British producer Tourist is one of those very rare producers who has managed to deliver an emotional record that tells stories with very few words. U, his debut record, is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s a record that commands attention and sees Tourist play puppet master with your emotions. While listening to the record is an incredible individual experience, it’s always interesting to see how that translates in the live arena – particularly to a packed-out Thursday night crowd, most of who have thrown back multiple drinks before the first songs has even been played.
The first things that was immediately clear about Tourist’s show when he took to the stage was that it was going to be a sensory experience. The lights shone and the smoke billowed early on, every colour matching the the sound pouring from the speakers. Opening with U, he looked wired up there. Clearly, invigorated by the massive crowd, every beat and every vocal sample looks like they were running through him as he moved his arms and hands with fury. Despite the manic movement, every move he made was to the beat, feeling the music pulsing through him even though he’s played these songs many time over the past few months.
U is an emotional record essentially about heartbreak and it while there’s always a possibility that that won’t translate up on-stage, his weighty, beat-heavy production pours out too much heart to ignore. When the vocal sample of To Have You Back played, the crowd sang along hands-in-the-air, and when Foolish bubbled with those chaotic, chest-shattering beats, they stood and marvelled. As the masters like Orbital and Jamie xx have shown, heartbreak translates well to the dancefloor. And Tourist only proved it further. Everything from the sound, to the lights, to the crowds reaction amplified the intensity of his songs and made their heart even larger.
While there’s the emotional side to Tourist’s music there’s also a hint of euphoria in it. The choir-like vocals of Patterns filled the room with infectious energy and the more pulsating moments like the incredible, climatic Too Late filled every corner of the room with a warm, fuzzy feeling. The middle of the crowd celebrated together with every triumphant moment, placing hands in the air and smiling at each other. When you’ve spent so much time consuming music like Tourist’s through headphones, it’s amazing to see the reaction that comes from experiencing it communally.
While a lot of the energy can be owed to the crowd, Tourist was a valiant host. He interjected a number of songs to express his gratitude and told us it’s his biggest headline show to date. As the set went on and on he got more and more comfortable, to the point where he even adopted Aussie mannerism, calling us all “sick cunts”. The moments where Tourist was at his loosest were also the best. Run was one of the best live moments of the year thanks to the big bursting beat that sits beautifully alongside the ethereal vocal sample. There’s a beautiful sense of freedom to that song and it’s realised best when played out as loud as possible. That coupled with the incredible light show going on around was a lesson in how to simply but masterfully orchestrate a “moment”.
Tourist left the stage after Run only to return quickly to play one more song for the crowd that would’ve been happy with another whole hour or two. He played early track I Can’t Keep Up, one of the few vocal-filled cuts of the night. It was a perfect finish that maintained the night’s spirit while still bringing everyone back down to earth gently.
It’s damn hard to make music largely without lyrics that conveys emotion but through sound Tourist has designed his own language and by the end of his set in Sydney everyone was speaking it. Flawless.
Photos by Bianca Bosso