Category Archives: Live Music Reviews

Live review: Regurgitator – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 27/10/19

regurgitator brisbane the tivoli 2019

They may be 25 years into their distinguished and acclaimed career, but you can bet your shoes on the fact Regurgitator aren’t about to start taking themselves too seriously.

In fact, the Brisbane trio brought out all the weird and wondrous silliness they are known and loved for as an appreciative audience, many of whom were likely not born when the band formed, brought the party to the Tivoli on a balmy Sunday evening.

The second of two nights celebrating the homegrown legends, this was a veritable mini-festival of fun stretched over six hours, with supports Koko Uzi, The Stress of Leisure, The Fauves, Screamfeeder and Shonen Knife providing the build-up to the main event.

Much like Regurgitator’s musical output over the last quarter-century, it was a wild and eclectic affair that played out in several parts; each celebrating a different element of their history and interjected with humourous and ludicrous introductory videos featuring Dylan Lewis and Tim Rogers, among others, as well as retina-searing and, at times, hilariously lewd graphics.

regurgitator brisbane 2019

Early tracks ‘I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am’ and ‘F.S.O.’ (about domestic violence – “Let’s fuck that right off”, requests frontman Quan Yeomans), went down a storm amid a maelstrom of noise and enthusiasm as the band bounced around in costumes adorned with multi-coloured pom-poms.

Next came the rap-rock section, and a switch to the “life-sucking” (bassist Ben Ely’s words) tracksuits, with ‘Light Me on Fire’ proving to be a high point.

Another switch to a somewhat gold-sequinned costume affair and the arrival of Seja Vogel on keys brought the band to their ‘Unit’ phase, which was always going to be a major highlight of the evening, including the graphic cartoon rimming on the big screen during ‘I Will Lick Your Arsehole’.

The lingering feeling is that if Regurgitator was to somehow still exist 25 years from now, it would continue to be the irreverent, self-deprecating, outsider beast that it has always been. And that’s exactly how it should be.

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night three (5/9/19)

With livers running at 200% capacity and the memories of a normal routine feeling distant and fuzzy, it’s time to dust ourselves off and give it another crack at Bigsound’s third official night of live music.

First up at Crowbar Black is Towns, playing their twelfth show since Saturday. The Adelaide duo immediately set the scene for a tip-top evening with a charismatic, funny and skilful set of punk/pop/rock numbers. “I’m so fucking happy!” says frontman Aston Valadares, grinning ear to ear, before throwing a bunch of t-shirts into the audience, Oprah-style. A medley of television themes, including ‘Home and Away’, ‘Round the Twist, ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Friends’ provide a fun counterpoint to their admittedly “little sad” track, ‘Bleach’.

towns bigsound live brisbane 2019
Towns

Over at Black Bear Lodge, Sunbeam Sound Machine’s Nick Sowersby and his band are making a gentler, more blissed-out sound, including tracks from new record, ‘Goodness Gracious’. ‘Talking Distance’ goes over particularly well in a venue that is perfect for the intimate feel of the group’s music.

At the Elephant, Reliqa vocalist Monique Pym is more into demanding intimacy from her enthusiastic audience. “Tell someone you love them – the person right next to you!” she suggests, to awkward glances from strangers taking in the Gosford collective. Pym is a powerhouse of energy with a towering voice that must place Reliqa as one of the most exciting young metal bands in the country.

Reliqa Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Reliqa

Mermaidens are certainly not the demanding types at the Ivory Tusk, saying they “don’t want to get in trouble” if they play over their timeslot, although they do mention their new album being out tomorrow (6th September) several times. They do exactly as their bio describes, and do it extremely well – all dreamy vocals, hypnotic guitars and more charm than you can poke your hangover at.

Mermaidens Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Mermaidens

At the Outpost, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers are simultaneously expressing their gratitude for the presence of a sizeable crowd, generating considerable industry buzz, displaying their Canberra home-town pride and playing a collection of rock and alternative numbers like its some of the best parts of the ’90s all over again. ‘I Like That You Like That’ is their best song and marks them as serious contenders.

