Archive for the ‘Live Music’ Category

One of those planes that lands on water… Yeah! You know what I’m talking about…
October 15, 2017

After an absence of around fifteen years, Custard arrived for an album launch gig in Melbourne a couple of years ago, and I wondered aloud, at the launch show for their new album last night, whether this might become a bi-yearly tradition.

‘That’s not a bad idea!’ said Glenn Thompson, overhearing me, and continuing, like a boy, asking his parents’ permission, ‘I’ll ask Dave if we can!’

Custard, with The Stress Of Leisure,
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, October 14, 2017…

The Stress Of Leisure (who coincidentally supported ##Shonen Knife## a few weeks ago) had also come from Brisbane for the show. I generally like bands who wear uniforms, and found myself being drawn to the foot of the stage to watch The Streets Of Leisure play in their red scarves and t-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘product.’ Their songs made me think of how a Joy Division concept album about the internet would sound if they featured guest spots from the B-52s and Spod. The support slot was serving as an album lanch for this band too, though the lack of a merchandise table meant that I didn’t get to pick up their record. I would have based on the strength of the set.

It was right on 11pm when members of Custard carried their instruments onto the stage. David McCormack grabbed the microphone in what is now clearly his faux-awkward manner, and announced that it is very late to be starting a show. The predominantly older audience seem to laugh in agreement.

CustardNorthcoteThe last Custard show in Melbourne was heavy in new material, which, while I appreciated the preview of the new album, didn’t seem to excite a lot of the audience. This show proved to be much more of a ‘greatest hits’ set, opening with Hit Song, to an excited full house. But the highlights were hearing some of the songs from 2015’s Come Back, All Is Forgiven now that we’ve had a chance to get to know the songs. We Are The Parents and especially 1990’s were fun to revisit and hear again, though it would have been cool to have slotted in a quick If You Would Like To.

New songs like In The Grand Scheme Of Things and You Always Knew take cues from the alt-country flavour of Dave McCormack’s solo albums, though without the creepiness of The Truth About Love. Those people who used the new song 2000 Woman as their break to visit the bar might have regretted it, as they missed one of the rockier and catchier new songs of the set.

It was initially disappointing when Dave and Glenn swapped places for the Glenn Thompson-led section of the evening to hear him announce to the band ‘We won’t play Warren Road. No one will want to hear that.’ The substitute song, Contemporary Art, made up for the disappointment, with Glenn playful as he exhibited one of the highlights from the previous album. Pascal, from Stress Of Leisure was reintroduced to the stage to provide the retro-pop key backing to have us shaking it up to the catchy ‘I want my Communism back!’ chant of the new Police Cars.

DannDaveMcCormackAfter leaving the stage a few times – apparently to fix guitar issues – Matthew Strong was explained as ‘quitting the band… again…’ whilst Dave experimented with ‘all the vocal effects.’ A crowd-pleasing final part of the set covered hits, with an encore ending with Ringo, a surprisingly effective closer which had the floor moving.

Hopefully after the impressive set, the hint to the band will become a fact, and we’ll continue to get a new album and tour every couple of years.

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A propensity for verbosity…
May 22, 2017

With Opera Oblivia, Hellions released one of the finest albums of 2016. Full of orchestral as well as vocal flourishes, the album tackles complex musical territory. Similarly, if one pays attention to the lyrics, some heavy themes can be discerned: the challenges of maintaining artist integrity against the expectations of commercialism, overcoming self-doubt, scandals within the Catholic church.

A brilliant album, incorrectly nominated for an Aria award for ‘Best Heavy Album,’ when it would have been more worthy of the overall ‘Best Album’ category, but how would it translate to the live stage?

Hellions, with Endless Heights and The Brave,
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, May 20, 2017…

I’d very much hoped to pick up a CD or perhaps a record from the merch stand after the show, but browsing before the support band, decided against buying anything auditory on the grounds that Hellions had taken the unconventional, if novel, step of selling their album in my least favourite music format – cassette. Luckily, my disappointment in not purchasing music was allayed by The Brave taking the stage.

An admirable audience moved from bar to stage to listen to the pleasantly mid-2000s punk club vibe that The Brave had brought. Combining that kind of jerky everyone-hit-now sound made famous by Slipknot with skillfully placed melodies, The Brave have enough talent to set themselves apart from the raft of similar bands. Their set demonstrated a broad aural range that put their album on my ‘to do’ list.

