Get to know the Vivid LIVE 23 line up
Vivid LIVE is back! The annual festival kicks off 26 May celebrating iconic and ambitious contemporary music artists.
For 10 back-to-back nights, every space in the Sydney Opera House will be transformed by artists from every genre – including emerging local talents, unmissable one-off projects, exclusive acts, and global superstars.
This year’s line up is full of unexpected surprises and highly-anticipated acts – including José González, Yaeji, Cat Power, Devonté Hynes and more. The full program features over 40 artists, hitting every beat of the contemporary music scene.
Ben Marshall, Sydney Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Music and Vivid LIVE Curator, has handpicked each performance to bring you a truly unforgettable Vivid LIVE 2023. We sat down with Ben to find out more about the artists coming to the House this year.
Goosebump inducing work by cousins from the Ngulungbura of the Butchulla nation, this song is from the perspective of a young Butchalla man seeing Captain Cook sail past Kgari/Fraser Island.
Described as “Lana Del Rey’s goth sister” by the Guardian, while this Springsteen-by-way-of-Taylor-Swift epic doesn’t prepare you for the brooding Americana of most of Ethel Cain’s ouvre to date, it is absolutely impossible to ignore this song or her meteoric rise.
Surging post-punk brilliance from Sweden’s criminally underrated Lust For Youth, Mitch Tolman (aka 3NDLES5, singer for Sydney punks Low Life) has curated 2 evenings of Posh Isolation that will bring superb Scandinavian sub-culture under the roof of the Danish genius who designed this temple of art for everyone.
And another, for fans of New Order.
Low-slung catchy moodiness from Denmark’s punk stalwarts Iceage, whose agitated yet spiritual view-from-the-bottom work simultaneously echoes the finest Nick Cave tradition while forging a fresh path.
Still the best entry point for discovering the Sydney heroes’ scuzzy punk explorations of mosh pit anthems with glistening new wave synths.
Motorik, surging synthwave in the inimitable South London electronic duo’s style – it’s going to be joy to have Warp Records stalwarts back in the Sydney Opera House for first time since 2011.
Achingly tender cover of the Joy Division classic by Squarepusher, one of electronic music’s true visionaries, in a touching tribute to the death of Warp Records’ Rob Mitchell.
That Sleaford Mods’ post-punk abrasion has found a mass audience feels miraculous, as does having them perform at Sydney Opera House – but it’s hearing them doing a song with Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell that leaves me completely speechless.
One of the most exciting artists of her generation, Korean-American producer, singer and DJ has delved deep to burst into the big time with her astonishing debut album With A Hammer. A powerful channelling of strength and defiance, “Fever” hits hard on every level and when she plays with her full band in the Joan Sutherland Theatre you’ll again see how far Yaeji’s come since she blew up the Studio in 2018.
Contemporary and sometime collaborator of UK jazz artist Yussef Dayes, Vivid LIVE’s breakout act of 2022, Alfa Mist’s uncompromising yet subtle brilliance is on full display here on one of his rare vocal tracks, “Borderline” from his latest album Variables (and listen to “BC” for a great exponent of his immense instrumental talents).
Natalie Mering’s alter ego Weyes Blood (pronounced “wise blood”) has produced a trilogy of moving, searing albums that have surpassed the early tags of Laurel Canyon/early 70s West Coast folk-rock and cemented her as one of the most poignant artists working today as this yearning song “Hearts Aglow” testifies.
What to choose from José González’s magnificent album Veneer? It’s almost impossible to miss with any choice and sorely tempting as it is to choose his cover of fellow Scandinavian artists The Knife’s “Heartbeats” that propelled him to fame, I can’t go past the perfectly balanced combination of melancholy + hope contained in “Crosses”.
Chan Marshall aka Cat Power is one of the most searingly raw live performers you’ll witness, and is also one of the few original artists who can transmute covers of other artist’s material into pure personal musical gold. Here’s her first recorded Bob Dylan cover “Paths of Victory” from her Covers album, to get a sense of how Cat Power will inhabit the entirety of Dylan’s legendary 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert on the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall stage exclusively at Vivid LIVE.
Beautiful lead single from I Am The River, And The River Is Me by Jen Cloher, an album from one of Aotearoa’s most talented songwriters covering the personal (their break up with Courtney Barnett), the political and the exploration of their Māori heritage.
Australian Music Prize nominee Martha Marlow shrugs off the Laura Marling/Joni Mitchell/Norah Jones comparisons on this beautiful song from her assured debut album Medicine Man.
