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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisAnyone stepping into the up close and personal confines of Chicago's Lakeshore Theatre to catch club superstar Darren Hayes literally took a time warp back to the days when Kate Bush first ruled the radio, David Bowie was dancing and Peter Gabriel was well established outside of Genesis. In fact, the Australian-bred beat creator (and singer/songwriter) presented a composite of those lofty influences, along with his stunningly high vocal range with a slick merger of live instrumentation and electronic supplementation that was just as rock club worthy as it was dance floor friendly.
Considering he rarely tours the States, this specific show sold out within a matter of seconds (literally), forcing a second show to go on sale and sparking a similar trend in New York, Los Angeles and other cities on the limited run. Though he's certainly an established solo artist, part of the fanfare comes from his time as front man for Savage Garden, which has resulted in over 30 million albums sold between the two operations. Yet Hayes wasn't interested in promoting the pop star of yesteryear, but rather becoming an indie-fied DJ of sorts, spinning his highly talented palette in support of the August 20 release This Delicate Thing We've Made (Powdered Sugar Productions).
Hayes showcased several songs from the project, channeling his Bush muse by actually purchasing (off eBay) the same Fairlight CMI Synthesizer model she used during the now classic Hounds of Love album. And while the project isn't a full-fledged concept album, the singer loosely modeled the theme of time travel a la The Thin White Duke, but with a slightly less spaced out, much more personal approach. The new "Who Would've Thought" and "How To Build a Time Machine" particularly pulsated with flourishes of new wave and pure bred electro-pop, while focusing on lyrics about erasing the negative aspects of yesterday and forging forward into a much brighter future.
Even with the moving message, Hayes steered clear of clichés at all times, especially keeping his cool on the suave original "Step Into the Light," a true to form cover of Prince's "Baby I'm a Star" and a mash up of Savage Garden's "Carry On Dancing" with Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus." He also left all the group's sappy ballads off the set list, instead completely reworking "I Don't Know You Anymore" into an acoustic arrangement and channeling the mega-single "I Want You" within the framework of something that could've come from Gabriel's Us sessions. A double encore included the entrancing "Void" (injected with the mantra-filled lines of Bjork's "All Is Full Of Love"), while the Latin-tinged "Insatiable" was the most diverse selection on the bill, standing neck in neck with Justin Timberlake's current direction. While Hayes could care less about bringing sexy back, the impressive show was truly the start of a creative reawakening that may be a departure from his early years, but is nonetheless extremely adventurous, occasionally extravagant and always downright entertaining.
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