We were promised an intimate and live evening with Darren Criss and that is exactly what we got. After almost a decade of waiting for the star of stage and screen to visit us down under, a group of 200 fans were treated to a one-off acoustic gig showcasing the best of Darren Criss.
Taking place in the cozily intimate Eternity Playhouse in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, Criss, in his first ever Australian concert, performed a series of songs covering his career from Starkid to Glee to Broadway to his latest EP. With just his guitar or piano, and accompanied by a string quartet it was a celebration of Darren and of his fans and their dedication.
Known for their ability to find and wholeheartedly embrace the quirky, the unusual, the next-big-thing, Criss repeatedly commented and thanked the crowd and Australians for being some of the first in the world to discover and welcome both Starkid and Glee and it was these fans that the concert was obviously geared towards. However, new fans to Criss or those dragged along would have found plenty to enjoy, though, as Criss rightly said, they might have been hopelessly lost in the encore when the crowd joined Criss in a rousing rendition of Starkid’s A Very Potter Musical’s “Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts”.
Given the size and nature of the concert, it really felt like hanging out on a Friday night with a mate just mucking around, and it was the perfect arena for Criss to be in his element. Between numbers Criss would chat with the audience, telling anecdotes about the various songs and his life, why he wanted to perform this song for us, and the history behind various songs and periods of his career. For long-time fans, this was an insight that we may have heard once or twice (or more), but had an obvious Aussie spin on it. For newer fans, it provided a great context to the evening and background into Criss.
While it was the Criss staples that many came to see – “Teenage Dream”, “Not Alone”, “Part of Your World”, “Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts” not to mention Criss forgetting his own lyrics – it was some of his newer material and acoustic numbers that he has recently introduced into his set that were highlights for me. Being in a small theatre, his voice and personality were rightly given centre stage, taking the audience on a journey with him. His cover of Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” from his Glee days was goosebump raising in the raw emotion expressed throughout, just Criss on the piano for “The Day The Dance Is Over” from his latest EP Homework was breathtaking, “I Don’t Mind” on guitar was so simple, yet beautiful, and his cover of the Les Miserable hit “I Dreamed A Dream” was perfect.
As with the London concert last month, Criss performed his Glee cover of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” with no amplification and just backed by the string quartet. If this wasn’t one of your favourite Criss covers before seeing him live, it definitely is now. Raw, emotional, breathtaking honest, his voice filled the theatre with the audience mesmerised and hanging on his every note. This is what we all have been waiting almost 10 long years for.
After a little over 90 minutes, Criss left his fans jubilant, in awe and desperately wanting more. With a promise that he would be back soon, the theatre erupted as Criss led us in song as we all “Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts”.
Darren Criss was in Australia promoting the release of his hit FX series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. The series has its Australian release on showcase on Thursday May 24.