The Decade of Sound Awake Livestream
Wednesday 12 May, 2021
This was the performance we’d all been waiting for! Karnivool‘s 10 year celebration of their stellar album Sound Awake. Oh boy, buckle up and let’s kick this off.
After an acknowledgement of the Whadjuk Nyoongar peoples as traditional custodians of the land, Karnivool open with street footage of Perth and a man walking, hood up into the theatre and straight to the sound desk. The words ‘Karnivool’ is displayed across the screen, then ‘Simple Boy’ and we get straight to it.
What begins is an entire playthrough of their decade old album Sound Awake, and it is magnificent. The first handful of songs see the band separated from the empty theatre seats by a thin, transparent material that creates lovely silhouettes as the cameras catch action shots of the musicians.
It is incredibly apparent that the quality of their musicianship is astounding. Sure, we all knew that before, but is this livestream the studio recorded album version? It sounds like perfection. Was this album really released almost 12 years ago? Drew Goddard, Mark Hosking, Steve Judd, Ian Kenny, and Jon Stockman are so in sync it’s like they’ve spent every waking minute together since Karnivool’s inception.
The production, filming, lighting and all those elements that I don’t know much about are incredible. It’s cinematic, and the shots from the back of the stage showing Ian standing front and centre grooving in front of an empty theatre are poetic.
As we move through ‘New Day’, ‘Set Fire to the Hive’ and ‘Umbra’, moving deeper into the performance, it feels easy and relaxing to watch. Even though they’re banging tracks, and in a live setting the energy would be moving the crowd, while watching at home there’s a calm element. There’s something about being able to notice musicians in their element without anything to distract you, and it seems like the band are in their own world jamming out, regardless of the empty theatre and the cameras around them. There’s no pressure to banter with their audience and ‘put on’ a show, this is pretty much them saying, ‘This is what we do and this is what we made—let’s all enjoy it together.’
For the first time, an hour into the stream, Ian addresses the watchers, “So, for you guys out there watching this, we’re glad you’re here with us. Sound Awake has been such an important part of what we try to do musically and we’re glad you’re here with us and we’re glad this thing is still kicking. This next one is called Deadmen.”
The livestream is filmed in a way where you don’t feel like you’re missing out on seeing all members perform. The cameras are ever rotating and panning from many angles so you see the full view. Between songs we see little snippets from behind the scenes: the fellas getting ready to perform and equipment being fiddled with. And this is the first time I’ve probably actually been able to fully comprehend how much creative lighting can add another layer to a performance.
Now, usually in a live gig there are stand out songs. Songs that the crowd goes wild for and are the real highlights. Because there is no crowd, every song stands out and it’s an album journey rather than a live show with peaks and falls. BUT, ‘Change’ was quite a standout. We see Ian standing among the seats facing the stage and as the song blooms into being, we see the band on stage accompanied by Samual-Yombich Pilot-Kickett playing a yiidaki (similar to a didgeridoo). Now, when I tell you that the combination of yiidaki and bass is a sound you have never heard before, you need to believe me because those two instruments together give so much depth. And yeah, a yiidaki is not exactly a new musical element to us, but to hear it played in a heavier context was next level. Visually, the performance of this song was very touching. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but where Ian was standing in the rows with the yellow spotlight on him, the red lights on the smoke swirling around his body, and the darkness of the rest of the theatre behind him, seemed to create the Aboriginal flag. Fitting for a song titled ‘Change’, and a very beautiful statement.
With the ending of that song, they had played Sound Awake in its entirety. But the show was not over yet! For the first time we were finally able to see ‘Fade’ in all its glory and properly recorded. Patterns of light flew over the stage as Karnivool played through this track, and the energy this track gave off was notably heavier.
For ‘Roquefort’ they brought on a trio of brass instruments played by Brendan Scott Grey (alto sax), Sam Hadlow (trombone), and Matt Smith (trumpet) and wow what an alternate feel. Is this prog fusion? Because it’s a yes from me. They brought out ‘Aeons’ next and the patterned lights over the theatre really took me back to Windows Media Player’s Visualiser in the early 2000s.
But let’s talk about their closing song ‘All It Takes’. They’ve been hinting at this song for a couple of years now and they have played it live before, but now we hear its final form and it’s everything. How to describe it? It’s 100% Karnivool. And there’s no fanfare about it either, no introduction, they just slipped it in there like it belonged and if you didn’t know it was an unreleased new track, you wouldn’t have picked up on it because it sounds like essential Karnivool.
And just like that, their celebration of a decade of Sound Awake is over, and the band leave us with this message on the screen.
“Thank you to everybody who has supported live music, Karnivool and Sound Awake over the last ten years and beyond. We look forward to playing live again in your city, soon.”
Karnivool’s The Decade of Sound Awake livestream was created with passion and precision, and if this were the 2000s, I’d be straight down to the shops to buy this on DVD because this is a performance I want to relive over and over again. Timeless, absolutely timeless.
Review by Ebony Story