Photo by: Jamie Williams
Oh you pretty things. As Hyde Park’s Sydney Festival Village heaved with people paying their last respects to the one and only David Bowie, a little band from New Zealand played a nice venue called the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. They were The Chills and they played a set that was brimming with beautiful, indie pop music.
This little group that could have had their fair share of ups and downs over the years. For some time this was the primary vehicle for the final remaining, founding member and songwriter, Martin Phillipps. Their recent album, Silver Bullets has seen a return to form, with the current line-up having played together for approximately a decade and also managing to capture some of that magic, Dunedin sound that fans of the Flying Nun record label talk about with much admiration and respect.
This evening was as much about celebrating the strong new comeback album as it was about celebrating the old songs. There were some punters that would have been hearing all of these tracks live for the very first time. This is not a band that has toured Australia often which is a shame, as they put on a rather sweet show to say the least.
The set started with the lush “Night of Chill Blue”. It was one pretty and sublime song that set the tone for the remainder of the evening. Phillipps’ creations straddle the lines between shimmering love songs that echo with a bittersweet quality as well as having their fair share of moments where they delve into the deep and meaningful world of social issues and politics. It’s a heady mix that can see Phillipps declaring his ability to fall in love one moment in a song like “Wet Blanket”, and then take pot shots at the U.S. later on in “America Says Hello”.
The group were a tight one where the complex and jangly guitar riffs worked together with the keys and the violin played by Erica Scally. The latter created a very atmospheric tone, full of different textures and techniques. New songs “Aurora Corona”, “I Can’t Help You” and “Warm Waveform” were all well received and fitted well alongside older favourites like “House With A Hundred Rooms”. The music was very vibrant and youthful and could have been played by artists several decades younger than the front man. It also meant the tunes wouldn’t be out-of-place on a playlist alongside the likes of R.E.M., The Church or even Cloud Control.
The Chills played some great kaleidoscopes of swirling pop at Sydney Festival and more than one of their self-proclaimed ‘heavenly pop hits’. The set was a fitting batch of songs for a warm, summer night and while the group have never reached the upper echelons or levels of the Thin White Duke being celebrated nearby, they’d certainly found their niche and entertained one happy, sold-out Sydney crowd. The Chills finished up with “Rolling Moon” and left people feeling joyful and basking in their opulent pop tunes. It was just gorgeous.