Chevron Festival Gardens
Monday, February 17
REVIEW HARVEY RAE
Austra's light shone briefly but brightly in their first WA headline show on Monday night, following a trip here for St Jerome's Laneway Festival in 2012. The Monday factor was something of a sticking point. Austra's brand of up-tempo dance music isn't well suited to a Monday even if this is Festival season.
Like Julia Holter last week, the space was only modestly filled but in the case of Holter's sweeping atmospherics it didn't detract. One senses that Austra feed more off crowd energy and dancing, sadly Perth gave them precious little of either.
For their part, the Canadian four-piece was tight and bright, with plenty of pretty lights adding colour and animation to proceedings. Frontwoman Katie Stelmanis' sparkling outfit and drummer Maya Postepski's patterned top were eye-catching, while touring keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak added to the spectacle in what can only be described as a leotard crossed with a mankini.
But the night belonged to Stelmanis, whose big voice and stylised dance moves stole the show. The classically trained singer held a commanding presence on stage as the band performed tracks from 2011's Feel It Break and 2013's Olympia. Stelmanis' voice never faltered, hitting each note with precision.
Opener What We Done delivered a slow build to a throbbing climax and the band maintained momentum with Painful Like and Forgive Me. Home provided the next highlight but the show truly came to life for the closing three tracks of the main set.
Lose It is Austra's best single and shines live in concert. Better still, Beat and the Pulse's goth-dance intro upped the energy considerably. However, that pulsating two-minute instrumental section was both the show's highlight and emblematic of what Austra needed - more extended dance floor moments. Just as the crowd had started dancing, songs would finish and Austra would have to build from the bottom up again.
That might also solve the other issue, that at just 55 minutes - including an encore - their set was too short. It's a compliment because Austra left us wanting more but there's the sense they could go from being a very good band to a great one with just a couple of minor adjustments.
Earlier, local electronic four-piece Lilt impressed with a flashy production of their own. Incorporating live visuals to accompany their big sound, they deftly moved from trip-hop to drum 'n' bass with plenty more in between.