Live Review: Flight Facilities @ Enmore Theatre – 22.08.2018
2018 marks a decade of Flight Facilities. The ARIA-Award winning boy-next-door producer/DJs James Lyell and Hugo Gruzman have made their tenth birthday year a busy one, with an instantly-sold-out ‘Return Flight’ tour, a Groovin’ the Moo and USA tour, and now, a huge run of Aus shows at larger venues, in support of delicate new Dustin-Tebbutt featuring single, All Your Love. It’s already the second single they’ve released for the year, along with Need You—while they may have bucked the album trend, the Future Classic-signed Sydney-based twosome continue to feed us a succession of white-hot singles, amassing a back catalogue of heavily radio-rotated, dance-pop numbers that long ago cemented their position as the darlings of the Australian contemporary electronic dance music scene. It’s a title the continue to hold, as evidenced by Wednesday night’s epic Enmore Theatre turn-out, marking the first of three sold-out shows at the venue—“not bad for a school night,” commentated a chuffed Gruzman.
The opening strains of single Need You drew a roar from the crowd; the warm welcome continued as the duo—in their familiar Flight Facilities uniform (bomber jacket and goggles for Gruzman and a captain’s hat and blazer for Lyell)—assumed positioned behind their pilot’s cabin platform. Perhaps, there was a slightly neglected opportunity here to up the stage production values: the gorgeous All Your Love butterfly artwork could have proved inspiration for a new stage set; a new interpretation of their flight-themed aesthetics; perhaps a new DJ station design? Or new custom-made pilot’s costumes? We know they’re not the type for bells and whistles, or smoke and mirrors, but nevertheless an innovative new presentation that maintained their streamlined aesthetic would have delighted and surprised the long-time fans, and injected the show with new energy.
There was one nice surprise for the loyalists though—while Sydney vocalists GRAACE and Michaela Baranov have been touring as the Flight Facilities’ female vocalists for the last couple of years, the performance saw the boys welcome back longtime collaborator and Melbourne vocalist Owl Eyes, who, clad in an army onepiece, made a polished and precise re-entry to the stage, her breathy coquettish coo working a treat as she assumed vocals for Nika on Need You. From there, we slid into the silky low-key progressive groove of Two Bodies. Sydney’s Ric Rufio continued his role as 2018 male vocalist; his charisma and affinity for soul-funk vocals shone through hard in his rendition of the Reggie Watts’ part of Sunshine, and he nailed a fun Jamiroquai You Give Me Something cover, that was done so well and incorporated so effortlessly it almost felt like they wrote the damn thing themselves.
The nostalgically elegant Clare de Lune received a warm welcome as always, the boys kicking off with a few bars of the track’s namesake, the crowd following instructions to wave their phone torches to create a firefly-like sea of lights, as rules Flight Fac tradition. Further crowd interactivity came by way of With You, where Rufio asked everyone to get down.
One of the best things about a Flight Facilities live show is the way the instrumentals aren’t just remissions between the verse/chorus numbers, but feature pieces that shine of their own accord (and them are seamlessly transitioned back to vocal-led tracks). Lyell and Gruzman—despite staying low-key at the back of the stage behind their station and the smoke haze—really made these extended instrumental breaks kick hard; at one point they turned a track’s outro into a distorted, twisted, squelchy acid-flecked number; and the theatre was bathed in a neon green grid of light and it turned into a momentary techno rave, at another point Gruzman went in on the vocoder, and Daft Punk. Love a bit of turbulence.
Owl Eyes wasn’t the only familiar face back in the Flight Fac fold—saxophone player Nick Broadhurst—the original sax man on Crave You—joined the boys to perform the track, later re-appearing during the show’s encore, delivering on an impromptu sax solo when put on the spot by the boys during a tribute play of Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T, after the encore of Stranded, which saw the multi-talented producer duo pick up their guitars for the track’s organic take on electronic.
Whilst on reflection the show felt slightly pro forma (particularly after seeing them reach some heights playing with a giant orchestra), at the end of the day a safe flight’s a good flight, and Flight Facilities pilot us home with superb precision every time.