The Kite String Tangle and Dustin Tebbutt Illuminated Sydney

Not too long ago we spoke to Danny Harley (aka The Kite String Tangle) about his collaboration with Dustin Tebbutt for Illuminate, a gorgeous piece of dream-pop showcasing Harley and Tebbutt’s tender vocals amongst a wistful soundscape of melodic, warm synths. With the promise of a two-for-one performance featuring Dustin’s achingly pretty folk-pop and Danny’s kaleidoscopic, pared-back electro-pop, I was there with bells on to review the Illuminate LIVE show at The Metro Theatre in Sydney last week.

From the outset, I felt really good about this show. It’s wonderful to see two artists – quite distinct in their respective sounds – display the vulnerability and openness to create something like Illuminate together, and then lend their support to one another to design a live show that allowed them to share both their collaborative and individual work. This feeling of mutual admiration and friendship permeated the entire set and set a wonderful tone for the evening’s show.

With the room already beginning to heave and bulge at the sides, Brisbane support act JOY. (Olivia McCarthy, who we also took photos of recently) kicked off the performance with her delicate, crystal voice, which smoothed over a neat handful of songs including Stone and Weather. She had a slightly awkward stage presence and her voice grappled with commanding the room (hell, she’s only 17), but there was something captivating about her, with all the right things to grow into something marvelous.

Dustin Tebbutt was up next. When he joined the stage, the room bloomed with crimson, soda-orange and purple light, spliced amongst the shadows cast from a backdrop image of icy mountains (perhaps a nod to Sweden, where Dustin lived for two years). His set was simple and captivating; easing through songs like Bones and Honest Hands, with Dustin’s familiar falsetto melting into the rolling, gentle guitar chords. The drums, keyboard and backup harmonies that came with the live set added a new dimension to his songs and provided a structure that helped his sound carry through the room, the vibe of which had softened and felt like an intimate church. Covering TKST’s track Words, as well as new track Where I Find You and crowd-favourite The Breach, Dustin’s gorgeous voice shimmered against articulately delivered guitar. At times he was stripped back and completely acoustic, and others he flirted more strongly with TKST’s gleaming synth backbones, but his performance was a delight throughout.

Danny (The Kite String Tangle) then emerged and embraced his production box, a space-like cube of synthesisers and microphones, wrapped in blinding strips of kaleidoscopic lights. The mood shifted immediately to an energised, chaotic fever as he delivered his first song What If, a funky assortment of jangling, clankering synthetic percussion that sounded like someone was let loose with drum sticks in an empty prison cell. Songs like What’s the Point? (with its gleaming keyboard), Stone Cold (with JOY. doing a splendid job filling in for Tiana Khasi) and Commotion felt seamless, textured and rich, and overall stronger than his more popular songs like Arcadia and Given the Chance. Danny also did a stunning cover of Dustin’s The Breach, a soaring, amped-up interpretation with scratchy electro beats and a deeper, atmospheric synth base. It was the highlight of his set.

It was then time for Dustin and Danny to take the stage together, first for a cover that everyone but me seemed to recognise (unfortunately Shazam doesn’t work in these situations) but more importantly for their collaboration Illuminate, a flawless amalgamation of their two voices in gorgeous harmony, set amongst a backdrop of flickering lights that hung in the sky like teal stars. Visibly overwhelmed by the reception from the crowd, Danny and Dustin hugged and thanked everyone and left the stage.

As the crowd dissipated I thought, man, more artists should do this; what a great display of camaraderie and friendship. Harley and Tebbutt built and shared the live experience together, and for want of a less clumsy phrase, the sum felt more than the parts.