After so many years out of the limelight, Daniel Johns has re-emerged and is the perfect example of an artist breaking away from his past.
Without a huge range of new material to play, Johns’ set list for the evening borrowed mostly from his newly dropped record Talk, with a few surprises dropped in as well. Some songs on the unique album don’t seem like they’d translate well to a live setting, but with some creative rearrangements, nothing came out flat. The mix in general was eclectic, with a lot of numbers leaving the audience on the edge of their seat, a fusion of ‘what just happened?’ and ‘what’s coming next?’
A night that was as much about being visually overwhelmed as it was an auditory treat. The show incorporated a scrim that shrouded the band in an ethereal darkness as they began their opening number after an introduction featuring deep and hypnotic synth, drum pads and looped tracks. Visual highlights included an impressive kaleidoscope of colour burst and flowers, and some anatomically… ‘interesting’ Rorschach ink blots.
Opening the night with new single “Aerial Love”, Johns has picked a stellar band to tour with. Stunning backing vocals, and a mixture of classical instruments and modern gadgets, the line up also featured two full sized harps. (What’s that, every other band ever? You only have zero to one harps on stage at any one time? Sorry, plebs. This is apparently the new standard.)
As he prowled the stage in an almost cat-like manner, Johns lounged luxuriously from the front of the stage as he crooned to the crowd, and crawled seductively onto the risers, showing he has more diaphragm control laying on his stomach and crawling around hunched over than most singers hope for on their best days. His vocal control was incredible, and his deep loungey grooves just as powerful as his soaring falsetto highs.
During the rare moments where some spectacular image wasn’t gracing the screens, with the band and Johns entirely in white, the stage took on a magnificent monochromatic look, a stunning background for Johns as he took several moments to revel silently in the audience’s love and adoration.
In a departure from the largely Talk based set list, Johns surprised the crowd with a reimagined cover of Silverchair’s 2007 hit “Straight Lines”. A hit from the opening bars, with the audience belting out the anthemic chorus, this number might have been better served in the encore; after everybody was up and out of their seats to sing along, an awkward pause followed as he broke into “Young Man, Old Man” (a nice nod to his Dissociatives days) spurring half the crowd on to bobbing in place before inevitably sitting down, while the most passionate of fans remained standing, lost in Johns’ presence and oblivious to anyone whose view they blocked.
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Opening the encore with another throwback to Silverchair, “After All These Years” saw Johns belt out the 13 year old track accompanied by approximately six dozen harmony tracks, an affirmation that he’s truly back on the scene, and ready to chase the dream again.
Closing the night with a full band cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, Johns probably could have chosen something a little less over-done; nonetheless he paid the classic true justice and appeared to love every moment.
Johns’ incredible voice is very Timberlake-esque, with a bit of Prince, Chemical Brothers, and even Michael Jackson thrown in for good measure. Gone are the days of hiding behind Silverchair’s grungy rock – his sound is now cleaner than ever, and with Talk under his belt and rising in the charts, this show was the best opening gig to kick off this new stage in his career.