Eight. That’s how old I was when The Avalanches changed recorded music history with their debut album Since I Left You. I’m now 24 and having grown out of the music I was listening to as an eight year old (So Fresh Hits of Summer anyone?), I was definitely looking forward to seeing The Avalanches play their first live show in Sydney in more than a decade. Having sold out the Enmore Theatre months in advance, they definitely had the support of the crowd behind them, but with a lacklustre return to the live stage back at Splendour In The Grass six months earlier, it was going to be interesting to see whether they’d sorted out their set and the sub-standard performance they’d put on to the festival crowd.
Opening the night was Grandmaster Flash. Put simply, based on the DJ set he played, there’s a reason why they call him the Grandmaster. With a forty minute set filled with every 1980’s and 90’s banger you could think of, the Grandmaster set things in motion for what promised to be a super night.
The Avalanches are more than enigmatic. After creating the ground-breaking Since I Left You in 2000, a generation of music lovers have grown up not knowing the band in a live setting at all. There were these fabled stories you could draw conclusions from, but in reality, there was very little to indicate what they’d be like upon their live return. And while 2016’s Wildflower was another masterpiece, their live show still has a lot of improvement needed if they’re to reach the heights the public has kind of anticipated them to reach.
I remember thinking back at Splendour that they should have returned in a small club or theatre (like the Enmore), and built up to a sprawling amphitheatre. It would have allowed them the chance for fans (as opposed to drunk festival goers) to welcome them back. It would have afforded them the chance to iron out any kinks in their live set. And while their Enmore set was fun enough, you could tell there was/is something missing from The Avalanches. Yes, there were all the fan favourites (“Frontier Psychiatrist” received the biggest response of the night, while set closer “Since I Left You” was a sentimental masterstroke), but it felt like The Avalanches were missing the essence of what has been created in their legend. Whether that’s the lack of original members present on the night, I don’t know. But as a member of the crowd, it never felt like the band truly connected with the punters.
Admittedly, there were still plenty of great moments from the set. The heaving bass drop from “Frankie Sinatra” was outstanding, and the summer vibes of “Because I’m Me” brought a necessary warmth to the set. New fan favourites “Subways” and “If I Was a Folkstar” added a silkiness to a set that otherwise felt a little lost. All guest and touring vocals did their jobs ably, without setting the world alight. It pains me to say, but overall the set was kind of flat and lacking inspiration.
While it was great to see The Avalanches back in a live setting and releasing new music, one can’t help but feel their time in the sun may have come and gone. I truly hope they keep releasing music, as both Wildflower and Since I Left You are genuine classics that deserve recognition.
Photo: John Goodridge (Falls Festival 2017)