Alive in Australia: Inside Daft Punk's epic '07 tour
Thu 21st Feb, 2013 Featuresin
“We like the idea that the things we do seem to come out of nowhere. The show, like everything we have done and still do, is just one more experiment." Thomas Bangalter, 2007.
If there’s a party line on Daft Punk’s 2007 Australian tour from the people who made it happen, this is it: “There’s really not much to say.” Over five years after our encounter with the pyramid, the lingering cone of silence behind the scenes would make Tyler Durden proud. The evasiveness certainly fits the Daft Punk mythology. Or is it just as possible that, beyond those exhilarating 100-odd minutes on-stage, there genuinely isn't much to say? They came, they conquered, they returned inconspicuously to the hotel?
Like all things Daft Punk, the Nevereverland news came like a bolt from the blue. The announcement on inthemix amassed over 50,000 views on the first day. It would be four cities over eight days in December 2007: Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl and The Esplanade in Perth on the first weekend, a Thursday night show at Brisbane's Riverstage, then the finale at Sydney Showgrounds three days before Christmas.
The involvement of Modular ensured a support cast of the label's stars: Cut Copy, The Presets (both acts just months out from the release of In Ghost Colours and Apocalypso, their respective watershed albums), Van She and Muscles. Daft Punk's then-manager Pedro Winter, aka Busy P, clinched an Ed Banger leading star SebastiAn alongside Record Makers recruit Kavinsky, for the slot before the headliners. Here were two DJs with just the right measure of insouciant cool to keep from buckling under the pressure. They were in practise, too, having done the job across Europe.
The Australian tour came at a defining moment for Ed Banger. 2007 had been a game-changing chapter for the label, propelled in no small part by an ascendant French duo Justice. EPs from Mr Oizo and SebastiAn, two incendiary personalities with music to match, also set the tone. (That year, Fuzzy's Parklife tour had saluted the sound of the moment with Justice headlining alongside Digitalism and MSTRKRFT, three acts who built on the Daft Punk blueprint.) Thankless as the 45-minute warm-up slot might be, it was fitting that it fell to Ed Banger.
The Nevereverland tour moved a lot of tickets. Sydney Showground sold out, an unprecedented result for a dance headliner. In Melbourne, a second night was added at the Music Bowl. The five-show run came at the end of the Alive tour that began back in April 2006 in a sweltering Sahara tent at Coachella. Australia would be the pyramid's last stand. “To give some more power to those shows, it's gonna be the last ones for Daft Punk; at least with the pyramid and all those lights,” Busy P confirmed to triple j. Once 2008 rolled around, it was back into the shadows for Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. There was a pyramid cameo at the Grammys during Kanye West's performance of Stronger, the pair's suits lit up with electroluminescent piping as they worked on JazzMutant Lemurs. But as far as the stadium spectacle went, it was game over.
That night at Coachella, Saturday 29 April 2006, could've been a one-off, an experience limited to a few thousand witnesses in the desert. In the charged minutes before show-time, the crowd was staring at a black curtain drawn across the Sahara stage, hearing some benign electronica through the speakers. Then, in the strobing light, two robots appeared inside a 20-foot-tall, three-ton pyramid, flanked on either side by a lattice of bulbs. As that Robot Rock bassline barrelled in, the sea of raised camera phones became airborne. 75 minutes later, after the Superheroes/Human After All/Rock’n Roll blitzkrieg, dazed and high believers staggered away to text their friends what they missed. “We got a sense that it went well,” Bangalter dead-panned to Mixmag in 2006. The next day at Coachella – headlined by Tool and Massive Attack, two other bands with '90s legacies to trade on – Daft Punk walked around the festival, untroubled by anyone.
Two months later, the duo was headlining the Eurockéennes festival in Belfort, France, and the tour momentum built from there: Barcelona, Madrid, the Godskitchen tent at Global Gathering in the English countryside (a 45-minute delay only upped the madness), over to Japan, back through Europe, then South America en route to Miami for the Bang Music Festival. One of the names further down the line-up at Bang was Steve Angello, who recalled the experience when inthemix met the Swedish House Mafia backstage in Sydney.
“I played before them, actually,” he said. “It was strange, man. The whole festival was just awkward. I was on a little DJ booth with a rocky table and some CDJs. It was shaking and their whole production was behind me, covered. They came rolling with like 200 people. They had, like, vans full of friends. It was dope.”
Axwell cut in: “Do their friends know what they look like?” Angello considered it for a moment. “No. I imagine them naked with their wives in the helmet.”