Whilst the venue wasn’t full yet, a lot of the audience appeared to have arrived early specifically to see Endless Heights. It was perhaps surprising, since they took a more straight-forward approach to rock music. The band performed with a playfulness and enthusiasm often lacking when seeing this type of music played live, where hardened stares usually prevail. With layers of driving guitar, these were songs for swaying, and though not well-matched to the sound of the headliner, still earned a much deserved warm reception from the crowd, though no louder than when Sam from Ocean Grove was invited to help for a song.

‘Are you going to be okay?’ asked a guy who moved next to me after the Corner curtains were closed for the headliners to set up. ‘It’s going to get pretty intense down here!’

Once the curtains were opened, any doubt about Opera Oblivia being unsuitable for the stage melted away through the gradual build – in both sound and stage lighting, which brightened with the music – to the final sing-along chorus of album, and set, opener 24.

Through the applause for the opener, the guy from earlier leaned in to shout in my ear. ‘Are you sure you want to stay here?’ he asked me. I asked what he meant. ‘It might get rough from here on in. I thought, at your age, you might not be able to take it.’

That was a first for me, but, I suppose, something I will have to deal with more frequently. Luckily, I’m experienced at this hellionsCornersort of thing, so moved closer to the stage, as a predictably heavier song followed. Nightliner Rhapsody exhibited Hellions’ incredible range, driving the audience from thrashing wildly, to swaying in unison, to a melodic mosh, all within the one song. It was a theme set to continue through the set, with the band clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience, and particularly lead singer Dre Faivre, who never stopped bounding smiling around the stage.

Daring moments followed, with the instrumental and sample-laden outro of the heavy He Without Sin being a surprisingly effective inclusion, a feat that even the likes of Fightstar might struggle with in a live environment. The main set ended with Thresher, with the band thankfully returning for an encore which nicely bookended the album tour theme with Quality of Life and 25.

HellionsCorner2

It isn’t often that a metal show sees the audience shouting words like ‘axiom’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ at the stage, but Hellions made their complex and beautifully produced works brilliant in a live setting. The best album of last year could become one of the highlight shows of this year.

I’ve really been on a bender, and it shows…
October 23, 2016

My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade was one of the albums I named as a Five Star Album, and as it celebrates its tenth anniversary, many are reflecting upon it as a highlight of the decade.  I would go one further and name it as a highlight of all time.  The accompanying tour was also reported to be a theatrical masterpiece, with the band posing as their own fictitious support act/frenemy ‘The Black Parade,’ before playing an extended greatest hits encore.  It was sadly a tour that never came to Australia (despite being advertised, a streetpress interview in the lead up saw Gerard Way asked about bringing ‘the whole Black Parade shebang to town with the disappointing reply, ‘We’re bringing a whole new shebang…’) but a tribute act decided to do it themself.

Teenagers,
Bang at Royal Melbourne Hotel, Melbourne, October 22, 2016…

bangadAs the band set up on stage, the audience discussed where they were when the album was released. ‘I was in grade 4!’ hollered a woman, as I realised, I had been at almost the same place for the album’s release as I was tonight.  Thursday night patrons were debating their preference between Next at Brown Alley or Goo at the Metro when the album was released, and songs from Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge were still popular at each.  A launch party with a ‘secret city location’ had been announced, and ended up being at Next – found by either word-of-mouth, educated guess, or the distinctive black blimp hovering above the club.

guitarOn stage tonight, members of Gossamer Pride, Hideaway, and other bands switched from setting up their equipment to standing with their backs to the audience.  They pulled on matching Black Parade uniform jackets to become Teenagers and started, in keeping with the album, the old-rock opening duo of The End and Dead!  The tribute band sounded good, and looked it too, in their uniforms and make up.  Rather than continuing with The Black Parade the group wove various hits from other records – mainly Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge – amongst the songs from the album of the day.  It was unexpected, and initially questionable – I’d hoped for the Black Parade tour we never had – but the extra songs mixed up the set from the predictable.

After the frontman explained that ‘It really hurts to sing this one,’ Cancer proved a set highlight, thought they were noticably skipping songs from the album.  The frantic sing-along of Mama was also popular.  Surprisingly, the tribute act’s namesake song, Teenagers worked very well as a live tune, despite being the weird low-point of the original album.

