Years go by but still you haven’t changed…

Last time Smash Mouth visited Australia, their tour was postponed, but when they finally made it back to the HiFi in 2013, it was one of the best shows of the year, though painfully under-attended. In all, there must have been less than fifteen people, most of them rockabilly types dancing stylishly whilst I jumped around like a lunatic. So it was a relief tonight to find the Croxton Bandroom respectably full.

Smash Mouth, with Area-7,
The Croxton, November 17, 2018…

Area-7, apparently now comprised of eight members (a fact which frontman Stevo may have explained at some points) were just taking the stage, and whilst the audience was surprisingly appreciative of a support act, it wasn’t until the band played Second Class Citizen that the front row started to really dance. It was clear that there were some Area-7 fans who had come out early: a guy who was praised by the band for wearing a Specials t-shirt – which I later referred to as a Madness t-shirt, and was actually merchandise from The Beat – told me he and his partner had come just to see Area-7.

On stage, Area-7 were as lively as ever. The horn section, as usual, bore their brass like true rockstars, and Stevo tore around the stage and into the audience. Songs like No Logic were played to pitch-perfection by a band who are clearly still enjoying their occasional live jaunts.

Area-7 at the Croxton Bandroom, November 17 2018

A cover of The Angels’ Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again managed to get everyone singing, with even the security guard at the side of stage caught dancing, though was probably only brought out as a part of a support set and highlighted the absense of some of the band’s own songs not played, like Himbo or Dodgy Mate. I couldn’t help but compare it to Mach Pelican’s cover of the song. An extended rendition of Start Making Sense was the set highlight before Bitter Words saw the band leave the stage, with mentions of upcoming appearances at the Hotter Than Hell nostalgia festivals sounding very tempting.

As the lights dimmed, Smash Mouth’s members took up positions behind their instruments to the riotous applause they deserved but missed during their 2013 visit. Electronic fuzz was piped into the venue, and the players struck different notes, hinting at what was to come, and sounding very Astro Lounge, hinting at an opener of Who’s There. As they seemingly tuned their instruments, frontman Steve Harwell joined them to even greater applause, taking the time to visit each band member at their post before taking his position behind the microphone to open with Can’t Get Enough Of You Baby. His trademark sunglasses in place, he didn’t leave that spot much for the rest of the set, in stark contrast to Area-7’s own Steve, who spent their set energetically bounding around the stage.

Smash Mouth at the Croxton, November 17 2018

Perhaps to compensate for his own lack of dance moves, Steve wasted no time in extending an invitation to any interested women to join him on stage to dance. It was immediately accepted by a throng of enthusiastic dancers, whose enthusiasm seemed to wane when they noticed they were not being shown off the stage, and who didn’t seem to know too many of the songs (despite arriving on the stage right in time for one of the set highlights in The Foz.) They seemed pleased to be able to sing along to the War cover Why Can’t We Be Friends? from the group’s first album, a song which, along with Road Man demonstrated how well Smash Mouth can play their reggae-influenced songs life.

The highlight of the set was another old song, Stoned, in a set entirely made up of old songs – I don’t own the group’s 2012 Magic album but would have liked a sample. An unexpected cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me was played well and closed out the main set.

An extended drum and organ battle opened the encore, and could have lead to anything – it kept hinting at 105 or Radio – before evolving into the distinctive key strikes of the group’s cover of I’m A Believer. Closing predictably, but not disappointingly with All Star the group left the audience satisfied, and to the applause and reception they deserved during their previous tour.


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