Hiatus Kaiyote @ Union Event Center 09.01
There’s no better way to spend a Thursday night than at a concert—even more so if that concert is Hiatus Kaiyote at the Union Event Center.
Australian-based, four-piece Hiatus Kaiyote comprises of Nai Palm (vocals and guitar), Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keyboard) and Perrin Moss (drums). It’s been a while since their funk/jazz/rock sounds made it to the States—2019 to be exact—and that time they didn’t make it to Utah. The minute I saw their name on the bill I knew I had to be there; as engaging as their listening experience was in my apartment, I knew it would be absolutely electric in person. Hiatus Kaiyote did not disappoint.
Even with no expectations, the crowd still managed to surprise me. The age range was impressive, with fans old enough to be my parents mixed with an array of twentysomethings. Surprising still was the fact I could walk right up to the barricade after waiting in line for a reasonable amount of time. The Union is a large venue. For Hiatus Kaiyote, the soundboard halved the standing area, and the upper region was closed. This made such a large space feel intimate, and even as the crowd filled in, it was never uncomfortable. All throughout the night there was enough room to breathe and, more importantly, to dance.
The energy was palpable from the get-go. Crowd members of every age were right up at the barricade, nodding along in laid-back excitement to the pre-show music. One glance at the stage told you everything you needed to know; two large white sheets in a “V” formation promised awesome visuals behind the band, which delivered as the opener, Hiatus Kaiyote backup singer Silentjay, began.
It’s always immensely satisfying when the opener is a perfect segue into the main act. Silentjay’s set consisted of six beats, each one different and engaging. The first track was dreamy, the kind of music you’d put on for a late-night drive, and the psychedelic visuals added to the effect. But Silentjay kicked it into gear with his next picks, easily guiding the willing crowd into dancing. A few of the beats were just too bouncy not to move to, and Silentjay left the crowd more than ready for Hiatus Kaiyote.
With the opener done promptly at 8, I remember thinking, “Man, we’ll be out of here by 9:30.” What a fool I was. Hiatus treated us to two hours of uninterrupted music and a killer encore. My exhaustion the next day was completely worth it.
Palm is known for her avant-garde, bold fashion. The crowd went wild when she stepped onto the stage, adorned in a bright-blue, fringed leotard to match her neon-blue hair and makeup. Immediately, the band dove into “Rose Water” off their 2021 album Mood Valiant. Several other tracks from the same album followed, blending into each other without pause: “All The Words We Don’t Say,” “And We Go Gentle” and “Chivalry Is Not Dead” being some of my favorites.
If Hiatus Kaiyote is dynamic and electric in the studio, they are absolutely bursting with life in concert. Visuals from psychedelic artist Timeboy did exactly what they were supposed to do, adding visual depth to the music without being distracting. The three backup vocalists wove harmony effortlessly with Nai Palm, and the layers of sound that drew me to the band are all richer in person. Hiatus Kaiyote didn’t just play their songs—they recreated them in the moment, adding little flairs and jams along the way. There’s a lot of emotion in Hiatus Kaiyote’s songs, especially from Mood Valiant, and to watch the band perform these vulnerable emotions live was something special.
It was right around the 9:30 pm mark that most of Mood Valiant had been played, and I began to prepare for the much-dreaded end. That’s when Nai Palm announced they were doing a David Bowie cover from Labyrinth, and I knew we weren’t missing anything. (In case you were wondering: their cover of “Within You” was different than Bowie’s—faster-paced and less distinctly ‘80s—but still a badass, welcome surprise.)
Before Bowie, I had been disappointed that my favorite song hadn’t been played and seemingly wouldn’t be. But right after Bowie came “Sparkle Tape Break Up.” Hearing Nai Palm cry out “I can’t keep breaking apart” and “Maybe if I was hard and not so emotional,” gave me goosebumps.
The fervent energy continued as the band pulled from their second album, Choose Your Weapon. The crowd went especially hard to “Swamp Thing,” a song Nai Palm said they do when they want to feel “spooky.” “By Fire,” “Molasses” and “The Lung” made crowd-pleasing appearances as well. “Cinnamon Temple,” a song not available on Spotify, was unexpected and mind-blowing to witness the band’s easy transition to a rock sound.
While Hiatus Kaiyote played the songs from Mood Valiant mostly as recorded with a few differences here and there, songs from Choose Your Weapon and their first album, Tawk Tomahawk, had noticeable changes. Mostly, this meant that the live versions were faster, harder and more energetic. Where the band couldn’t (or chose not to) replicate the recorded synths, guitar and bass lines more than made up for it. I actually preferred the live versions of “The World It Softly Lulls,” “Breathing Underwater” and “Nakamarra.” They were just so much fuller, to the point where “Nakamarra” was almost unrecognizable to me at first.
It was just before 10:30 pm when Nai Palm was finishing the final lines of “Stone and Lavender,” a closing song that had the crowd swaying as they quietly sang along. It was an intimate end, and Hiatus Kaiyote walked off to raucous cheers.
Those cheers didn’t stop even when the lights flicked on. Not a single person left. Minutes later, the lights were cut and the band was back for a two-song encore: “Breathing Underwater” and “Borderline With My Atoms.” Funnily enough, Nai Palm had a warning for the audience before they went into “Breathing Underwater,” saying “We never play this song live, so if it sucks, sorry.” It most definitely did not suck. “Borderline With My Atoms” was received exceptionally well by the audience, and with the song’s rises and falls, it was the perfect closer.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or you’ve never heard of Hiatus Kaiyote before, if these Aussies ever come back to Salt Lake, count on being in line. You will not regret it. –Jude Perno
Check out more concert reviews:
Julien Baker, Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten @ The Gallivan Center 8.06
Half Alive @ The Depot w/Slenderbodies