From Next Facebook page

I’m not used to seeing tribute bands, but Teenagers, led by Bang regular Matt McKinnon, put on a true tribute and really respected their source material.  It would have been nice to have had a little of the group’s own flavour in, but perhaps that isn’t the point.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking based on the pedigree of the members, but this was nevertheless a fun night and a worthy anniversary party to one of the finest albums around.

 

That band with the comic books…
May 8, 2016

Coheed and Cambria’s gigs have always proven interesting.  On the one hand, the band have historically always sounded amazing.  On the other, their audiences have sometimes proven to be their undoing, insisting on inappropriately out-hardcoring each other as they slam out of time to the music.  How would tonight’s show at an apparently revamped HiFi Bar compare?

Coheed and Cambria, with Closure In Moscow,
Max Watt’s, Melbourne, May 6, 2016…

After a weird twelve months, including a seemingly-sudden change of ownership, weird name change, and flooding, it was my first look at an apparently renovated HiFi Bar.  First impressions were not promising, with a queue snaking along Swanston Street, surely for the first time since Prince’s first in, best dressed appearance.  Once inside, the alleged renovations were also not apparent, but that was unimportant – it appeared that Max Watt’s was keeping things business as usual for the HiFi Bar.  Familiar faces kept matters moving efficiently behind the bar so, despite the inexplicable entry queue, there was time for drinks before the opener took to the stage.

It was strange to think that I’ve never seen Closure In Moscow play before.  I am certain they have appeared on plenty of bills that I have been to, but never actually witnessed their performance.  They sounded like a cross between The Darkness and The Mars Volta, and the flamboyant frontman drew attention from the back of the room to the front immediately.  Vocally, he reminded me of Robert Harvey from the music, and visually he kept attention as he made use of the stage dressed in costume jewellery and a Grandma Yetta-style jacket. The group moved flawlessly between sprawling funk epics, hard rock and even spoken word interludes. After witnessing a bubbly closing number blending gospel, country and psych-rock tones that Rocket Science would be proud of, it seems more than worthwhile to see Closure In Moscow could do in one of their headline shows.

Rather than being introduced by a DJ, or opening boldly like they have in previous outings, Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever entered the stage without ceremony, carrying acoustic guitars with them to the microphones front and centre to pose as their own support act with a demure rendition of Ghost.  It shifted the tone from the party-rock of Closure In Moscow’s set, but it was to only be temporary, as the ending strains lead into the opening of In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3.  The rest of Coheed and Cambria appeared behind the singer and guitarist in time for the anticipatory build that would set the scene for the rest of the show.

coheedhifibright
The aforementioned super-mosh crew tried to slam their way to infamy at this early stage, but quickly fell out of the crowd as the majority kept up with the rhapsodic shifts fans can follow well.  (Surprisingly, it was the newest songs from the band’s current, poppy release Colour Before The Sun that brought them back to try their luck at inappropriately frantic moshing a couple of times later, rather than the heavy songs.)  The rest of us were left to join in for backing vocals in the dramatic return from the song’s false ending, and revel in swaying, jumping, and thrashing in perfect sync for the rest of the set.

The current release is a brilliant, yet different venture for the band, but more straight-forward highlights from Colour Before The Sun like Island, Eraser and especially Here To Mars fit perfectly within the progressive staples like No World For Tomorrow and Sentry The Defiant.  Throughout the set, it seemed like the band were enjoying themselves immensely on stage, not afraid to dance along and behave in other decidedly non-metal ways.  Likewise, the sold out crowd showed their appreciate for the duration, with no lulls in the movement and singing from the moment the group took to the stage to the end.

coheedhifimax
Once the applause died down at the end of the main set, the usual Australian audience chant of ‘One more song!’ was pleasantly absent, replaced tonight by a spontaneous rendition of the choral refrain from In Keeping Secrets…  When Claudio lead his band back to the stage for an encore, he seemed thrilled with the show of support, and after replying with his cry, requested the audience share the experience via social media to make it a trend.

‘What?’ he asked the pockets of laughter in the audience at the request.  ‘Should I be worried about being too corny?  We’re already that band with the comic books.’