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers bigsound live brisbane 2019
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers

Following a solid first-night show, the draw towards Laura Imbruglia at Black Bear Lodge is almost irresistible, and going against some imagined principle/protocol/ethic/whatever of Bigsound and seeing the same artist twice suddenly doesn’t seem in any way criminal. The Melburnian and her band, the Bin Chickens, are, quite simply, a class act. ‘Tricks’ and ‘Carry You Around’ allow lead guitarist Alex MacRae to flex his considerable chops as the quartet settle into a potent groove for another evening-winning set.

Laura Imbruglia Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Laura Imbruglia and the Bin Chickens

What a bloody great three nights of live music.

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night two (4/9/19)

Dusting off hangovers, minor/major exhaustion and the shadow of day jobs brings the second night of BIGSOUND back into focus, and with another outstanding line-up of bands to get the teeth into, the appetite is big for night two of the showcase.

First up at Crowbar is Sydney quartet The Buoys, who blast through a high-octane, “emotional rollercoaster” of a set, with frontwoman Zoe Catterall getting among the audience and getting into the mood by snagging a bite from a punter’s Bloody Mary celery stick between bouts of highly impressive shredding.

The Buoys Brisbane Bigsound 2019
The Buoys

Over at Ric’s, Egyptian-Australian Mariam Sawires is impressing in a somewhat more serene fashion; her voice on songs like ‘Together’ – inspired by missing her sister when living in Japan – soars high and marks the nomad vocalist as not only one to watch, but probably deserving of a classier setting than the milk-crate-adorned surrounds of the beloved Valley venue.

Mariam Sawires Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Mariam Sawires

Meanwhile, at The Wickham, Sydney rap queen Lauren. riles up an enthusiastic audience by getting in their face before claiming, “I only smoked one bong today!” to a huge roar of appreciation.

Lauren Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Lauren

At the Brightside, Brisbane’s First Beige have packed out the room and melt into an instantly engaging jam, including a guest trumpeter, while at the Elephant’s crammed back bar, English quartet The Amazons run through a set of polished pop tunes on their first ever Australian gig, and Ainsley Farrell is winning hearts and minds with a classy, lilting and uplifting set at Black Bear Lodge, including new track ‘Dark Spell’.

First Beige Bigsound Brisbane 2019
First Beige

Downstairs at Crowbar, Melbourne metallers Outright are loudly-and-proudly anything but polished, with powerhouse singer Jelena Goluza taking the classic foot-on-monitor stance between explosions of noise, before Sydney post-punk outfit 100 put in a solid and loose shift in front of an appreciative audience.

100 Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
100

Seeing Mambali – from Numbulwar in the Northern Territory – is the perfect way to finish the evening; the Indigenous collective play an exciting, captivating show to a wildly engaged crowd as the evening draws to a close.

Mambali Brisbane Bigsound 2019
Mambali

Is anyone ready to pass out yet?

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night one (3/9/19)

Like Christmas, your birthday, or the dread of filling out another tax return, BIGSOUND rolls around again in no time; although it’s significantly more welcome milestone than many.

First up at Crowbar, singer-guitarist Siobhan Poynton introduces Scabz as “the shittest band at BIGSOUND” before opener ‘What You Stand For’ – a song about Anthony Albanese and false promises. “Told you we were shit,” she follows – a patently untrue statement. ‘Brett Lee’s Got no ID (And He Can’t Get Into World Bar)’ tells the story of Poynton’s encounter with the cricketer at a former place of work; a close call as he “likes Tony Abbott”, as it turns out.

Scabz Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Scabz

Over at Woolly Mammoth, Concrete Surfers are conducting a more polite, but equally impressive and somewhat ramshackle, affair. “We’re here to hopefully rock your socks off,” claims frontman Jovi Brook, softly, while bassist Trent Courtenay – looking like the throttled young caddie from ‘Happy Gilmore’ – slaps his instrument like a master.

