Pic by Daniel Boud
Sydney Opera House, December 10
From prime ministers down (or, given some current/recent inhabitants of that job, is that up?) there’s nothing Australians like more than defining our best qualities as coming from mateship. Coming across as a mate, doing things for a mate, existing in a world of mates – in some quarters there is no higher honour.
One of those quarters is Sydney’s music scene where irrespective of genre, being loose, friendly … regular, and here for a good time not necessarily a fancy time, has been the foundation of the success of acts like Sticky Fingers and Cosmo’s Midnight, and more recently, Winston Surfshirt and Lime Cordiale.
So when I say that Cosmo’s Midnight (built, like Lime Cordiale, around a core of two brothers), gave us a show at the Opera House like they were hanging out the backyard of a mate’s place jamming on some toons, it might sound just perfect.
The problem is this backyard – in supposedly formal rooms which counterintuitively have staged some of my favourite electronic/dance shows - needed more, and it took too long to get more.
While we were sitting close to each other, and even allowed to stand up and dance if the urge took us, we were socially distanced from the band who were set up back deep on the stage. In these circumstances, an outfit offering easy-groove electronic pop and mild-tempered R&B requires compelling/projecting personalities, or quality light effects, or volume, for best results. For too much of the show, Cosmo’s Midnight lacked all three.
While Patrick Liney – whose vocal presence has grown exponentially on their new album, to mixed results – offered good bloke moments as he talked (and talked), neither he nor bassplaying brother Cosmo exactly projected to the middle stalls, let alone the back ones. And though the rest of the band (guitarist and birthday boy Timi Temple and drummer Joel Farland) were busy, they were not centres of attention.
Crucially, the lights were rudimentary and unimaginative, as if borrowed from the wedding DJ next door and operated by her teenager, and the sound lacked oomph, so that there was as much talking in the seats as movement (admittedly, a very familiar Sydney situation). Consequently, light-stepping disco songs such as Have It All and Polarised, which need a push, never lifted off.
Vocalist, Sayah, did her best with some strut, arched back poses and just the right amount of Ariana Grande in Talk To Me, which came close to nailing the funky edge the set needed. But it was not until a languid Ruel trotted on for his brief spot that we finally saw some charisma, and not until Unwind, about half an hour into the show, brought some euphoric rise (and firmer rhythm/deeper groove) that the audience, and the show, got up and set themselves free.
Covering Dua Lipa’s Don’t Start Now late in the piece did emphasise how Cosmo’s Midnight songs are a little ho-hum by comparison, but maybe the reaction to it – on and off stage – may push the brothers to reconsider the structure of not only the setlist but their neighbourhood party vibe.
Go hard (earlier) or go home mate? Worth a try.
A version of this review originally ran in the Sydney Morning Herald