To see a show at the Sydney Opera House is something special. Tailor-made to show off artistic excellence, performers rise to its reputation. But to see a show on the Opera House forecourt is a different thing altogether.
“It’s a rarer and more public event,” says head of contemporary music at the Sydney Opera House, Ben Marshall. “You’re taking in the whole of the building, and it’s a very dramatic space. So it’s a bigger statement and it’s one of the grandest gestures a city can make for an artist. You have to be confident the artist is capable of living up to the moment.”
Chet Faker, Tame Impala and Florence + the Machine definitely are, Marshall says. They’ve “all got their chops” and will be performing multiple gigs over the next fortnight.
Kicking off the series last week was Chet Faker, whose show was streamed live to anyone with an internet connection around the world. “Chet’s been on the boil for a good five or six years, and this live show that he’s come up with really got us hooked on having him out there,” says Marshall. “He’s made the jump from being an underground, electronic Melbourne guy to being a bit of an Australian institution.”
“Tame Impala are breaking through in a big way at the moment,” Marshall continues. “Their new record [Currents] is killer, it’s wonderful to catch this act at the right moment, to use the artistic heft of the building this way.”
Both acts are flying the flag for Australian music at home and overseas, Marshall says, and he’s happy he can help us celebrate it. “Both Tame and Chet fit into this really lovely strand of Australian music that is internationalist in scope and outlook,” he says, drawing comparisons with Flume, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Drones, The Go-Betweens, The Church, The Triffids, The Saints and Dirty Three.
And as for our overseas guest, Florence Welch, “she’s a juggernaut!” laughs Marshall; and one who’s sold so many tickets that a single show has rolled into four. “Florence is an absolute phenomenon and to have this hurricane descend and rip through four forecourts … ” he’s sure it’s going to be something special.
These performances form part of the Opera House’s year-round music program, Music at the House. In the next few months we can look forward to acts such as Disclosure, Kurt Vile, Four Tet and José González in the concert hall.
They also follow in a long tradition of gigs on the forecourt that took a four-year hiatus while building work happened on-site. A huge gig by The National heralded its comeback last year, but prior to that, Massive Attack, Björk, Crowded House and – as far back as the ‘70s, Thin Lizzy – have all played. “It has been used by a lot of great figures over time. It’s not a space I’ll ever use for the sake of it. We’ll only put something out there when the artist is right, the moment is right, and the performance can do justice to the space.”