What do you do on a rained-out Sunday evening in Sydney? Go to a gig at the Sydney Opera House of course. This weekend saw the launch of Vivid Live 2011, an annual event that puts the renowned piece of architecture at the centre of a fortnight of lights, cameras, action and live music. For me, and three of my most glamorous, fun-loving Aussie friends, this meant heading to the Armadillo-like building to spend the evening in the company of Australian synthpop stars, Cut/Copy, plus a couple of hundred music-loving strangers.
After running around Circular Quay in the middle of an unexpected downpour, dodging puddles (which somehow transferred themselves to the insides of my shoes, squelch) and weaving around inspiring light installations*, we skidded to a halt in awe (on my part, at least) in the foyer of the concert hall, where the arching beams of uplit concrete welcomed us to an evening of theatricality and all-round entertainment. Obviously Cut/Copy were the focus of our attention, but there were plenty of other things to keep us amused prior to their appearance, and even between songs. The rest of the gig-goers/ audience being the main point of interest.
People watching always amuses me, but in certain places or situations – such as live music venues – it’s particularly fascinating. This was no exception. From the moment we walked through the concert hall doors to our (annoyingly) fixed, allocated seating (kudos to Michelle for scoring such perfect placement though) it was clear this might be a bit of a strange scenario. Operatic venue + synth and electro fans = an unknown result.
This isn’t your average arena. Do you have to sit? Are you allowed to stand? Is your standing going to annoy the people around you? What about crazy dancing? Judging by some of the people around us, such as the guy with a rod up the back of his white shirt which was buttoned up to the collar, the four geeky guys a few rows behind us, all wearing striped tees and blank looks, and some of the older couples up in the balcony, the answers would be as follows: Sit down. Back straight. Stare blankly ahead of you. Show no emotion – not even a flicker. Do not even consider dancing – a slight head-nod to the beat is just about acceptable.
Unfortunately for them, we (and luckily most of the people around us) seemed to have a different copy of the rule book: Get up on your feet (ASAP). Stay standing. Smile, laugh, joke, whistle, cheer. Dance like no-one’s watching. Applaud all the other people who are doing the same thing as you – especially the ones with great style (immediate acquaintances excepted, lady in vintage red dress with sharp black bob, and Fifties-chic fella up on the balcony donning heavy black specs, bowtie and sweater vest, you won our votes).
And we followed these rules closely from the moment that the band walked through an oversized door on to the Jungle foliage-laden/ Club Tropicana-style stage; through the Carnivale atmosphere created by three Latin drummers; past the crazy saxophonist’s raised platform solo, which took things to an entirely new Eighties-kitsch level – matched only by lead singer Dan Whitford’s fantastically energetic and not-even-slightly-tongue-in-cheek power-arm pumps; via the gospel choir’s slightly subdued contribution; right along with crazy guitarist Tim Hoey as he clambered, monkeylike, onto the drum kit to add extra depth to the beat; all the way to the night’s all-too-soon finale. Whew. I don’t know about the band, or those people who somehow remained deadpan and glued to their seats, but we had a great time. To use a better, more locally acceptable phrase, it was awesome – especially considering I’d heard rumours that the acoustics inside the Opera House were actually really bad!
But then, as punishment for impeding the view of the people behind us (and perhaps for our ever-so-slightly judgmental whisperings about the folk at the gig with us), we got kicked out into the driving rain again and sent packing. Not before we took a little more time to gape at the light display on Customs House, though.
A vivid, live neon experience I will definitely be repeating – next time in its entirety – before it disappears in a couple of weeks. Just as soon as this Noah’s Ark weather has dispersed, that is.