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.
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 of 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.
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 band 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.