It's curious that a band that seems so detached and icy on record can muster as much warmth as Sydney trio Movement do when performing live. The band's brand of minimalist R&B plays very much to the current trend of dusky electronica, but in a live setting, the emphasis is clearly more on the R&B and soul influences present in the group's music.
Compared to opening act Mansionair, who pursue a similarly lush electronic sound that comes across as perhaps a little too manicured, Movement's set was bold, soulful and ripe with genuine feeling. Lead singer Lewis Wade is the band's MVP, possessing a voice that is mature beyond his apparent years, capable of delivering soaring falsettos and rippling melisma with ease. Wade did not speak much, but his endearing grin and full-bodied performance brought a huge amount of personality to the proceedings. Bassist/vocalist Jesse James Ward was also an enthusiastic and charismatic presence, falling to his knees at one point as if suddenly overcome.
In a live context, the band's music reveals certain elements that are perhaps dulled by studio-bound performances as heard on record. A new song, featuring bright, glossy electric guitar chords, was reminiscent of 1980's Quiet Storm soul of the slow jams variety. Even the more amorphous, indistinct pieces, like the set-closing "Like Lust," which features a single line of lyrics repeated throughout, truly came to life because of the band's energy.
A rousing performance of "Ivory," a highlight from the band's recently released self-titled EP, complete with a rhythmic piano line cribbed straight from 90's house music, was introduced by Wade informing that audience that it was time to dance. True to their name, Movement's set was at its best when it compelled the audience to move. A medley of R&B hits including Mario's "Let Me Love You" and Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," got the audience singing along enthusiastically, and was one of the set's highlights.
Despite some audio issues toward the end of the set, the band carried on, barely batting an eyelid. Working busily in the back, Sean Walker laid down a bed of solid beats and melodic loops over which Wade emoted wildly, filling in the blanks until the issues with the sound were fixed. Despite these brief problems, overall, the sound at Newtown Social Club's upstairs area was excellent, sounding crystal clear even in such a small space, making it an excellent venue for live music.
Movement are a band to check out, even if their studio recordings don't immediately grab you. They do something that a lot of bands don't do when playing live gigs, and that is perform. Rather than just playing through their songs, Movement stretch out and play expressively and engagingly. The band's stage presence still seems slightly distant - they were charismatic, but in a reserved, somewhat shy way - but the music, because of the way the trio played it, more than spoke for itself.