On a cold winters night in Melbourne, a sold-out Forum theatre was warmed up courtesy of the emphatic electronic prowess on display through What So Not for a truly enigmatic performance full of movement and encapsulating production.
Before the set from What So Not (aka Chris Emerson) began, a sense of intrigue for what could lie ahead was injected into the air through the repeated sound of an engine revving which lead to the unveiling of the centrepiece of the night – a giant horse with monster truck wheels for which What So Not would be using as a podium to transport us through the night. From the word go, punters knew they were in for a wild night through the high-end light production and visuals on display and the live guitarist providing a clever point of difference, a major step up from previous shows What So Not has played in Australia over the years.
As soon as the set began, we saw an instant connection between What So Not and the crowd hanging off every moment that came to fruition. This relationship became evident in ‘Better’, when it was evident that the off-kilter percussion through Emerson’s live electronic drumming combining with the heavy synth in the chorus allowed the perfect podium for all to lose themselves in the intensity provided. This then led to the welcomed cover of ‘Africa’ by Toto to be blasted across the venue with every punter belting out the chorus before an impressive remix by What So Not beautifully blended into the captivating ‘Stuck In Orbit’.
During the set, What So Not let the driving guitarist take control with an impressive solo full of power that quickly led into the forceful ‘Go’ that caught all punters off guard, with KLP’s high end vocals soaring across the Forum and almost blew the roof of the venue with the sheer ferocity of the synths and bassline in the drop. For fans who’ve been following What So Not from the projects roots, they were given some throwbacks to the early days through ‘High You Are’ and ‘Tell Me’, mixing brilliantly into the two tracks despite different colour palates that both tracks offer.
In the spirit of giving back to his enormous fan base that has been evident throughout the whole night, What So Not dropped another huge hit in Kanye West’s ‘All Of The Lights’ that saw a mass eruption from the crowd and word for word reciting of lyrics being thrown around the venue. The display of love from Emerson to his loyal fans continued instantly once ‘Beautiful’ was dropped, as a sea of dancers and props invaded the stage and throwing out inflatable items into the crowd to heighten the already impressive vibe within the venue. Further to this, What So Not ensured all the house lights were turned off and got the crowd to get their phones and create an enthralling moment in ‘Adieu’ that was a truly captivating visual for all involved to see.
The Toto appreciation continued through the recent collaboration in ‘We Keep on Running’, a clear highlight for many fans in the venue that saw the accompanying guitarist jump on the vocals in what was an impressive vocal display that only enhanced the overall intensity within the track. After this moment, we saw the set move into the remixes that have set What So Not apart from the rest in his career. First cab off the rank was the Stranger Things theme remixed that caught a lot of punters off guard, yet once that drop full of movement and electronic delight hit we saw mass appreciation from all. Arguably the finest work that What So Not has produced, RUFUS DU SOL’s monster ‘Innerbloom’ remix was next and this got the biggest reaction from the crowd across the night. If you were to be looking around the room at this moment in time, you would simply see smiling faces and serious dance moves being displayed with the deep brooding bassline vibrating throughout the floor of the Forum.
In true fashion to the saying ‘the best is saved for last’, Emerson saved some of his biggest hits for the encore that ensured punters got the full What So Not treatment before heading home. This passage of time began with ‘Divide & Conquer’ full of penetrating bass and screeching synths, that moved into the launching pad for the whole What So Not project – Major Lazer’s ‘Get Free’ remix that saw people full lose themselves in the punching percussion and augmented synths that lie within the core of the track.
Before the finale track of ‘Be Ok Again’, the collaborative track with Daniel Johns, What So Not took the time to jump off stage and into the barriers and come meet some of his fans and say thank you – a true testament to the sincere character that Emerson holds dear. Showing projections of both Emerson and Johns whilst the track carried on, these truly captured the emotional passion that lies within the track before the wobbling synth bleeds through the mix in the chorus sections of the track. Rounding off the track with the intensified live drumming from Emerson, it was clear that the Australian producer put his heart and soul into every moment of this show.
It is well and truly clear to all that What So Not is the benchmark in Australian electronic music right now, and if this show was anything to go by it will be a long time before anyone comes close to taking his thrown.