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Gotye’s Riverside concert proves more than a one-hit wonder

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Gotye impressed the crowd with his unique visuals and sound. Photo by Claire Nowak/claire.nowak@marquette.edu

Most would be quick to label Gotye as a one-hit wonder. His chart-topping single “Somebody That I Used to Know” took the Internet by storm this past year, selling more that seven million downloads and becoming one of YouTube’s most watched videos with more than 308 million views. What many music lovers fail to appreciate, though, is the individuality in his approach to music, a trait he prominently displayed Saturday night at the Riverside Theater.

There was a certain theatric element to the first half of the performance. Complex light sequences flashed on the drum beats while Wally De Backer, the Australia native better known as Gotye, walked out for the first number. These lights were accompanied by animations projected on a large screen in the back of the stage. Gotye fans immediately recognized them from the musician’s music videos, which more often than not feature animated shorts as opposed to live action film clips.

Gotye was able to use these videos to convey the meaning behind his music in a way that is overlooked by most conventional artists. These deeper meanings varied from calls for help in “Easy Way Out” to protecting the environment from our own actions in “Eyes Wide Open.” His movements on stage were also synchronized with the animations behind him, which looked natural and fit well with the songs.

The music itself was also unique, a blend of different genres and musical techniques. Some songs, like “Bronte,” were slow and soft, more along the lines of traditional singer/songwriter tunes. Others involved multiple synth keyboards and samples. For “State of the Art,” he used an auto-tuned microphone to personify a magical music-making machine.

Throughout the show, Gotye openly expressed his love of performing. He ran between the instruments on stage, playing a drum kit for part of one song, then other percussion instruments for another. In nearly every song he kept time with two wooden mallets.

His performance overall seemed like a combination of the two opening acts, Jonti and Missy Higgins. Jonti, an Australian arranger, producer and vocalist, played original mixes off his MacBook Pro and mini synth keyboard. When he sang, he had a good, clear voice but overall came across as awkward and out of place.

Missy Higgins, on the other hand, obviously had more recording and touring experience. The singer/songwriter, yet another Australia native, wowed the crowd with her personal songs and confident voice. She accompanied herself on the piano for several songs and sounded like an Australian Norah Jones.

Gotye’s personality fell somewhere in between. He had the confidence of Missy Higgins but distanced himself from the crowd like Jonti, at least for the first half of the show.

The performance ultimately climaxed after ten songs, when the singer played the first notes of his smash hit, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It was a crowd favorite that had everyone singing along. Missy Higgins joined Gotye halfway through to sing the verse originally sung by Kimbra. The audience was more than happy to hear her again, and the song ended with a standing ovation.

After his hit, it seemed a barrier was broken, and Gotye connected even more with the audience. “I’m going to need your help for this next song,” he said, inviting the audience to get out of their seats and come closer to the stage. Only a select few remained seated. He taught the audience a simple background vocal for “Save Me” and pointed to them when it was their turn to sing.

For the rest of the show, the musicians and listeners alike became more engaged with the music and each other. The screams for an encore brought the singer back with two more songs after he had finished his set.

It may be difficult to create another hit as successful as his first single, but Gotye has the individuality needed to survive in the music business. If listeners don’t judge him on one song and see him live for more than just “Somebody That I Used to Know,” they may find a lot to enjoy in his diverse music.

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