As though to prove his statement, Claudio took up a double-necked guitar to pluck the opening chords of Welcome Home, before striking every rock cliché pose through the course of the powerful closer.  It was the Coheed and Cambria gig we’ve been waiting for.

Spiderbait’s 25th Anniversary Show…
February 27, 2016

The last time I saw Spiderbait play live, at the Corner Hotel in 2014, the gig had sounded worryingly like a goodbye.  It had been a typically excellent show, though a much different one to the usual slam through classic songs, with sentimental intermissions between favourites detailing stories of the songs’ histories and significance to the town.  So it was reassuring to see Spiderbait returning for a 25th anniversary string of shows.

Spiderbait,
160 Russell, February 26, 2016…

Oddly, I made my own support act almost 30 kilometres away from the gig, where a group called Midnight Collective were performing a set outside the Park Hotel in Werribee.  I enjoyed their low-slung guitars and Good Charlotte-style sound, if Good Charlotte performed film themes.  It was well suited to the still-daylight summer evening setting, though I’m sure the band would have enjoyed more movement in the crowd than that of the small children boogying whilst parents sat in the background enjoying an opportunity to drink wine in public.  That said, the group would be likely to garner a similar dance floor patronage from a pub’s worth of grown-ups.  I didn’t think there was any need for them to put themselves down between songs, since they sounded good.

A train ride later at Billboard, I thought the same thing when I walked in to first support IV League also apologising for their performance.  Although I arrived late to their set, what I heard lived up to the praise I’ve heard for the band.  It took me a moment to realise that when the next band came out, it wasn’t the singer from IV League fronting Tired Lion.  Lit only by the kind of alternating flashes commonly seen in 90s grunge videos to match their sound, it was hard to tell them apart at first.  It was interesting to hear samples leading from one song to another, keeping those who arrived early involved – it also seemed to keep applause rolling through the set.  This is a group who use the stage and get the most out of their instruments, weaving modern sentiment into a Splendora-flavoured set.

Billboard’s sunken lounge room was crowded by the time the house lights were replaced with the glow of the screen backing the stage.  Cheers welcomed vintage footage of Spiderbait and the opening buzz of last album’s It’s Beautiful.  I detected the work of bass-weilding Janet in the Japanese-themed highlight reel celebrating the band’s quarter-century.

The drum exhibition of another recent song, Straight Through The Sun, opened the set to appreciation, if not familiarity.  The appreciation continued, and was joined by enthusiastic singing from the front row, when Janet took to the microphone for the first time for the first time for an Outta My Head bounce-along.  This was shaping up to what would be a decidedly rock show.  Though this meant we didn’t get to hear many of the electronic highlights from Spiderbait’s catalogue, the song selection was still a lot of fun and came with some surprises.  Relics from the past that were exhibited included Scenester and Jesus, which made me wonder what kind of shows I’d missed during the band’s early touring days when I was too young to get into the pubs advertised in the streetpress.  Long time fans were truly rewarded by the setlist.

GreenBait

Spiderbait’s signature hits were as popular as ever, with songs like Ol’ Man Sam and an extended Calypso proving that the band have plenty of material to please a party crowd.  With the response these songs received, I’m always surprised to hear the band continuing to end on their cover of Black Betty.  Original material was much more memorable, and could have left a more lasting impression.

That said, this was a gig that did leave an impression.  Like their last tour, this one featured the band spending time talking with the audience again, this time not shy with their gratitude having reached the 25 year milestone, and telling stories of songs and their long career.  This isn’t usually my thing, but some of the anecdotes were nice insights, and it was especially delightful to see the band’s devoted hidden member recognised and brought on stage for hugs and applause – manager and kindly recipient of my brother’s fanboy desperate communiqués, Fiona Duncan.

Unlike their last tour, this didn’t feel like goodbye.  This was a band enjoying their history but proving they still have a lot of life left.

All Is Forgiven…
December 10, 2015

Before Sunday night, everything had been so obvious. The plot my immediate future would follow felt certain: Triple J would announce their Hottest 100 poll, and I would make a shortlist of my favourite songs of the year.  As always, it would be an extensive list that I’d whittle down to the regulation ten for my vote, and, for once, I had already decided upon which song I would highlight as my particular favourite, should the need arise for a tie-breaker.  I have had a place allocated for that honour for A$AP Rocky’s Holy Ghost almost since the first time I heard it.

