Internet phenoms can normally be divided into one of a few categories – spectacularly sexy, kookily cutting-edge or so of-the-moment that they fade into obsolescence by the time they’ve trickled down to the mainstream listener. Australian-bred singer-songwriter Gotye qualifies as none of the above, yet his improbably viral “Somebody I Used to Know” video has reached more than 60 million pairs of eyes since it hit YouTube – outstripping even backlash-battered Lana Del Rey along the way.
At this, his first proper Gotham gig (a tiny CMJ showcase last fall notwithstanding), the artist otherwise known as Wouter de Becker provided little insight as to his prodigy status, but plenty of evidence of his likely staying power. With an affably shambling demeanor that merged laid-back and downright sleepy and a beckoning tenor that nods to both early Sting and Jack Johnson, he maneuvered through 90 or so minutes of warm reggae-folk-pop with an assurance that never gave way to cockiness.
The 31-year-old, who’s already achieved chart success in his native land, demonstrated a knack for structuring a nicely-flowing set – nestling honeyed ballads like “Bronte” (a sort of canine take on “Seasons in the Sun”) against harder driving numbers like the piano-spiked “Smoke and Mirrors.” And while the overall tenor of the perf was a gentle one, more campfire than conflagration, he also showed an occasional willingness to bring the noise level up, as he did on the angular “Easy Way Out.”
His peripatetic stage presence – the stage was strewn with percussive elements that he clanged, shook or seized with full-body fervor – was matched by a nicely-assembled set of animations beamed from the back of the room by an equally active collaborator. The visuals underscored the trippiness of the handful of jams, most of which relied on dub-reggae space-manipulation more than virtuosic soloing, but Gotye connected with the aud most strongly when he pared things back to let his voice shine through.
That was the approach taken on a highlight version of “Somebody I Used to Know” – for which he allowed the crowd to take over vocals to an extent normally reserved for arena gigs. Then again, his current career trajectory would indicate those might well be in the picture before too long.
Gotye returns to New York to play Terminal 5 on March 25th.