Concrete Surfers Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Concrete Surfers

Only a lucky handful of people are present to witness Black Rock Band at the Woolly Mammoth, and what a delight they are treated to by the West Arnhem collective. They aren’t the only band giving an acknowledgement of country tonight, which is encouraging to see and hear, but are likely the only singing in Kunwinjku – addressing both a depth of cultural and social issues and making a rapidly growing audience dance their asses off, too.

Black Rock Band Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Black Rock Band

Reija Lee, playing outside at The Wickham, promises to “amp it up a little” at the beginning of her set. The musical chameleon delivers a varied collection of pop and electro numbers, switching between bass and vocals and winning over a seated audience in no time at all. Her voice and performance deserves a bigger stage.

Reija Lee Brisbane Bigsound 2019
Reija Lee

Over at The Foundry, Dianas are shaking the walls with the tightest performance so far this evening – the Melbourne-via-Perth group make a hell of a sound for a trio, despite complaints of an incredibly sticky stage. Powerhouse drummer Anetta Nevin steals the show with a skin-thumping masterclass, leaving her kit beaten and defeated as the cymbals ring out on the final tune.

Dianas Brisbane Bigsound 2019
Dianas

At The Zoo, Laura Imbruglia and her band the Bin Chickens immediately prove to be the best act of the evening so far as they run through songs from new album, ‘Scared of You’. Opener ‘Tricks’ and follow-up ‘Carry You Around’ set the tone for a classy, skilful set that looks like it will be hard to top this year.

Laura Imbruglia Bigsound 2019 Brisbane
Laura Imbruglia and the Bin Chickens

BIGSOUND veterans Bad//Dreems go about their business with the loose, vaguely off-kilter aesthetic they are known and loved for, playing songs from their upcoming third album, including new tune ‘Piss Christ’. Older tracks ‘My Only Friend’ and ‘Mob Rule’ still sit well among the new songs, while “oldie but a garibaldi” (frontman Ben Marwe’s words) ‘Hoping For’ remains some of their finest work.

Bad/Dreems Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Bad//Dreems

Approachable Members of Your Local Community are the perfect end to the evening at the Ivory Tusk. The “deep south” Melbourne quartet, dressed in ludicrous, matching red Adidas shirts and shorts, are fun, upbeat and silly in all the best ways. New track ‘The Internet’ sounds like a winner while ‘Semiotic Vision’ is perhaps their best song, but it’s the performance that makes it a killer show.

Approachable Members of Your Local Community Bigsound Brisbane 2019
Approachable Members of Your Local Community

Bring on nights two, three and four.

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Live review: Alice Ivy + Miss Blanks + DVNA – The Foundry, Brisbane – 7/6/19

Fun and positive vibes were the name of the game at a bouncing Foundry in Fortitude Valley on Friday night (7th June).


Alice Ivy

In town to promote latest single ‘Close to You’, Melbourne beatmaker Alice Ivy was to play the penultimate show on a nine-stop tour in style, but if she was tired from yet another sizeable national tour, it certainly didn’t show.

First up was Gold Coast producer DVNA, who played a fun, earnest and endearing set to a filling Foundry, while taking time to thank her audience for coming along. Among a swag of smooth tracks, ‘Girl on the Move’ stood out as a soulful, glistening pop gem.


DVNA

Next came Miss Blanks, who dialled the sass up several hundredfold and truly got the party started in her typically brash and entertaining fashion. Between tracks the Brisbane rapper, and former Alice Ivy collaborator, was genuinely funny and self-deprecating, with set highlight ‘This Bitch’ bringing together everything good about her act: lyrical savviness, humour, profanity, and solid hip-hop chops.


Miss Blanks

This gig, however, was all about Alice Ivy. The Victorian producer and multi-instrumentalist was on top form from the get-go, as the audience increasingly let loose on a Friday night.

