Whiskey drink, vodka drink, larger drink, cider drink…
July 30, 2018

Climbing the stairs to the Forum’s cloakroom, I felt exhaustion set in. This had been a big week. Between Splendour In The Grass sideshows and Open House Melbourne, every night had been one with plans. It had seemed almost a blessing in disguise when Chromeo’s show was cancelled due to exhaustion. One night off in the week would probably be a good thing. The bad news for tonight’s acts was that getting me motivated at the tail end of Splendour Week could prove a difficult task.

Nothing But Thieves, with Psychedelic Porn Crumpets,
The Forum, Melbourne, July 29 2018

Luckily, the combination of the Forum’s trademark themed cocktails (tonight serving ‘Broken Machines’ and the superior ‘Trip Switch’ – ‘Honey Whiskey’ must have been too obvious) and the opening strains of the support was enough to revive some energy. Sounding like Supergrass creating a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard tribute show, the group played an accessible kind of fuzz-rock through a fog on stage so thick the band looked like they’d been transported to a 1990s grunge video clip. Whilst quite a different kind of sound to the headliner, the pop-rock proved to be crowd-pleasing and a nice warm up for the main part of the night.

From the cloudy darkness on stage rang out what could have been a last minute sound check of the drum kit, but was suddenly realised as a prolonged opening to I Was Just A Kid. As the lights lifted with the chorus, we saw the band clad in matching black, with singer Conor Mason leaning slightly into the microphone, hopping a little as he sang.

Conor and the band proved to be versatile showmen live, moving from soulful wailing to unexpected, almost Queens Of The Stone Age-esque power riffs. With little to say between songs, we were teased instead with creepy interludes, the best of which seeped into a bubbly rendition of Particles. Whilst most of the set was played pitch-perfect, almost indistinguishable from a CD recording, highlights were when the band deviated and expanded upon the songs, like a particularly bass-heavy rendition of Trip Switch.

Only two albums into their career, what Nothing But Thieves brought to Melbourne was a lot of variety, seemlessly transitioning from ballads to rock, yet never leaving any band member awkwardly on the sidelines. However, the best moments were those when the band built dramatically, like in Broken Machine and especially Soda where even the Forum itself seemed to join the band, raising the lights to meet the song’s crescendo.

Nothing But Thieves have been good to this city, already making the long journey from the UK several times, but after a quality performance competing against a week of others, the audience were left already anticipating the next visit.


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.


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.

Good Charlotte play Weezer…
November 14, 2011

Whilst I could barely contain my excitement upon returning from the ticket booth, everyone I boasted to about the latest tickets to be added to the line-up adorning my fridge door refused to believe that the tickets were legitimate.  My boss, in particular, mentioned numerous times how absurd he thought it that Good Charlotte were to be performing a Weezer tribute show.  Amongst his list of concerns was his belief – which I did not disagree with – that there are likely to be very few Weezer fans who are also Good Charlotte fans.  But, I countered, as a fan of both, this was one of those rare dreamGigs.

Good Charlotte play Weezer’s ‘Blue Album,’
The JD Set at The Forum, Melbourne, November 10, 2011

Amy Meredith opened the evening, and although I didn’t see a lot of their set due to the unforgivably long queues for entrance, what I did get to hear sounded good.  The band seem to have come a long way since their self-titled EP (better known as the Dingley Rock City CD) and have found a more consistent sound.  They’ve gained a British indie-rock vibe at some point during their journey, and stylish new hair for Christian, but none of that is any cause for complaint.

In between bands, a DJ played a set that featured every song I always wished I could hear in a night club but never did, including songs by Fountains Of Wayne, Avril, and Rancid.  Meanwhile, a girl wearing spoons as jewellery confessed to me that she was looking forward to hearing Only In Dreams while an older woman who I had asked to hold my drink professed her love for me, Amy Meredith, Good Charlotte, whoever Weezer are, and AC/DC.  Needless to say, the corporate sponsorship meant that Jack Daniels cocktails were reasonably priced.Joel Madden, appropriately backed by the corporate sponsor

When Good Charlotte emerged on stage it was without fanfare, and the uproarious applause died down quickly as they broke immediately into My Name Is Jonas.  It was immediately apparent that it was quite a flat rendition, and highlighted the fact that many of the audience didn’t realise that this would be a tribute show and were unfamiliar with the material.  Indeed, Joel Madden himself would later observe that ‘There are… what?  Five people here who know The Blue Album?’  I joined that particular subset of five at the front and centre of the stage, where other audience members expressed their dissatisfaction at the fact that anyone should be singing or dancing.  A girl with whom my body had come into contact called me a jerk, and I asked if she knew how to do a concert.  Perhaps not the most articulate response, but I was satisfied when she stomped her foot on the floor and shrieked ‘What does that even mean!?’

Luckily the band seemed to get more into spirit of the event by the end of the song, and by the slow-build that is The World Has Turned, they were sounding pretty good and I – along with the few other Weezer fans in the room – were enjoying ourselves.  Most of the songs didn’t deviate too far from their source material, but Benji and Joel did do some interesting adlibs over the conversations of Undone… which the bulk of the audience seemed to enjoy.  It kind of highlighted how an album tribute gig like this can be problematic.  Weezer’s debut is without a doubt a fantastic album, but, like any album, it has its own lulls and peaks.  It was great to hear the songs, but the ‘tribute’ portion of the night might have been better received had it been presented as ‘Good Charlotte playing the hits of Weezer.’  Because the audience was so quiet during the Weezer component of the night, Joel was able to respond to my admittedly ludicrous requests for songs from other Weezer albums, like I Want You To and Island In The Sun, before silencing me with a fantastic rendition of Say It Ain’t So.

So skeleton gloves ARE still in vogue...

And with the closing of the Weezer tribute, Good Charlotte took a brief break and returned for what the majority of the crowd really wanted – a solid set of the band’s own singles.  Opening strongly with The Anthem, I was surprised to hear so many of the recent poppier songs from Cardiology included on a night like this.  Nevertheless, it was a varied set that seemed to please, and – whilst there were favourite singles omitted – crowd favourites like Riot Girl and Motivation Proclamation were played to perfection amongst the radio hits.

Good Charlotte playing Weezer was an interesting experiment, but it looks like my boss was right.  Judging by the packed theatre’s silence during Weezer, it didn’t exactly pay off.  But the full Good Charlotte set seemed to please everyone, whether they’d been bopping at the front to the Weezer covers or not, and it was a rare treat to see a band who frequent stadiums playing in one of Melbourne’s finest music venues.