Sydney Festival Review: The Comet is Coming deliver the dance party that Sydney didn’t know it needed

Made up of Danalogue the Conqueror on synth/keys, Betamax Killer on drums and King Shabaka as their resident sexy sax man sologram, East London trio The Comet is Coming know how to deliver dance worthy, saxophone heavy jams. And at yesterday’s Sydney Festival appearance, set inside the beautiful Spiegeltent, the group made sure we knew this – providing the crowd with an unforgettable 75 minute set.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I went into this show – I know their music enough to know that it could be a fun show, but was this going to be an improvisational, experimental jazz exercise? Were we even going to hear tracks from their albums? Was I going to recognise any of it? None of this I was sure of, but by the end of the set it would be fair to say that they had answered yes to all of these questions.

There was plenty of improvising, though within some level of structure as created by the music on the record – at least for the songs I recognised – though it never trended too far down the “experimental” route, which doesn’t always work in the live setting. And as for the music selection, they played tracks off of their latest Channel The Spirits, ending the night with the unofficial anthem of Sydney Festival, “Space Carnival” as well as their earlier Prophecy, including its opener (among others), “Neon Baby”.

Thematically, this is a band that explore the concept of the apocalypse, which feels appropriate given the Doomsday Clock just moved closer to midnight – so the music perhaps went down extra well because of this; but whatever the reason, the band’s music, which from start to finish focused on their more energetic and danceable cuts, had everyone in the room moving. Even Danalogue and King Shabaka couldn’t help themselves, moving to the front of the stage sans instruments, dancing as Betamax thrashed it out on the drums.

All three members are phenomenal musicians, and live they take their music places they never could on record. But it’s King Shabaka’s complex and wonderful saxophony that really made their set as enjoyable as it was – the man is a machine, and there’s something about the sax that really draws in a crowd.

The band didn’t have much to say, waiting until about an hour into the set before doing the introductions and thanking the crowd for coming. They also introduced “Neon Baby” here, which was the only reason I knew the name of the song they were playing. The rest of the set I was dancing too hard with my eyes too closed to make note of what the songs were. But the night’s closing jams – “Neon Baby” and “Space Carnival” – sent us out on a brilliant note, both serving as tracks which built up beautifully and had the crowd entranced.

With albums that jump extremes of high energy, danceable tracks and experimental noise that would probably kill a party in its tracks, it worked well for the band to focus on the former. And having not known what to expect, I was incredibly surprised, loving every minute of the show. And with all the shit going on in this city, around the world – pending apocalypses and all – in many ways, this unexpectedly became the dance party that Sydney didn’t know it needed. Now, let’s make sure we all keep dancing and #keepsydneyopen. At least until the world ends.

The Comet is Coming played the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent at Sydney Festival on 28th January 2017. It was their only Sydney show and the final date of their brief Australian tour.

Photo Credit: Prudence Upton / Sydney Festival