Switching between guitar, bass, electronics and more, she showed off her range across a swag of tracks from her debut album I’m Dreaming, but it was single ‘Close to You’ that we were here to witness in the flesh. The track, a poised and slick electronic pop number, went down a storm.

The good vibes increased with Alice Ivy thanking and expressing her love to everyone for coming, with fans returning the love many times over as the set came to a climax and a night of celebratory electronic pop came to a close with a sea of smiling faces spilling onto the street.

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Live review: Mini Simmons + The Stilts – Greaser Bar – 24/4/19

‘Hey Hey It’s Another Public Holiday’ isn’t just a television program dreamed up during the writing of this review, but the perfect excuse to get out and see some great live music on Anzac Day Eve (24th April).

Deep in the belly of Fortitude Valley’s Greaser Bar is as good a place as any to indulge, and a suitably safe space to let loose with some old-school rock ‘n’ roll, albeit spewed forth by Auckland newcomers Mini Simmons; this being their debut Australian show.

But wait a minute.

The quartet’s look and sound are so firmly steeped in ’60s and ’70s classic rock that, on paper, there’s a risk of it all getting a bit Greta van Fleet, if ya know what I mean. That unthinkable scenario never happens, thank Hendrix, and the resulting triumphant show can surely only be the start of a long love affair between Mini Simmons and Australian rock audiences.

First up is Brisbane ramshackle racket-makers The Stilts, who include a shabby cover of ‘Home Among the Gum Trees’ in their fun set, and get a growing crowd pumped for the headliners.

From the second they hit the stage, the members of Mini Simmons are one hundred percent into their performance. Physically, it’s all hips, hair and handclaps; frontman Zak Hawkins is part-Jagger, part-Jim Morrison, part-awkwardly-flailing-stick-insect, while guitarist Brad Craig and bassist Jesse Hawkins are all zip and style, and drummer Yoni Yahel proves to be a powerhouse behind the kit.

By the band’s melodic and instantly-catchy third single, ‘A Way With Murder’, also the third song in tonight’s set, the audience is sold on everything the band is selling. Fifth number ‘Kids off Broadway’ is another highlight, as the band boogie and shake through tracks from their debut album, set for release next month.

For those who can’t get no satisfaction from the original material, they’ve got an ace up their sleeve with a version of the Stones’ ‘Midnight Rambler’, done in the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out style, complete with extended breakdown and all the necessary groove and filth. “I want to go down on… YOU!” spits Hawkins, to whoops from somewhere in the throng.

As the light and sound fade, the lingering feeling is that these four fellas deserve a bigger stage on which to show off their chops. Let’s hope they get it.

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Live review: Kimbra + Exhibitionist – The Triffid, Brisbane – 16/7/18

“Very meaningful,” is how Kimbra Johnson coolly describes her first gig in Australia in four years about midway through the first stop on her Primal Heart tour at Brisbane’s The Triffid on Monday night.

Kimbra Brisbane The Triffid Primal Heart 2018

Yep, meaningful. Yep, four years. Yep, Monday night. It’s not the most obvious choice for a triumphant return to a country to which she has ample musical links, but that didn’t stop a large and enthusiastic crowd gathering to collectively fend off the winter bite and enjoy some top tuneage under the arched roof of one of Brisbane’s finest venues.

Exhibitionist – aka Brisbane’s Kirsty Tickle and band – set the tone with a half-hour set of sometimes smooth, sometimes brooding, sometimes dark pop. “Sorry, guys,” she smirks, as she introduces ‘Sally’s Song’ – written with Sally Seltmann with music industry misogyny firmly in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, French drummer Jonathan Boulet is grinning from ear to ear as he basks in Les Bleus’ recent World Cup triumph, before closer ‘Being a Woman’ is introduced as “a little bit aggressive”, and is widely appreciated for being exactly that.

Now for something a whole lotta meaningful. New Zealander Kimbra takes to the stage amid a cacophony of vibration and expectation, taking her position stage-centre with the assurance of someone who has appeared on many of the biggest stages worldwide in the last few years.

