- Kieran Hebden's renown as a producer and DJ stretches back well over a decade. Last week, on Wednesday, January 6th, he was invited to play live to a packed Sydney Opera House, a booking that must've felt pretty special when it landed on the table, even at this point in his career. It gave Hebden, AKA Four Tet, a chance to showcase material old and new, and to produce something more personal and cohesive than his dance floor-focussed DJ sets. So did it live up to the promise? Yes and no.
The set began with the melodic "Evening Side" from last year's Morning/Evening album, while 3D strands of light provided a mesmerizing backdrop to his knob twiddling. As the crowd looked on transfixed, you got the sense that you were being pulled along by the track's gentle eddies into ever faster and more turbulent waters. For some reason, though, Hebden then disrupted the vibe with a slamming four-to-the floor curveball, complete with trademark looped and chopped vocals woven in and out of the mix. This got the politely seated audience on its feet, but it also felt like he was exploding too early from the starting blocks.
Despite playing some formidable tracks from across his back catalogue, Hebden never recaptured that early energy. Cuts like "Sing," "Jupiters" and "Ba Teaches Yoga" were tweaked in interesting ways to suit the live context, but haphazard programming sapped the performance of its drama. More chilled passages came across as endless, teasing breakdowns that lacked any kind of pay-off.
When Hebden drew things to a close, coming full circle with a stirring rendition of "Morning Side," it felt like it was all over too quickly. As a brief survey of Four Tet's oeuvre the show worked well, with some frankly beautiful and affecting moments. But as a performance it felt unsure of itself, trapped between fully committing to the dance floor and providing an experience you could enjoy from the comfort of your chair.
Photo credit: yeahsure.co