Then Custard released a new album, and they launched it for Melbourne on Sunday.  And they changed everything.

Custard, with The Zebras,
The Toff In Town, Melbourne, December 6, 2015…

Powerful, rock drumming is all good and well, and certainly has its place and appeal, but from early on, this was going to be a night for the smooth, chilled out drummer.  Hitting with such power, as Darren Hanlon once mused, that it makes other drummers cower is not the order of this evening.  This is a night for the humble rhythm-keeper making it look easy at the back of the stage.

The Zebras’ drummer set the scene, making keeping the beat look easy for the band’s sway-along pop.  It was an enjoyable collection of songs, well suited to a Sunday evening, but perhaps better suited to a Sunday evening on a roof-top bar in the summer air than as warm up for another band.

Some of the high-profile fans moved to the back of the Toff as the front of the stage filled.  Before long, Dave McCormack appeared on the same stage where years before he had played one of the best $10 gigs, clad in a cowboy’s fanciest shirt, and introduced the band in which he became famous.  The show started slowly, with Orchids In Water, from the band’s new album.  It may have been a surprising choice for the band’s first club gig in over a decade, but this was to very much be a set that showcased new songs, rather than reminiscing on old.  This may be something which proved a disappointment for many in the room hoping to relive highlights from album past, but for at least myself – and, apparently, the bald man frantically moshing at the front of stage from before the band even arrived – the new songs would prove inspiration enough to rush to the merch table to snap up a copy the second the encore finished.

This impulse was cemented when the band went a little more upbeat and really started their show for the second song, We Are The Parents.  Despite having heard the song only a couple of times before during its feature stint on Double J, live it was one I could enjoy, and at least hum along to by the end.

Subsequent classics like Pack Yr Suitcases and Pinball Lez were crowd pleasers, but it was further new tracks that really impressed me.  The aforementioned super-fan went into crazy mode the second Dave’s brief lecture on the risks of utilising Melbourne’s parking garages for late-night purposes evolved into what I would later recognise as the spoken-word introduction to If You Would Like To.  It was the perfect song to very briefly tear up the floor to, and the fan certainly did just that.

The highlight of the gig was a three-song stint where Dave and Glenn Thompson traded places, with Glenn showcasing his new song Contemporary Art, and ending with Music Is Crap, which, while never a particular favourite of mine, wound up being fantastic live in the intimate setting.  Girls Like That, while eagerly anticipated, played a little too close to the recorded version for my liking, but was great to dance to again.  The sing-along Anatomically Correct made up for it, with Apartment leaving the packed house suitably reeling for more in the encore.  Upon returning to Pluto, Dave made clear to the appreciative floor that they would be closing on Caboolture Speed Lab.  Rather than retreating back-stage, the band stepped forward to spend some time mingling with the room.  As mentioned previously, I headed straight over to buy my copy of the new album.

Custard – Come Back, All Is Forgiven

Rather than picking up exactly where Custard left off all those years ago with Loverama, Come Back, All Is Forgiven seems to meet at the half-way point between old Custard records and the country flavours of some of the solo work undertaken by David McCormack during the 16 years between the two Custard records.  Just like a good Custard album, though, this one charts various different styles and themes during its course.

custard-come-back-all-is-forgiven

That country flavour melts into the bold and rhapsodic single We Are The Parents (Our Parents Warned Us About), and really sets the tone of the album.  It is when the band try to tackle almost arena-style heights that this album is at its finest.  The trend continues into album highlight and basis for the record’s title 1990’s.  Opening like a chilled out Blondie collaborating with Duran Duran, the road-trip sing-along feels like, rather than fading out after 4 and a half minutes, it could have comfortably continued for at least a few more verses.

The guitar tracks are out to prove Custard can still do straight-forward guitar rock with the finest, with clever songs like Contemporary Art and Queensland University.  It balances the creepy ballads and pop tracks well, and makes us hope we won’t be waiting so long to see another Custard record make its way to our shelves.

And now, after that late entry, I need to reconsider my Hottest 100 voting…

Released on cassette to streamed online…
November 11, 2015

I remember once hearing a commercial radio broadcast during which the announcers were putting a listener to air.  The listener had been the night before to the first of many concerts being performed by some pop star and sponsored by the station.  The caller described how fantastic she had found the concert.  ‘She sounded just like the CD!’ the caller reviewed excitedly.