Previously best known for his genre-defying Blood Orange alias, the immensely talented Dev Hynes is fast becoming a leading light of modern classical music – listen to this moving piano piece, “The Long Ride II” from legendary filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s We Are Who We Are acclaimed HBO series.
British-German composer Max Richter reimagines the orchestra as a vehicle for ambient music with the Australian debut performance of Ambient Orchestra - lose yourself here in “Autumn Music 2” and experience how his masterful control of feeling and tone dissolves everything else around you.
One of Australia’s finest & most mercurial musical champions, let the luxurious neo-soul sounds of Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Red Room” herald what these polyrhythmic genre-fluid champions will bring to the Concert Hall stage with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra this Vivid LIVE.
Listen to “Dragonball Durag” here to get a measure of the mighty Thundercat’s restless, effortless virtuosity and ability to fuse futuristic jazz, R&B, soul, funk, psychedelia and whatever else he’ll choose to try his hand at on his hugely anticipated headline debut at Sydney Opera House.
Like her contemporaries Jorja Smith and H.E.R., Ella Mai’s confident, relevant R&B is striking a deep chord globally on its own terms. It takes a lot of talent, swagger and verve to earn plaudits from both Rihanna and Stevie Wonder but Ella’s catchy, emotional songs like this gem “How” from her latest album Heart On My Sleeve show how far she’s going.
Fresh off her support of international star Kehlani, Western Melbourne’s PANIA continues her rise with “P Stands for Playa”, a honey-smooth R&B cut wrapped in Sade and Prince 80s soul.
Raised in New Jersey and Western Sydney, Ashli’s 2022 debut EP of R&B and purposeful pop produced this shimmering track that points starward for this impressive artist.
A slow-burning slice of simmering R&B from the rising young Sydney star, finally making her headline Sydney Opera House debut this Vivid LIVE.
One of Western Sydney’s brightest talents, Kamilaroi/Samoan artist Becca Hatch confidently merges her love of R&B and soul on this house-driven track.
Fresh from Budjerah’s national tour (and a song collaboration!) with Ed Sheeran, this immensely talented young Coodjinburra man from the Bundjalung nation has dropped his biggest single yet – hear a voice that’s hitting its stride, and with even bigger things to come.
Last on stage at Sydney Opera House with Gotye in 2011 for (the first ever?) live performance of the earth-shatteringly huge “Somebody That I Used to Know”, Kimbra’s adventurous and multifaceted career has circled back round with the release of A Reckoning– listen to “The Way We Were” to hear her musical freedom in full flight.
Woollongong indie-pop quartet Pirra are named for the Luritja word for “moon” and are led by Luritja-descended singer-songwriter Jess Beck, with guitarist James McKendry and twin brothers – bassist Curtis Argent and drummer Jeffrey Argent. Here they craft a beguiling, driving ode to the puncturing of illusions and use the brightest of sounds to describe darker motivations.
Defiance and power are to the fore in this fierce + political single from Bunny Mode, the debut album from Taiwanese-Australian multi-disciplinary artist Jaguar Jonze – undeniably one of Australia’s most important current cultural voices.
Like a house/techno Fugazi, NY born + Berlin resident Levon Vincent is the epitome of integrity, and who's immense taste is on full display here in a deep, dubby modern slice of Bobby Konders/Larry Heard influenced house. A fitting headliner for Picnic's final bow in this year's Studio Party after 15 years of bringing maximum joy to Sydney.
Southeastern US DJ, producer and master genre-blender Nikki Nair puts his flair for the magnetic and unexpected on the dancefloor with this 2020 cut that does just what it says...
Croatian Amor is Loke Rahbek, co-founder of the effortlessly cool Posh Isolation label with Christian Staadgard, here’s a gleaming piece of perfect headphone club music.
Submerged, almost sinister electronic sounds from two of Denmark’s finest subcultural exponents.
Burial-esque shuffling rhythms and distorting melodies pull you in and down, while the clean & shimmering synths sparkle above you.
Sweet instrumental sub-bass + drum machine action underneath a luxuriantly uncoiling guitar, from last year’s Death Is A Dream album.
A sparse dubby bassline provides a compelling backbone to this unsettling calling card by Valya Ying-Li Hooi’s YL Hooi project, taken from her 2019 debut album Untitled.
With 17 studio albums, 4 live albums and 2 soundtracks, it’s shame to only be able to choose from one album on Spotify, but this is my pick for these shapeshifting masters of sound – a closing 20 minute musical world unto itself.