Anticipation hung over this show. Texan three-piece, Khruangbin, who have taken their inspiration from a wide range of disparate musical styles, converged on Sydney’s Opera House for the first of three live shows in the Concert Hall. The characteristic sultry heat of November returned just in time to set the mood for similarly sultry yet ethereal tunes.
The band have blown up in an astounding fashion since the last time they came down under, which saw them play to small but enthused crowds at Oxford Art Factory and The Metro. In spite of the lack of intimacy generated in the spectacular Concert Hall, lead guitarist Mark Speer tried to fabricate the feeling their music demands.
“Turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself…then yell out the name of the person you just met.” The names of 2000 people bounced off the ceiling and echoed around the majestic cathedral-like space. Then the spacey jams continued as the Houston band melded West African-tinged guitar, beguiling basslines and steady simple drum beats.
As the set progressed, their calculated cool saw them coaxing cheers from the audience with their synchronised melting moments. Then two gargantuan disco balls dropped from the roof, and we realised it was time to dance.
There was tension persisting throughout this set as the intimate and meditative jams melded with a populace desperate to party and groove. To diffuse the tension, the band launched into a long-winded medley that sampled a smorgasbord of songs, nodding to the crowd with hints of INXS and AC/DC as well as a mix of 90s hip hop, which included A Tribe Called Quest and Pharoahe Monch.
A brief reprieve saw the band reassemble with a new look as Speer and drummer DJ Johnson jammed away, heralding the resplendent return of bassist and clear crowd favourite Laura Lee in a white, flaring power suit.
Pelota and Time (You and I), both tracks from their 2020 LP, Mordechai, drew the biggest group grooves, while the heartfelt and romantic track, White Gloves, from their debut album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, grabbed the audience, prompting many to sway from side to side, eyes closed in quiet, reverent unison.
As is the fashion with their music, there was something in the live experience that left you wanting more, and as the lights rose, scores of revellers flooded out, washed by the purifying sounds of the eclectic and electrifying trio.