As mentioned in a previous journal entry here, I have been of two minds in regards to seeing the two frenchys whom are Air. Traditionally I have been a big fan of them since my Scottish mate Paul (back in Scotland now, bless him) introduced me to them in 2003. In the last 18 months however, I have been drifting away from that Chill-out electronica 70s cheese (I mean good cheese) music. I still enjoy listening to their stuff, but I dont put it on with any regularity these days.
So when the decision came weather to spend the $110 on a ticket, I could not make up my mind... especially since no one I knew was particularly keen on seeing them either (for similar reasons). As such, I basically accepted the fact that I would not be seeing them. I was reasonably comfortable with that decision, with only the slightest of worry that if I didn't go, it would be another Peter Bjorn & John, Explosions in the Sky or Daft Punk regret.
And so, I sat at work on Thursday, having pretty much forgotten the concert was even on, when Makan sends me an email claiming to have tickets and asking if I wanted to go. Makan is about the last person I would have expected to make such a suggestion. Traditionally Makan does not organise anything. Furthermore, the Makan I know is quite difficult to motivate to do anything other than go to the movies. Canberra appears to have changed the man somewhat and it was surprising and refreshing for him to actually make such a suggestion.
That being said, while I have purchased Makan a couple of Air albums in the past, he actually had no idea who they were when he made the proposal... as such, the albums mustn't have made much of an impression on him. None the less, I was more than happy to go and see what Air had to offer. They do have quite a reputation for their live shows, and I was curious what it would be like.
So how was Air? Let me tell you!
...but first, allow me to say a couple of words about their support act - New Buffalo. I do not want to waste too much time writing about this woman. Her set was lifeless. She looked uncomfortable and moody. So moody that Makan and I were sure that she was actually in the middle of a argument with her instrumentalist (a woman with dark hair), as they kept glancing at each other with bitter faces. Also, at one point after a song, she used the line "Thank you... thank you to those of you that are clapping". It was quite a strange moment where the audience just sat there, and even people that were clapping looked at each other in a confused and embarrassed manner. The woman had no charisma in her at all, which completely took away from the cuteness that her songs probably have on her album. Overall, quite a disappointing support act... they should have used Radarmaker :-)
Also, the DJ that was playing between the support acts was utter crap... just ridiculous song choices that did not even come close to setting the mood for the main show to come.... Add to that poor poor sound quality (and issue which plagued the whole evening) and you had a situation where I almost would have preferred to have no music on at all. The only decent track her played was 'Someone like you' by Rôyksopp, and that cut out half way through, due to technical problems.
So then, onto the main event.
Air came onstage. Nicolas and Jean-Beniot took their positions, and played (unless I am mistaken) 'La Femme d'Argent' from their 'Moon Safari' album. It was a nice opener.
I'm not good at remember the order in which things were played, but 'Venus' soon followed. The lighting display was pretty pleasing, and certainly managed to capture the moods of the songs quite well... though I'm not sure how well that will be represented in the vids below.
Air, playing - Venus
After Venus came one of my all-time favourite Air tracks - Run. I think it is at this point the my appreciation of the live Air experience started to diminish. I suddenly realised that while I love their music on CD, it is pretty much impossible for them to recreate the intricacies of their sound, in a live setting. And it really did sound pretty terrible. I'm not sure who was sitting in the mixing tent, but it was... just bad. Run is a highly atmospheric song, and they were trying to perform it as such... but it just didn't work. It sounded amateurish at best. That being said, I appreciate that I might have had unrealistic expectations, since I love that track so much.
'Talisman', one of my other favourites followed. I listened eagerly for the string section to start (in my view, the best part of the song), only to find that they replaced it with a synth sound. I was displeased again.
'People in the city' was done pretty damn nicely (since it doesn't have those subtleties I was mentioning earlier)
People in the City
The highlight song of the night for me, surprisingly, was 'Dont be Light' from the '10,000 Hz Legend' album. I've always liked the song, but didn't actually expect them to play it... but they did, and it sounded great. The lighting was also very well done and added a lot to the atmosphere of the song. It certainly got the crowed going (to some degree) and the tiny off-centre mosh pit was finally starting to get a workout.
Don't be Light
I guess I will now mentioned one of my other gripes - The venue. Its true that Kings Park is a beautiful setting for such a concert.... but who on earth made the terrible decision to set up the stage at the back of the little lake? There was basically a 35m semicircle of water in front of the stage, stopping anyone from actually getting close. The standing area was completely to one side of the stage, in front of the speakers... there was not even a tiny bit of overlap. This setup basically resulted in 95% of people remaining seated on the ground, which is not very decisive to creating energy in the crowd.
The tiny 'standing' section to the right... everyone else was seated on the lawn
My next gripe - What the fuck sort of band walks offstage and expects people to cheer for an encore after just 40-min? Most people there paid over $100 for their tickets, and I everyone seemed pretty damn aggravated that they were basically being asked to beg for more for their money. I was clapping loudly, while swearing about them to myself and to Makan. Naturally they came back onstage and continued playing.
They played a couple of songs from their new album (there was only one song I actually didn't recognise), followed by the closer - Kelly Watch the Stars.
Kelly Watch the Stars
So, after a little more than 70-min on stage, they called it a night... That's 70-min for their first show in Australia ever. That's 70-min worth of music, from a catalogue of 6 CDs (5 hours worth, according to my iTunes). That's 70-min for over $100, with a really crap support act, terrible acoustics and annoying stage position. The physical and mental disconnection between the stage and the crowd made it feel like we had just watched a live concert at a outdoor cinema.
I'm actually pretty curious what other people thought.... It was not a bad concert, but it certainly was not a good one.... I would have rather spend $40 to seen Múm again... in fact, I would have gladly paid the Air price to see Múm again :-)
I do not regret going, and I am very thankful for Makan coming up with the idea, and supplying the discounted tickets. I was simply expecting more of everything, and the terrible sound quality did not help things.... nor did their pretentious early encore, and early finish.