I also remember thinking that describing the singer as sounding just like the CD as a positive thing was backwards, because if one wanted to hear something sounding like a CD, one could stay at home and listen to the stereo.

They Might Be Giants,
The Forum, Melbourne, November 7, 2015…

Looking over a full Forum, John Flansburgh commented ‘Wow, this place is nice,’ to laughter from the dense crowd.  He kept it going by continuing.  ‘I’m not kidding.  We’re used to playing in some dumps.’

The show had started early, and a steady stream of patrons was still filing into the back of the venue several songs into the first set (tonight’s proceedings stylishly divided by an intermission.)  This was justified by what would turn out to be an extensive setlist, of at least 30 songs (and that is considering Fingertips to be a single song!)  Cheers accompanied the revelation of the accordion for Particle Man, and a cover of Destiny’s Child’s Bills, Bills, Bills is well-received.  They made the most of their stage-time to include as many songs as possible from a career described tonight as spanning albums released on cassette to songs streamed online.  They played to a backdrop of a live feed of tonight’s performance projected upside down, with none of the theatrics or Muppets of their previous visit to Melbourne.  The pure rock setup suited the band and the venue, though a solo accordion backing for Istanbul (Not Constantinople) gave the few moshing in the front row a change to breathe before the frantic first set closer of Fingertips.

TMBGforum

Themed cocktails were served by the Forum’s bar during intermission, before the band re-emerged on stage, excitingly backed by Akira Ifukube’s score to Godzilla, for no comprehensible reason other than style.  This set had us dancing from the beginning with up-tempo tunes New York City and Ana Ng back-to-back, and followed by the new song Let Me Tell You About My Operation, which could have explained the queues to buy the new record from the merchandise stand after the show.  And there are surely very few bands who can prompt applause by introducing a song as being about historical politics, especially so many miles from their own and that political system’s home, but the build up to James K. Polk did just that, and continued the theme of jumping around.

But it was when the band really mixed up the sound that they outshone even their own live performances.  Songs from pre-concert wishlists appeared, but mixed up on the scene to take on a new life.  Highlights were a pop-punk take of Man, It’s So Loud In Here, and a rhapsodic Robot Parade, complete with scat breakdowns and audience participation.  The set could be presented to establish a case that only should one try to see They Might Be Giants live, but that all music fans should check out live music more often, just for the chance to see favourite songs in a way they never expected.

McNormal and chips…
August 1, 2015

Once I’d checked my bag and coat in at Rod Laver Arena’s efficient cloakroom, strangers immediately started commenting on my t-shirt.  At first I merely gave them a non-committal thanks, for I have lots of nice t-shirts bearing cartoon motifs which prompt my grandmother to ask ‘When are you going to start dressing like an adult?’  When I started fielding questions about if the shirt was from one of this evening’s merchandise stands or from a previous tour, I was confused:  I’d worn my old Blur t-shirts into the ground several years ago.  A check reminded me that I was wearing my Dan Potthast merch, and I realised that passers-by were answering the question of ‘Dan Who?‘ with ‘Dan Abnormal.’

Blur, with Jamie T.,
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, July 28, 2015…

I have heard a lot about the evening’s opening act Jamie T., but I don’t think I’d ever actually heard his songs.  I recalled comparisons to Arctic Monkeys at around the time that Arctic Monkeys were promoting their new sound and Alex Turner’s new classic rock hairstyle.  Jamie T. seemed to have a small yet extremely dedicated segment of supporters in attendance, bopping wildly and cheering loudly to tunes which seemed familiar to me, though not immediately recognisable.  It was a set which inspired me to listen out for more from the artist, but not to rush out to the record shop yet.

I also caught myself swinging along with those enthusiastic Jamie T. fans during his set, prompting a woman in the audience nearby to shout ‘Dickhead alert!’ at me at the end of the final song, too loudly considering her proximity to me.  I asked her what she meant, and she responded ‘Have you heard of personal space?  You’re right inside of mine, cunt!’

I had bopped to the music, but hadn’t actually shifted position in the general admission section, and suggested to her that she had, in fact, moved towards me, as was common practice at concerts.  She turned to her tall male companion, and spat at him ‘This is why I said I hate standing at concerts.  I used to enjoy going to concerts till I started going out with you.  Now we are always standing and meeting idiots like this!‘ she gestured to me.

