It’s odd to consider an electronic show or even a DJ set performed on the iconic stage of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a completely seated venue best suited for high-brow watchers more likely to toe tap than fist pump. An electronic show is, of course, better suited to the latter but Kieran Hebden, known to us as Four Tet, is of a different bread. His records and tracks are elongated, made for patient audiences looking for a marathon rather than a sprint of immediate drops and howling synths.
With this in mind, there was no way of predicting which was his Opera House show would go. Punters were confined to seats and while there was a stunning light show to gaze at there was no way to tell whether the crowd would sit and marvel or jump from their seats. Four Tet, a man who’s always been a puppet master with his sets, kept us guessing beginning with 15 beat-less minutes. A dripping water effect was unveiled behind him as he ushered in the evening with the Evening Side of his latest record Morning/Evening.
Once the beat dropped at the 15 minute mark of the night, the fate of the crowd was sealed. They were on their feet, transforming the Opera House into a gorgeous site of a vivacious crowd surrounded by hypnotizing lights and 3D patterns.
Technically it was only a set of eight songs but a tracklist doesn’t really ever do Four Tet justice. Each song has multiple detours, building with force and then pulling right back as if he’s got his foot hovering over an accelerator peddle. Sing from one of his most acclaimed albums There Is Love In You was a particular highlight marrying glitchy techno with atmospheric electronica. The bass ricocheted around the Concert Hall and there were plenty of moments of simply gazing around the room awestruck by the way the lights hit the expert architecture. Ba Teaches Yoga was also a hallmark moment in the set feeling as if we were travelling through space with Hebden at the wheel.
Obviously the seating situation makes dancing a little awkward at times but it’s an easy trade-off if it means we get to experience this kind of music outside of a club for one special night. It was proved with Disclosure earlier in the week and it’s been proved once again here. While Hebden is a shy, no-frills producer the performance was bigger than him. He needed the lights and he needed the beautiful atmosphere the crowd on their feet created and there’s something really humble about that. He’s confident in the effect his music has and it never felt as if he needed to rush the experience.
As he ended with the Morning Side, he ushered the beat away for one last time, leaving as much the same as how he greeted us – with stark minimalism. It was if he’d taken us on a journey and then returned us safely in the same way as when we left except now we have this memory of the time spent with Four Tet in the Sydney Opera House.