Wouter de Backer could easily follow the live example of someone like Imogen Heap, one performer all alone on stage, in command of an array of triggered loops, samples, and synthesizers. Instead, he opted to be a part of a band Thursday at the House of Blues. And even though only one of his compatriots (bassist Lucas Taranto) had any involvement in the recording of his latest album, “Making Mirrors,’’ Gotye sounded like a unit perfectly in synch with itself, something more than just one Australian man going by the Anglicized spelling of the Frenchified version of his Dutch name.
De Backer’s central but not dominating role was also underlined by his choice of instruments throughout the 70-minute show (which was moved from the Paradise and still sold out). While his bank of equipment had plenty of electronics to play with, he largely devoted himself to percussion, leaving more traditional frontman instruments like guitar and keyboards to others. And he wasn’t limited to sporadic flourishes, either, as more than one song culminated in a rhythm standoff with Michael Iveson’s drums.
Even so, there was little about Gotye’s inside-out art-pop that leaned particularly heavily on groove. The real action seemed to be mostly flitting across the surface, whether it was the light xylophone bonks and narcotic softness of “Bronte,’’ the claves and sparse rubberband bass of “Hearts a Mess,’’ or the garage-guitar lead during “Easy Way Out.’’ The mad-studio-wizard vibe was most explicitly expressed in “State of the Art,’’ where de Backer’s distorted voice listed the joys and product specs of a keyboard against a heavily electronic reggae skank unsettling enough for Massive Attack.
Such left-field touches could not disguise an underlying sameness to some of the material. De Backer largely used one voice for verses (low, almost muttering) and another for choruses (a fuller tenor) - something underlined by the way the somewhat murky mix swallowed the former. And the artificial sheen overpowered a few songs such as the otherwise buoyant and beachy “In Your Light.’’ But Gotye brought enough spark to gloss over a few simple lulls.
Dressed in a pink Disney-princess gown hiked up halfway above her knees and armed with a crack band that matched her bounce for bounce, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know’’ duet partner Kimbra opened with an energetic set that featured Lene Lovich quirk delivered with Jessie J styling and attitude.Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spacecitymarc.