Gotye, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Did you know that Gotye, aka the Bruges-born, Melbourne-raised Wally De Backer, has had three successful albums Down Under? Probably not. As far as most of us are concerned, he’s a one-hit wonder. That used to be a relatively small thing – a starburst of ubiquity that would fizzle out in weeks; these days, it’s a comet with a very long tail. To date, his worldwide smash, “Somebody That I Used to Know”, has had 345m views on YouTube.

At the first of two shows at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, it took a few seconds to twig that the lanky guy in the tight shirt and skinny tie doing auxiliary drumming was the five-piece line-up’s main man. There was a lot of auxiliary drumming. And plinking of xylophones. And plonking of effects-laden gadgets. At times, the gig felt like a wonkier version of the musical Stomp – or a case of percussive Tourette’s. Gotye (pronounced Go-ti-yay, as in Gaultier) hared between three different stations. Throughout, a large video wall screened enough cute/atmospheric animations to fill a film festival.

“Eyes Wide Open”, the second biggest track on his current album, Making Mirrors, was played early yet sounded more like a set closer. Its anthemic yearning over a galloping rhythm recalled Gotye’s compatriots The Temper Trap. The 32-year-old singer – rather a wispy vocalist – seemed hard-pressed on the louder numbers, including the encore’s blue-eyed soul stomper, “I Feel Better”. The quieter songs worked best. “Giving Me a Chance”, aptly named, was a prettily decorated, José González-style ballad; “Bronte” a reassuring lullaby. In the absence of a special guest, the female foil in “Somebody That I Used to Know” was sung by willing sopranos in the crowd.

Earlier, the group had clustered geekily together for the slinky groove of “Thanks for Your Time”: charmingly, it looked as if the computer-science club had formed a boyband. To a beat surely listed in pop’s periodic table as “phat”, the robotically voiced, reggae-opera whimsy of “State of the Art” was a hymn to the Lowrey Cotillion D575 electronic organ. Good fun, but a bit Flight of the Conchords. Still, Gotye seemed happiest in this guise.

The slight air of nutty professor about him crystallised before “Save Me”, when teaching the audience the harmony parts. On this evidence, international acclaim couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. Little here, though, offered a formula to explain it.

Tour continues,

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