An early one-two of ‘The Good War’ and ‘Black Sky’ showcases the strength in depth on the Hamilton native’s third album as the singer strides across the stage surveying her domain, while singles ‘Human’ and ‘Like They Do on the TV’ get big responses from an audience finally starting to relax.

‘Settle Down’ keeps the mood high, before the sparse ‘Past Love’ breaks it all back down. After ‘Two Way Street’, Kimbra challenges her crowd to dance when ‘Sweet Relief’ brings the funk in spades. It’s a veritable musical smorgasboard with no obvious flaw or failing.

All in all, when you look past the electicism, seemingly effortless style, and retina-threatening lights, it’s the 28-year-old’s powerful, soaring voice that’s the star of the show. Who knows what sort of meaningful stuff Kimbra can come up with in the next four years?

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Live review: Mojo Burning Festival – Hamilton Hotel, Brisbane – 14/4/18

The fifth annual Mojo Burning Festival proved that it continues to be a local musical force to be reckoned with at the Hamilton Hotel on Saturday night (14th April).

Positioned as an ‘outside-the-box’ blues, rock and stoner festival, the gathering has gone from strength to strength since its comparatively humble beginnings at the New Globe Theatre in 2014.

Thirty excellent bands over three stages and ten hours is an embarrassment of riches by any festival standard, and almost instant turnaround times between acts kept the momentum going throughout the day.

The Zed Charles Hendrix Experience in the psych room proved to be an early-evening highlight: the balance of showmanship and homage to the songs was just right, and a perfectly blazed ‘Hey Joe’ was a solid closer.

Over at the blues stage, Hat Fitz and Cara let loose a barnstorming set of country/blues numbers, working up a sweat before a baying audience, and climaxing with the stomping ‘Power’.

It was clear that Jeff Martin was a big reason for the presence of many at the festival, and not without good reason. The Tea Party singer-guitarist upped the ante with a solo set of style and class, with some humour thrown in for good measure. ‘Coming Home’, ‘The Bazaar’, ‘Stars in the Sand’ and ‘Line in the Sand’ were mashed up with NIN/Johnny Cash, the Doors and Martin’s heroes Led Zeppelin to make a hard-rockin’ audience happy.

Jeff Martin Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

After the intensity of Martin, the light-hearted Henry Wagons was a fun point of difference. The Melburnian, with trademark leopard-print jacket and headband, jokingly teased the audience between alt-country numbers, before getting among them during final song ‘Willie Nelson’.

Henry Wagons Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

Then came Wolfmother and bedlam. Stockdale and co. still know how to rock, and HARD, and as the rock stage became a barrage of headbanging, big riffs and bigger hair, keeping track of anything became increasingly difficult. ‘New Moon Rising’ and ‘Dimension’ were highlights, as were Stockdale’s wardrobe changes. Everything else was lost in a haze of noise and exhilaration.

Wolfmother Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

Throughout the evening there was a rail-thin and somewhat bookish-looking guy moving among the crowd, fixing a dark-eyed, intense stare on anyone crossing his path while sipping on a schooner with an almost un-Australian restraint. Seconds after Wolfmother was finished, he (Rafael Cohen, as it turns out is his name) was onstage, having shed his glasses and all restraint in his role as guitarist for Elephant Hive – an Israeli power duo who rocked as hard as anyone at the festival. Cohen and drummer Tom Bollig were spotted by chance by the festival director at a show in Tel Aviv, and will have won many new fans on their first Australian jaunt.

Elephant Hive Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

That left Money For Rope (with two drummers in their four-piece setup) and Hobo Magic, switched from the psych room to the larger blues stage, to kill off any remaining eardrums and complete a festival the organisers can be proud of. Consider all mojos well and truly burnt.

