The Hum of the Drum

F
It is a no-brainer and definitely not an exaggeration that Belgian-Australian singer and multi-instrumentalist Wally De Backer aka Gotye is known in India for one song — the indie-pop, mid-tempo chart buster Somebody I used to know from "Making Mirrors" (2011). But when the song galloped in, after a bevy of rather unknown but interesting upbeat tracks at his maiden gig in India, the otherwise disinterested crowd turned chorus and sang along.

In a live set held at Blue Frog on Wednesday at the finale of the three-month long Oz Fest in the Capital, the song appeared in the middle of dub rhythms, drum-bashing, xylophones symphony, metalphones and keypads. It had us excited, but not particularly kicked. We soon realised that the high-octave track's very pop positioning is only a lucky break. It was only one delightful ditty among Gotye's oeuvre of other tracks. The song, played live with delicate sounds and pop-art screening in the background, stood out for sure.

But for us the highlight was the opening track What do you want?, the upbeat number with a chant-like beginning. It reached its pinnacle only when Gotye, in a light grey shirt and loosened black tie, hopped on to the adjacent drum kit and gave the audience an arresting duet. After this came the groovy bossanova beat of State of the Art that could easily be from the world of robot rock. This was followed by an alt-rock song Easy Way Out and Eyes Wide Open that came with inordinate number of fantastic bass lines.

More than the songs, the orchestration, created by the man with a little over a million ideas and his four-piece rock-n-roll band that put across sample upon sample, loaded with a host of genres and humouresque banter, kept the evening alive.

As the 32-year-old musician requested the crowd to "join in the stillness" for the "quieter" songs, he lost out to a group celebrating a birthday and a host of giggling girls near the bar. Once the noise was quelled, it was time for the slow ballads that displayed Gotye's versatility. This was followed by Heart's a Mess with ringing bells and halting rhythms and Tim Shiel on the sample strings, that had a Bollywood touch. For the encore, the synth heavy instrument stations entered the room and so did a screeching rubber chicken. Why? We still don't know.

But the riot of music that followed after that was phenomenal as Gotye pounced upon every instrument with maniacal theatrics, flinging the mike, and creating some extraordinary music. The million ideas he usually has, seemed to go into a tizzy as the 90-minute gig ended with drums making sounds we hadn't heard in a long time.

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