Entertainment

Four Tet review: Kieran Hebden drops the bass amid pleasure in sea of lights

FOUR TET

Sydney Opera House, January 6 

A shower of light for Four Tet at the Sydney Opera House.
A shower of light for Four Tet at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Mark Metcalfe

★★★★

There was a chance early in the Four Tet show where you could stop and think, "I wonder where this is going?" 

The ambience was mild, the tempo relaxed, the sounds simple. The lighting, provided by scores of stalactite-like cords behind Kieran Hebden, was sporadic, lightly patterned and not distracting from him at his desk of laptops, switches and console.

Likewise, with his signature Harpo Marx-like hair more subdued than in previous incarnations and a light sweater quickly discarded on arrival to leave him in plain T-shirt and jeans, Hebden was discreetly building little sonic stands rather than edifices, their substance grounded but their aspects modest.

Were we going to get the more cerebral, sit-back-and-experience Four Tet? Was this to be more beard stroking than hand waving? After all, the Four Tet reputation was built on the technical and, you might even say, scientific perfection over any base emotional effects of his compositions.

However, when the first bass drop happened about 15 minutes in, sparking an initially spotty but quickly room-wide leap from seats, matters were quickly settled: we were going to be here for a good time. And it was most decidedly a good time.

Four Tet Photo (Kieran Hebden) at the Opera House on January 6. Photo supplied by Opera House credit: Mark Metcalfe

Four Tet's Kieran Hebden blew away the Opera House with a well-constructed electronic set-up. Photo: Mark Metcalfe

Hebden's melange may have lacked for extremes or bold surprises, less interested in the unlikely sample or the get-out-of-here incongruity, but it didn't need them either.

Accretion of detail was more the go as Hebden subtly coloured each progression, so if you wanted to stop dancing for a minute, you could enjoy the enhancements and the occasional bursts of familiar melody, but if not, then you could just enjoy the fact everything seemed to get bigger on you.

Bigger, but not thumpingly so. While the bass got heavier as the night wore on, the anticipation of those drops tweaked and tweaked until you could hear our pips squeak, begging for release. Hebden wasn't pinning us to the back of the room; he was throwing us higher instead.

As the show built, so did the lighting. Those stalactites became sheets of colour or waves of light, pulses of energy or big wide skies. There wasn't a lot to it, maybe, but it did everything you needed.

As Disclosure had shown a night earlier, the problems of the Concert Hall as a venue for a rock band – those disappearing top and bottom spectrums of sound – can be blown away by a well-constructed electronic set-up. Four Tet had that, and a wash of good feeling to boot. Pleasure was had.

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