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LIVE REVIEW: Hiatus Kaiyote @ The Sydney Opera House // Vivid 2023

Photography: @thattomvu

For one night only during Vivid LIVE 2023, a mesmerising synergy ignited between Hiatus Kaiyote and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, transporting us to a sonic landscape that will not soon be forgotten. Oh, and Eric the pink dinosaur was there, too.

Many have tried to define the sound of Hiatus Kaiyote with a blend of niche genres such as left-field jazz, future funk, and neo soul, but the truth is the 4-piece outfit defies definition. Their latest return to the Sydney Opera House saw the band accompanied by none other than the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a fusion which someone seated behind me thought had the potential to be “a bit confusing.” Before I had the chance to turn around and explain to them precisely why this pairing was so perfect, the lights dimmed, and the performance did all the explaining for me.

The set began with lead singer and guitarist Nai Palm inviting us to accompany the ensemble on “an illustrious sonic journey” before treating us to the unreleased, ambrosial 'Dreamboat'. Buoyed along by the SSO’s lofty arrangements, this one made each of us feel like a long-awaited lover had finally come home. Following this, Nai playfully asked everyone to whip out their phone torches for 'And We Go Gentle', transforming the Opera House into a moth’s paradise.

Throughout, memorable interludes included the orchestra’s cinematic preludes to 'Get Sun' and 'Rose Water', as well as bassist Paul Bender’s mind melting high-octave solo. I genuinely had to look up and wonder if there was a guitar at some stage, but it was just Bender with what I can only assume was an octave pedal. Drummer Perrin Moss had a solo moment too, showing off his technical chops. However, the personal highlight for me was hearing Nai’s voice soar to operatic heaven on 'The World it Softly Lulls'. It was nuts. The spectacular lighting, together with Nai’s vibrant, neon clothing made it look like they were performing in a bioluminescent coral reef. The band’s bright pink, cowboy hat-wearing dinosaur, looked right at home, receiving a shout out from one audience member who proclaimed, “I LOVE YOU ERIC!”

In the end, the SSO’s strings softly lulled us into the final number, 'The Lung', with a harmonic glissando to make your brain purr. Simon Mavin’s keys tickled us to dizzying heights, and when Nai sighed out her final line, “Quick to lose your furrowed brow,” I imagined that confused person behind me with their eyebrows raised to their hairline.

All in all, another extraordinary performance from the Melbourne outfit, showcasing their boundless creativity and artistic vision. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s accompaniment proved to be the perfect alchemy, serving as a testament to the power of collaboration. Suffice to say, it was an experience worth the trip!

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