REVIEW: Stealing HARTS, Live At The Orchard
The seventh installment of Bar Pop's Live At The Orchard series was a night set up for nothing but success – with pop-up food & beverage outlets and infinite glimmering lights scattered throughout the scene, it was a leisurely scene to behold.
Enter the evening's special guests Benjamin Witt Quartet, capable of fulfilling anyone's insouciant lo-fi dreams. The four-piece – yielding a saxophone, double bass, drums and of course, guitar – played tracks mainly derived from Witt's second solo record, Future Reset. I was no doubt thrilled with the onset of familiar pop psych instrumental, and this exact avant-garde was what had caught the attention of the growing crowd.
Vocals initially fell flat with the opening track 'Whip Flash', and in most instances, the recurring emphasis on the sax was not to the advantage of the act's overall sound. However, this picked up with the following tracks 'Leeches' and 'Future Reset' – both of which demonstrated the band's holistic ability to a greater degree. On the other hand the addition of fuzzy guitar riffs teamed with timely synth percussion was an evident asset. With the emergence of eccentric number 'TV Dinner' came an escalation towards Benjamin Witt Quartet's finer moments, carrying onto the remainder of the set.
Though Benjamin Witt's music holds a very special place in my (Soundcloud-infested) heart, it unfortunately didn't translate as well in a live setting. Perhaps all it takes is a little warming up to; I know for sure that by the end of 'TV Dinner' a sizeable audience had fallen into a nice little trance.
What ensued next was truly extraordinary. As Melbourne heartthrob Darren Hart (better known as Harts) made his appearance onstage neither the crowd nor I could envision the splendour we were about to witness.
Prior sources had led me to surmise that Harts was indeed one-to-watch. Having garnered praise from his idols Questlove, Quincy Jones and even Prince himself, Harts has been labelled as the lovechild of 'Prince meets Hendrix meets Nile Rodgers'. The late Prince was so 'infatuated with his music, so much so that he flew him across the world so they could jam together'. Nothing could prepare me for the level of talent he possessed, and I still feel ashamed to have even carried had a speck of doubt.
Within less than 30 seconds I had found myself completely awestruck. There was no bullshit nor qualms on his part – Harts had eased straight into it, right into the crevices of my heart. He proved himself as a true musical deity, as he seamlessly delivered both chilling vocals and (babymaking-inducing) guitar riffs from albums Smoke Fire Hope Desire, Daydreamer and Breakthrough. Such a live presence was unearthly and only shivers could be felt from such a soulful performer.
Putting the spectacle into words would scarcely do Harts justice. The one-man musical maestro paid homage to his aforementioned influences all whilst imparting a wonderful, refreshing bricolage of funk/rock/pop/soul/(nu) disco. The musician handled his guitar with so much finesse it was unreal. In spite of his live prowess, he was always sure to graciously check in on the audience, and whether or not they were having fun. Such thoughtfulness, on top of an already charismatic performance, made it clear that he had found his true niche onstage.
Throwing all formalities aside, he was just that irresistibly fucking good.
For someone who was giving his all (but not with compromise to his own enjoyment!) Harts demanded a seriously good time which is exactly what he bestowed upon his listeners. The audience, of course, had settled for nothing less. Anyone and everyone has cast aside all inhibitions to belt out lines to some of Harts' most empowering songs, namely 'Power', 'Red & Blue' and 'Peculiar'. There was never a dull moment.
After his departure from the stage Harts returned for a stellar cover of Ginuwine’s Pony and transformed its amusement factor into that of pure groove. Dare I say it, Harts is a contender for the title of 'Prince reincarnate' – and even if that were to be deemed a bold claim, he's certainly following in the footsteps of his muses.
Props to Bar Pop Backyard for hosting such an incredible night.