannah Hooper is known for taking care of most of the band’s artwork, and the album art for upcoming LP Big Mess is no different – it’s a cacophony of colours and is one of those cover artworks that kind of perfectly reflect the tunes within. In a little room beside the bar and merch desk at the OAF, the band had set up a massive canvas and a whole heap of paint for punters to recreate the Big Mess artwork. Any sweet interactive exercise gets a big A+ from me – by the end of the night, the canvas was covered in paint and looked pretty darn great! I’m not too sure what their plans for the finished product are, but the fans at the show definitely appreciated it.
Headset microphone on, support artist Lisa Mitchell floated onto the stage with a drummer and keyboardist/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist to play a half-hour set that very much felt like a ‘greatest hits’ – so many classic tunes! Some set highlights were a live version of Seekae’s remix of “Wah Ha”, one of Lisa’s recent singles, as well as her latest single “The Boys” and an interestingly reworked version of “Neopolitan Dreams”. Every song elicited cheers of recognition and excitement from the growing crowd, and by the time her set drew to a close we were feeling buoyed post singalongs, swaying and a little bit of boogieing to boot.
After a short wait (with a quick shout-out to the team picking the in-between music at the OAF: excellent waiting-tune choices!) LA natives Grouplove bounced onto the stage with “I’m With You”, sporting an immense amount of energy and infectious joy. The entire hour-long set felt like they were drawing us into their wild, big happy family – which isn’t so far from the truth! In fact, as mentioned on-stage, frontpeople Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi are married, with an almost one-year-old who will probably never have any idea just how cool her parents are. With this lil insight into the Grouplove dynamic, suddenly all their tunes make that bit more sense with an even sweeter edge to them. I’m not sure if it was just the family ties, but something about the comfort of the band and their palpable affection for Sydney and Australia (multiple times they mentioned before playing a song that they wrote it here!) made it feel very much like a hometown show – which is always an awesome thing.
The five-piece zoomed through all their hits, including “Itchin’ on a Photograph”, “Let Me In” and “Ways To Go”. Hearing “Tongue Tied” live made my heart feel like it was going to explode. Current single and what has to end up being one of the coming summer’s anthems, “Welcome to Your Life”, rounded off their main set so wonderfully, and a rad highlight from the set for me was “Gold Coast”, one of the softer moments of the set. For the most part though, there was hardly a moment to take a breath between the crowd-surfing, headbanging and grooving with the band to their euphoric melodies and incredible musicianship.
The three-song encore saw the band close on “Colours”. It felt like a rare joy to be able to see these legends in an intimate space like the Oxford Art Factory – which, incidentally, was the first place in Australia they ever played – as they could easily rouse an Enmore crowd. However, there was something special about being at such close quarters with this incredibly talented group, and really feeling up-close the warm-your-heart-in-a-flash vibe that they have a knack of creating. It’s so clear that they all genuinely enjoy playing with each other, and that they love music with a passion, and every bit of that came through to their sold out Sydney audience. Seeing them live, Grouplove’s band name couldn’t be more fitting.