He had just played a gig in London to around 200 people and was promoting the release of his single ‘Easy Way Out’ ahead of the release of the Making Mirrors album earlier this year, and was an effusive and engaging interviewee, passionate about how he made music. Of course, he was already huge in the Low Countries and Australia but in the few months since then and now Gotye has exploded in the UK. If you time it right, you could switch between BBC Radio 1 and commercial radio stations and listen to nothing but ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ for about 20 minutes.
He’s been number one in the charts for the past few weeks with the same song, the most curious and unexpected (and deserved) number one for a good while, and quite frankly the track looks immovable. Add to this sold out shows across the UK and Europe, including this one at Glasgow’s ABC, and you could say that Gotye is “so hot right now”.
No-one’s really admitting it, but a large part of the audience is here to hear that song and in a stroke of brilliantly casual insouciance, Wally and his band throw it quietly into the set after just half an hour. There’s no Kimbra to take up the female part of the bitter break-up track so Gotye asks the audience to pick up the slack; it works, and it’s a communal moment that avoids being a cheesy stadium rock cliché. However, there are other parts of the set that prove ultimately more thrilling and fulfilling…
De Backer is a singing drummer, and although he has a regular drummer in his line-up he spends the gig restlessly switching between synths, analogue drum machines and regular percussion and creating loops of beats and vocals like a one-man band, surrounded by stacks of equipment. It’s a captivating sight to behold and transforms tracks like ‘State Of The Art’ and the songs from previous album Like Drawing Blood into skittering, jittery, sample-heavy experiences with layers of sound. They might not have the commercial appeal that his current single does, but these tracks are much more rewarding. Backed with excellent visual that range from proggy, to psychedelic to cartoonish, it’s clear this is a show that’s been honed close to perfection by a year’s worth of touring; there’s also more straight ahead moments that work just as well, with gig opener ‘Eyes Wide Open’, ‘Easy Way Out’ and the marvellous ‘Save Me’ all working brilliantly, and showing off De Backer’s surprisingly powerful Peter Gabriel-esque voice.
Sure, there’s a couple of dodgier MOR moments in the encore, but they’re forgivable considering what’s gone before: ‘Heart’s A Mess’ shows Gotye can do emotional without being cringey and the pre-encore closer ‘Bronte’ is the highlight of the evening, a barely-there track that’s a duet for metallophone, epically sad and encapsulating loss in three minutes.
I’d imagine that even the most ardent of Adele fans might reach for the dial when ‘Someone Like You’ comes on the radio for the nth time in the day, so there’s a danger that Gotye’s current ubiquity might be damaging in the long term. However, if he can engage people with some of the deeper cuts on Making Mirrors then this is a crossover career that could run, and run – on tonight’s evidence he’s certainly got the backing.