Hayden James’ Just Friends Tour kicked off in Melbourne last night at iconic venue The Forum. Once doors opened, fans began filtering in with more denim jackets and white Adidas Stan Smith’s than a North Shore Sydney house party.
The opener, Happiness is Wealth, kicked things off with some nice melodic EDM, reminiscent of Client Liaison, complete with live vocals and some interesting, albeit small, light displays which got the crowd moving. Their set was underpinned with some driving bass lines and great vocal melodies that set the tone for the evening.
Second act, Carmoflague Rose followed things up, fresh from his recent Triple J Like a Version of Kanye West’s iconic sadboy banger “Heartless”.
He brought out some heavy trap instrumentals with some quick wordplay and crowd engagement, capitalising and extending the level of energy already established by Happiness is Wealth. He performed his rendition of “Heartless” live, which acted as a great transition from more trap-oriented songs to some electronic influences, setting the scene for Hayden James. Big shoutout to Carmoflague’s friend who was drinking red wine from a comically large glass as Carmoflague performed and took some time to chat to us along with the artist himself after the set – they’re great guys with stellar music to match.
Following the opening acts, the scene was perfectly set for Hayden James – the haze of artificial smoke filling The Forum; a perfect backdrop for the light and visual arrangements that marked the beginning of Hayden’s set. James further capitalised on the energy of the openers, delivering track after track of his signature club-pop stylings, triggering waves of odd dance moves and swaying bodies. The beautiful images and clips projected behind him were a welcome sight for his jaw-swinging fans, and a great aesthetic accompaniment to his music. The pulsating bass of “Just a Lover” starting off the set, in addition to it’s disco-influenced instrumental stylings kicked off the momentum for the crowd, getting people moving from very early on.
Along the way, Hayden played some newer material, much loved material and some covers too. Fan favourite “Something About You” came early on, with fans screaming along and dancing to the pulsating bass line of Hayden’s 2014 single. The tour’s titular song, “Just Friends”, had an incredibly strong live performance, with some heavier percussion sequencing, and extended instrumental sections adding a lot of extra depth to the performance. Hayden adding elements such as extra drums or new synths over existing songs worked incredibly well and generated a really unique live music experience, because the songs felt specifically altered for the show’s set. He didn’t disclose the name of a new song he debuted at the gig, but its bouncy instrumental made it a great, danceable song that fans should be looking forward to a studio version of.
Bringing on vocal and guitar assistance, James thrashed away at his equipment with drumsticks, with this live instrumentation giving the performance more than the usual set from an electronic music artist. James himself also played guitar as a compliment to some of his tracks, showcasing even more of his skills.
The strong crowd involvement and packed venue really made his one hour set feel like it was being played at a festival, with people being thrown around on shoulders and jumping throughout. The tangible haze from the smoke machines made the blue ceiling and old archways of the Forum feel like an outdoor historic venue, which added to the ambience set by the projections and lights on the screen behind him. People climbing on top of each other and Hayden writhing away at his tech equipment really helped the energy and momentum of the show, making the Forum feel larger than life, with seas of people bobbing, nodding and dancing their hearts out.
About halfway through the set, Hayden shifted towards some more electronic trap, most notably with the pluko remix of Hayden’s 2018 Single “Numb”, which features GRAACE and some jarring bass, as beautifully smooth vocal melodies fade in and out. Hayden’s variation in song choice was a welcome shift, still keeping within the bounds of his styles of music, while adding some variation to the night, ensuring he was always fresh and engaging.
Overall, James has started his Australian tour in the best of fashion, with great crowd involvement, fitting visuals, and a great selection of opening acts and songs to create an enjoyable and electric atmosphere. Fans should definitely try and catch one of the remaining gigs if they can, as Hayden James is definitely not an act to miss.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Hayden James is on tour around Australia throughout the month, before heading to the US for shows through October. For dates and more details, head to his official website.
The reviewer attended the Hayden James performance at The Forum in Melbourne on Friday, 7th September 2018.