Review: Hiatus Kaiyote at City Recital Hall, Sydney, 26 May 2018

After a quiet year of side projects and sparse performances, the members of Hiatus Kaiyote are beginning to emerge from their slumber, helping to kick-start Vivid for 2018 at City Recital Hall.

After such a hiatus, there was an air on the night that something exciting was to happen, with a hungry Sydney crowd filling the Recital Hall for the group’s first Sydney gig since 2016.

The night opened with the very smooth supports Silent Jay & Jace XL, a soul duo that really helped establish the vibe of the night, settling a restless and chatty crowd. Their set was unfortunately brief, only being able to punch out about six songs before having to wrap for Hiatus’ entry.

After a brief intermission, HK took the stage in a very subtle and sheepish manner, to a crowd that was cheering relentlessly. They opened with their dreamy Miyazaki tribute ‘Laputa’, but seemed to stumble through it, with a lack of energy and a few slips throwing the band out of their groove. On several occasions Nai Palm was clearly bothered at the stage mix and washy sound the venue projected back on stage.

The band were more reserved than expected as they played through more of their set, and the next few songs were surprisingly shaky for a band that holds a steady, virtuositic reputation.

However, after dusting off a bit, the band started to find each other and gel, with each member gradually swapping a concentrated furrow with a satisfied smirk. It wasn’t until the band launched into ‘Swamp Thing’, ironically one of their most deliberately disjointed songs, that they finally found their feet and were wading deep into their own syncopated pile of jazz freakouts.

The group are notorious for a wild infusion of genres under a neo-soul umbrella, with complex phases, intricate vocal harmonies and tumultuous transitions. The band only compounded this with their live show, expanding on previous material with expanded sections, solos and subtle intricacies that really make the group so special.

All the patrons of City Recital Hall were exposed to their full breadth of music, with almost all of their massive album Choose Your Weapon seeing play. Of particular note was the overwhelming ‘Borderline With My Atoms’, which left a dumbfounded audience floored by Nai Palm’s soaring vocals.

The audience was also treated to some new material, with a handful of jams and untitled songs peppering the set, and even reinventing older songs like ‘Boom Child’ from their first album Tawk Tomahawk. The night definitely felt like a band moving forward and keen to focus on pushing their already expansive sound in further directions.

After leaving the audience in a pool of their own melted minds, the band returning for a single song encore, their classic tune ‘Nakamarra’. It proved too much for a restrained seated crowd, who rushed up to the stage to dance with the band on a sweet, chilled note. Nai Palm got the crowd to help sing the choruses, and helped end the night with a nice, happy wind down to a fantastically intense set.

After a year of focusing on other projects, there was a fear that Hiatus might lose themselves, their direction or their songwriting, and get caught in, well, a hiatus. But the new songs coming out at shows, and the display of insane talent from the band during their performance, dispels any such rumours. It looks like the beginning of a great 2018 for the group.

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