I asked why she came to the show since she had no interest in it.  ‘Obviously because my boyfriend likes Blur!’ she answered, as though that contained the explanation of why she was wilfully enduring an apparently painful experience.

Her continued rambling was drowned out by applause and an introductory compilation of icecream truck classics, in keeping with The Magic Whip theme, as the house lights dimmed.  Damon Albarn bounded onto the stage, his band-mates offering waves, and then icecream truck chimes shifted into opener Go Out.  This set the scene for what was clearly The Magic Whip tour, with at least half of the latest album’s songs getting a play this evening.  Though being fantastic live translations from an excellent album (the aforementioned opener and Pyongyang particular highlights of the set,) the new material didn’t excite the majority of the audience as much as old favourites like Girls And Boys and Parklife (an unexpected inclusion, and a good live experience, despite being the song I usually skip on the CD.)

My concerns regarding the ability of a band who fit perfectly onto the modest temporary stage of Monash University’s Chisholm Hall on their last visit to fully utilise the arena setting were quickly allayed by the inclusion of a brass section and small choir – put to task during the crowd-pleasing sing-along Tender.  Damon’s forays through the general admission audience all the way into the stalls during Trimm Trabb may have been overdoing the arena thing, but it seemed to delight those in the cheap seats.  Meanwhile, songs played straight from the long gap between Blur’s visits were fantastic to finally hear live: 13‘s Coffee and TV was a hit with the crowd, whilst Think Tank‘s Out Of Timeproved a highlight of the entire night.

Blur MelbourneThe set as a whole felt more refined, less punky, than the Blur of the past, with even the anticipated drop during Beetlebum given an almost Calypso makeover tonight (a divisive moment) but there was still plenty of time to jump around – Stereotypes and Song 2 had the room jumping.  Meanwhile, the latter prompted the girlfriend from earlier in the night to complain anew that ‘There’s nothing left for them to play now!  They can’t possibly stay on for much longer, can they?  I mean, what are they going to do for the encore now?’

After being caught in an apparently spontaneous chant from Tender in lieu of the dreaded ‘One more song!’ after the main set ended, the group returned and answered the girlfriend’s question with the epic and surprisingly effective closer The Universal, a fine tune to show off not only that Blur have still got it, but also a showcase for their extended band’s touring vocal and horn section.

The Whitlams at the Corner…
October 16, 2014

Klaus Kaperberg was losing his cool.  Perhaps he’d started playing the slots as a form of relief, but that feeling had long progressed to something like frustration.  In the pub, Tim Freedman called an accusatory question regarding the newly-installed poker machines ringing aside the stage over to Angus in the bar, not knowing the turmoil that existed between father and son regarding the installation of said machines.  But that was an episode of Love Is A Four Letter Word.

The Whitlams,
The Corner Hotel, October 10, 2014…

I realised that it was the first time I’d experienced The Whitlams in that kind of environment on Friday – the intimate, pub gig – after seeing them in different kinds of environments over the course of their career: in a park, at a festival, at a university party.  I remembered those early-2000s television extras in Angus’s pub when the opening strains of Blow Up The Pokies rang out from the stage and felt like how they must have felt at seeing Tim Freedman up close.

Before that, though, I was treated to the debut performance of a group called Voix D’Or.  The cute singer introduced her songs with what seemed a practised shyness from beneath the brim of a wide hat.  The group sounded like how deadstar might have if they’d co-written their songs with Chris Isaak – something they seemed to acknowledge with stylishly simple cover of Wicked Game.

TheWhitlams

After a few years of the laid-back Tim Freedman solo shows, it was good to see him back on stage with his old band (albeit as the only original member) playing a selection from the full range of genres the group have dwelt in.  It was surprising to hear Tim refer to songs dating back as far as 1989, so there was no shortage of material in the set which deliberately spanned the band’s lengthy career.  With that in mind, the inclusion of a cover of Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’, however worthy it might have been, seemed frustrating when so many Whitlams favourites were left unplayed – I still yearn to hear Chunky, Chunky Air Guitar live.

On the other hand, songs like Charlie No. 1 and No. 3 sounded rejuvenated with the traditional band backing, and She Makes Hamburgers and especially set highlight Louis Burdett had the pub moving, and it was like being in a scene from Love Is A Four Letter word and in 2001, but without the drama and subconscious interludes.

