Photos by David Harris
Selling three Forums out in a row, this producer is on fire.
By golly that was one hell of a show. It’s taken almost six years for Hayden James to concoct his debut studio album Between Us, and ever since its release, Australia has been anxiously awaiting a headline tour, for James to flex his muscles and let the record fly.
James proceeded to sell out a large portion of that national tour and attending Friday night’s shindig at The Forum, there’s no way of disputing the popularity; the Australian producer is one of the best at his craft on the planet right now.
Unlike previous appearances at festivals and openings for the likes of Disclosure and pals Odesza, wherein the Sydney-sider relied on a remix-heavy setlist with signature improvisations, James’ ongoing mutation into a household name for Australian dance music necessitated original recordings, an album that signified the changing of winds.
While his album was well-received, it remained to be seen how his live set would portray the record. Opening with his globally acclaimed ‘Something About You’ might’ve been too easy pickings after so many years now, so the producer hollowed and chopped the hell out of it, transforming it into a glitchy salute that was faintly recognisable to the original track; an ode to ardent fans.
And the support he’s garnered for his live performances is no easy feat. ‘Better Together’, ‘Hold Me Back’, ‘Nowhere To Go’, ‘NUMB’, and ‘Favours’ all featured the likes of Running Touch, Boy Matthews, Nat Dunn, GRAACE, and NAATIONS on stage for vocals. It speaks volumes of the respect he’s garnered, and the calibre of performances that James can produce; his fondness for on-stage light theatrics meant the familiar enveloping 3D light squares from past performances (Splendour, as well as at his Sydney surprise gig) also made a cameo.
But above all, James’ brand of feel-good kinetic house and simply his quality of production is the reason he’s managed such a following. In tracks like classic ‘Embrace’, ‘Lost To You’, and even just the interlude ‘Feelin’’, the producer’s minute details and impassioned songwriting is evident, stemming from his own emotional background.
Tracks ebbed and flowed, transitions were almost nonchalant, but most of all, James didn’t feel like a DJ on decks, but dancing alongside one of us, grinning ear to ear the entire night.
Even ‘Favours’ and ‘Weightless’, tracks far below the pecking order on his album were greeted with impassioned hearts and souls belting their lungs out. A back to back remix of Duke Dumont’s ‘Ocean Drive’ and Odesza’s ‘Say My Name’ signalled the impending closing of the night, with surefires ‘Permission To Love’ and ‘Just Friends’ capping off what was a night of constant gyrating.
Already booked for festivals and shows across the globe, it will be intriguing to see where James’ next metamorphosis takes him. He seems like a man possessed on creating absolute smashing house, and none of us are going to say no. Keep it coming, Hayden.
Highlight: The crowd! Just non-stop groovin’, kudos to us.
Lowlight: No set times announced meant some ill-timed bathroom breaks.
Crowd Favourite: ‘Just Friends’.