Space Theatre, Fri Sep 19
When Nova Heart eventually take to the stage, later even than their advertised delay, the surprises begin immediately. Billed as a ‘modern electro’ band, using words like ‘surreal’ and ‘performance art’ and expecting perhaps some Eastern stagecraft and songs with Chinese lyrics, I was beginning to wonder whether this show would be theatrically interesting but musically a little impenetrable. However it is the standard guitar, bass and drums rock line-up that is immediately presented, brought to life by the skill and energy of female drummer Shi Lu, diminutive in size but wildly interesting. Add some punchy bass and some very tasty guitar work.
There are a lot of programmed beats and sounds to embellish what the onstage musicians are playing, adding atmospherics without ever becoming a distraction. The first song is an instrumental that sets out the band’s layered, poppy, beats driven sound. Before singer Helen Feng even appears I am pretty much won over.
As it turns out she is the dream rock’n’roll front person, clever, sassy, attractive, good voice and plenty of cool attitude. She adds some evocative gestures with her hands for visual effect, and she is not afraid to lay a rave about whatever is on her mind. The songs are interesting, melodic and beautifully structured. This is not an elaborate piece of theatre, it is a straight ahead rock and roll gig suited to any number of rock venues.
Like a true magpie Feng has gathered elements of songs from all over the place that she has liked and updated into her own work, including chunks from Western alternative new wave and pop music of the ‘80s. As I listen a growing list of favourite bands from that time come to mind. But this is no tribute band. Somehow Nova Heart sound fresh and new.
The raves become faux cool and a little tiresome after a while. I don’t need to keep being told how boring my life is. And momentum is lost at the end when Feng attempts a variation on the usual encore routine, which comes unstuck when the computer hasn’t been programmed for the encore song. But all is soon well, and she confidently wanders through the audience during the last song before asking them to leave.
The music we have heard has been excellent, and I have no doubt that Nova Heart will soon be playing to the larger audiences they deserve around Australia as their music becomes better known.
by Adrian Miller
Nova Heart continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre from 8.45pm un Sat Sep 20.
Book at BASS on 131 241 or bass.net.au
Nova Heart cover image courtesy of Yiting Ma
Helen Feng image courtesy of Liang Du