Hens Party Hard…
November 5, 2013

The room was filled with women in their late-twenties and early-thirties, over-dressed for the venue and showing the early signs of the influence of preparatory drinks on one’s balance in high-heels.  They giggle like they’re much younger as, in small packs, they approach members of the male minority.  Melbourne’s Palace, formerly the Metro, has seen a lot of different crowds pass through it, but tonight it looked like the scene of the world’s largest hens party.

Five,
Palace Theatre, Melbourne, November 4, 2013

‘Nice shirt,’ said a member of one of the aforementioned packs whilst I was ordering at the bar.  Behind her, a clan of onlookers were whispering ‘Omigod, omigod! She’s doing it!’ and giggling, and I remembered that I’d worn an Andrew WK t-shirt (the one with the blood.)  ‘Do you like Five?’

I told her that I do, and she cast an eye back to her laughing cronies before proclaiming, ‘They’re, like, my favourite band ever!  Are they your favourite band ever too?’

I conceded that whilst I like Five, I couldn’t claim them as my favourite band ever, though did respond with a rant on the virtues of Invincible.

‘Yeah…’ the girl said.  ‘Who is Invincible?’

That was my first introduction to the weird, weird audience of the evening.  Many of the members alleged to have been queuing outside since the early afternoon and were complaining that, had they been notified earlier of the venue’s apparently overly-sticky floors, would have planned their footwear for the evening accordingly.  My next was hearing their unfavourable reviews of opener Frank Dixon, whom I had missed, but think is the guy who played that Toorak Girl song that was being linked around on MySpace a few months ago.  Peculiarly, the DJs playing before and after him had also received billing, and they had a warm response from the crowd.  So warm, in fact, that camera-phones were whipped out to capture the DJ spinning favourite pop-hits of the late 90s and early 2000s.  In the lull between the applause remaining after Mambo No. 5 and the next song, I overheard the comment, ‘I love that song.  It was so sad when he died last week.’  It took me a moment to figure out that the commentator was confusing Lou Bega with Lou Reed.

The applause eventually died down as the last DJ’s equipment was moved away, leaving a spartan stage in the lead-up to the headliners’ arrival.  It was an ominous sign.  These backing-track pop shows don’t usually fare well in my reviews – Eiffel 65 and N-Trance was the last show like this I saw, and ended up being ranked 2012’s worst show.  My concerns seem to be unique, however, as the audience proclaimed their excitement as Five emerged onto the stage.  The remaining four members of the band, now somewhat inappropriately named, except when compared with the likes of Ben Folds Five, look to be pleased with the turn-out:  this was the second of two sold-out Melbourne shows, a feat that it could be argued the band might have struggled to achieve during the height of their fame in 1998 and -9 when the group were constantly charting, albeit behind peers like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys.FiveMetro
Along with the applause was the return of the sea of camera-phone screens, which isn’t too unusual.  What was unusual, however, was that a majority of these screens remained firmly in position for the remainder of the show as many fans of this genre appear satisfied to watch through a 4-inch screen.

The lack of instrumentation turned out to be no problem, with the group sufficiently filling in the vocal-blanks left by the absent J, and ensuring constant on-stage action by relishing in recreating the synchronised dance moves from their video clips.  It was the dance tunes that proved to be the evening’s highlights, with Everybody Get Up, When The Lights Go Out and stalker-pop anthem Don’t Wanna Let You Go being stand-outs.  Sneaking in their cover of We Will Rock You early set a clap-along in motion which momentarily dislodged some of the camera screens, but only briefly.  Whilst the customary ballads were there to ensure all the singles were covered, they drew a lull in interest from the audience, aside from when the theatrical hints of homoeroticism between band members produced the odd squeal through the audience.  Connessuirs of Five’s catalogue might have been hoping for an encore of the signature hidden ‘Track 55′ songs, like the band’s ode to Inspector Gadget, but (despite my screamed requests and the glares of disapproval from those surrounding me,) they were not forthcoming.

For a smaller-than-usual group of guys alone on stage without instruments, the remainder of Five put on a good show to an unusual audience, many of whom left commenting on a fine pop show and the venue’s lack of cigarettes for sale.  The band proved that they are still, true to their albums’ sentiments, an authority on being back, getting down, and not going away.