MOON DUO @ Chevron Lighthouse gets 9/10

Moon Duo @ Chevron Lighthouse
w/ Mt. Mountain
Saturday, February 15, 2020


Evocative, groovy and stylistically mind-blowing, psychedelic rockers Moon Duo pulled out all the stops for their inaugural Perth Festival appearance. They bewitched the packed crowd at the open-air Chevron Lighthouse – the heart of Perth’s latest outdoor entertainment and community precinct City of Lights, located in the backyard of Perth Concert Hall – with a truly spellbinding union of hypnotic sound and awe-inspiring visuals that will live long in the memory.

Comprised of founding members Sanae Yamada on keyboards and vocals and Wooden Shjips’ Ripley Johnson on guitars and vocals, plus John Jeffrey on drums turning the duo into a trio, Moon Duo performed inside what the band have christened The Lightship –  a perception-shifting, visual environment light box curated by Manchester-based visual projection artist Emmanuel Biard and inspired by 70s discotheques and the far-out, sixties psychedelic experience. Moon Duo’s spectacular live show has been garnering rave reviews at every port of call and it’s really not difficult to see why once you have witnessed it.

A mesmerising multidimensional, multimedia happening totally unlike anything that this reviewer has witnessed in 15 years of live concert reviewing, Moon Duo performing inside The Lightship was truly an unforgettable sight (and sound) to behold, a fully psychedelic and utterly immersive aural and visual experience that not even video capture can do proper justice to.

With the band clearly visible inside The Lightship whilst performing but also apparent as moody, backlit silhouettes on the front screen, the effect comes across as a particularly neat device, especially when coupled with trippy, swirling kaleidoscopic light projections on the side and back walls which gave the totally wow-inducing impression that the band members were actually holograms. Frequently dazzling, Moon Duo’s lighting and effects – which worked best with the more hallucinatory tracks in the band’s repertoire – were a perfect example of how an inventive and perfectly executed visual production can really add value and enhance a live performance.

But of course, no matter how impressive the light and projection display, none of it would have worked effectively if the band’s music and performance had not been on point all night long. And thankfully, the band totally delivered on both fronts. With the amazing John Jeffery expertly laying the foundation and steering the ship with metronomic precision and power, Moon Duo were the technically superior, psychedelic rock explorers that you could really shake your ass to, like a funky version of The Doors or The Grateful Dead, gliding along with a methodical groove that was hypnotic and irresistible.

Embracing disco grooves on their latest album Stars Are The Light in a bid to push the boundaries of their patented drone rock, Moon Duo’s thoroughly enjoyable set put the emphasis on utilising repetition to induce movement and a trance-like state of mind. They frequently hit the sweet spot with a potent disco/rave/psychedelic rock hybrid of fluid guitar riffs, robotic analog synth grooves and watertight beats.

Opening with a slinky, sensual and synth heavy Stars Are The Light double salvo in the form of Flying and The World and the Sun, Moon Duo’s set gathered more pace and momentum as it went along. Pacing is everything when endeavouring to take audiences on a journey and Moon Duo are seasoned drivers in that respect. I Been Gone, from 2012’s Circles, and White Rose, from 2017’s ying and yang two album set Occult Architecture, Vol.  1, upped the tempo with krautrock urgency and drone rock experimentation, with the latter sounding particularly glorious, a surf rock guitar fuzz freakout underscored with layers of synthesizers that swooped and rose. Think of Can jamming with Spaceman 3 and Beach House, and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark.Moving along, Fever Night and Lost Heads steered listeners back to chilled-out Stars Are The Light territory, both mid-tempo robotic psychedelic groovers adorned with lush synth textures and hypnotic guitar stylings that exuded a pleasing warmth and blissed-out euphoria. Penultimate track Night Beat, from their third album, 2015’s Shadow Of The Sun, stomped menacingly with industrial motorik vibes, careering into psych goth territory with horror movie synths and razor blade guitars aplenty before creepy Occult Architecture, Vol. 1 set closer Cult of Moloch concluded proceedings in mesmeric fashion with fuzzy squalls of apocalyptic sounding guitar tones.

Returning for a single song encore, the band peeled off a stark synthetic version of their Alan Vega cover Jukebox Babe that shook the floor with its mutant-rockabilly grooves before making their final exit with the crowd still buzzing from the psychedelic masterclass that they had just witnessed.

Kicking off the night were Perth’s premier psych rock quartet Mt. Mountain, who admirably opted for the risky move of playing four brand new and untitled songs at their big hometown show, with a great version of Oculus, one of the standout tracks from the band’s latest album, 2018’s Golden Rise, sandwiched in-between the new material. Pleasingly, the new songs sounded great, epic jammers that stretched out and soared in impressive fashion.

The new songs showed something of a new direction for the band as well, with the wall of fuzz dialled down in favour of clean, melodic guitar lines. Few bands can make single chord drones sound as good as Mt. Mountain and once again, the band showed with their new material that they haven’t lost their touch when it comes to crafting artful, minimalist psych rock songs.

As good as Mt Mountain were, the night truly belonged to Moon Duo and their sensational light show. Looking back on the evening, I can’t remember the last time I danced as much at a gig, let alone to a psychedelic rock band. Clinical without sounding forced, groovy without trying too hard and mind-bendingly psychedelic without being too obvious, Moon Duo’s stellar performance at the Chevron Lighthouse was class personified, the mark of a great band at the peak of their powers.


Photos by Tashi Hall

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