The Presets return to the US with new tracks and sound

The Presets stormed The Independent in San Francisco Friday night for their first US show in four years. For those unfamiliar with the duo, you won’t be for long. Their last album “Apocalypso,” went triple platinum in their native Australia, and last week they headlined “Big Day Out” over Justice. Their new live show melds dance beats and drops, live instrumentation, apocalyptic Aussie-charm vocals, and a killer light and video show that will satisfy most contemporary music fans.

They played all 10 tracks from their new album “Pacifica,” and they added musical elements, layering synth or percussion, to most songs. It was slightly disappointing to learn the vocal loops from some songs, like the opening lines in “Promises,” are digitized live. But the well-crafted songwriting and strong live vocals from Julian Hamilton make up for any deficiency. When Hamilton delivered the line “Am I the only one I still believe in?,” it rang true as one of the main themes of the album, from “Youth in Trouble” to “Fall Epic.”

And they treated many of their hits from “Beams” & “Apocalypso” the same way; they would play a song relatively faithfully, like “This Boy’s in Love,” then launch into an extended dance groove that had every single person getting down. The feeling in the crowd was very club-like, and it makes sense. Their live show transcends any pop domination, as Hamilton starts songs by delivering a groove or beat digitally, and from there he creates the song’s melody and vocals live and Kim Moyes adds live drums or he would come to the front of the stage to add more synth.

The overall experience was overwhelming for all the senses in a very good way. Toward the end of the set, the Australian duo played “My People” to the explosion of the 450 person crowd. It serves as a ‘We are your friends’ rallying cry, and the track was placed at about the same spot as Justice places their song. But let’s be honest – The Presets are actually musicians.

The encore ended with “Kicking & Screaming,” and when Hamilton proclaimed “When I was Young,” a couple things became clear. Hamilton & Moyes have gotten older, their audiences has gotten older (at least this night at the 21+ Independent), and they’ve innovated and grown as live performers by combining baseline button pushing with incredible live vocals and instrumentation that build to huge EDM drops at times. At the same time, Hamilton’s vocals & on-stage demeanor keep the music accessible to a larger audience. “Kicking and Screaming” was performed for at least 10 minutes, and it was a perfect finale.

The Presets are only touring in the US for two weeks right now, so if possible, it’s strongly suggested to check them out on this first leg of their tour. Bigger venues and festivals are in their immediate future, so it felt special to see them in the friendly confines of the intimate Independent. The Presets are a must see group live.


  1. Molly Kish says:

    phenomenal review Frash, had me smiling thorough out! “We are your friends/I’m here w/all of my people!” Such an epic show, great depiction and overall amazing experience! So much fun, again, again!

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