Money For Rope Mojo Burning Brisbane 2018

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Live review: Fatboy Slim – Electric Gardens Festival, Brisbane – 25/1/18

It’s Australia Day Eve, it’s hot as hell, and thousands of thirsty Brisbanites are looking to cut loose.

Fatboy Slim Brisbane January 2018 Electric Gardens

Sunnyboys are at the Tivoli and Foo Fighters’ brand of bro-rock is across town at Suncorp Stadium, meaning Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, has some big-hittin’ competition for the collective attention of Brisbane’s gig-goers at Electric Gardens Festival at the Showgrounds.

The question of whether Cook is able to top his triumphant performance at Riverstage exactly two years to the day is another uncertainty hanging over the gig – that was a hell of a show.

Needless to say, the night proves to be business as usual for the EDM renegade master – complete with a typical array of hits, mesmerising visuals, tantalising sonic snippets, air horns and high energy.

After sets by Tim Fuchs, Motez, MK and Gorgon City, panic sets in at the drinks line when ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ kicks off a couple of minutes before the slated 8:30 start time. After ten minutes of high-quality Fatboy, however, the party is well-and-truly underway.

From here, the master is in control of his disciples.

Brief blasts of ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine’ get huge responses, as do ‘Renegade Master’ and ‘Star 69’. Two years ago it was Bowie featuring in a brief minute-or-so tribute, and this time it’s Prince; the Purple One’s image on the big screen is a nice touch.

Fatboy Slim Brisbane January 2018 Electric Gardens Prince

Much like Foo Fighters were probably doing over at Suncorp, Fatboy drops some Queen into his set with a bit of ‘Radio Ga Ga’, as the audience claps when he demands it. It’s not quite Freddie at Live Aid (nothing is), but it’s a lot of fun.

By 9:50pm another hit is well overdue, and ‘Praise You’ does the job, evoking an atmosphere somewhere in the region of bedlam. It only takes ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ mixed with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ to put the icing on this sweaty, leg-weary cake.

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Live review: London Grammar + Guests – Riverstage, Brisbane – 23/9/17

Billed as Brisbane Festival’s “marquee music event”, the five-act line-up of London Grammar, James Vincent McMorrow, The Kite String Tangle, Mansionair and Wafia provided perfect vibes for a chilled evening at Brisbane’s Riverstage on Saturday (23rd September).

London Grammar Brisbane Riverstage September 2017

With the tunes kicking off at 4pm in scorching sunshine, and running for close to six hours, the atmosphere was not unlike a mini festival, with the comforting aroma of Dagwood dogs and mid-strength beer reinforcing the feeling.

Wafia is a rare talent whose vocal power is more than enough to fill the amphitheatre, while Mansionair play a slick set and get a big response with ‘Hold Me Down’.

Hometown boy Danny Harley of The Kite String Tangle is delighted to be playing Riverstage for the first time, as he tells us twice. The sun aptly drops over the horizon as he plays ‘Illuminate’, but it’s his final track ‘Arcadia’ which is the perfect ending to the best set of the day thus far.

But hold on, the best set of the day is immediately bested, as things get international-class with James Vincent McMorrow. The Irishman’s soulful delivery is just about perfect on ‘Get Low’ and ‘National’, while the towering ‘Cavalier’ provides a goosebump-y moment or four.

London Grammar are all darkness and mystique as they take to a sparsely-lit stage and singer Hannah Reid begins proceedings with ‘Rooting For You’. It’s a controlled start, but one that grabs the audience’s attention and ensures it stays firmly on the band for the rest of the night.

‘Rooting For You’ perfectly rolls into ‘Flickers’, and while the trio’s sound is somehow both delicate and huge simultaneously, it is, of course, Reid’s ethereal, choral tones that are the highlight of the set.

‘Wasting My Young Years’ precedes a cheery rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for guitarist Dan Rothman, who is turning 28. A cake appears from somewhere and Reid asks the audience to confirm how young and handsome he is before pointing out how cake is bad for her vocal cords, “just like everything else delicious”. Boo hoo.

‘Hey Now’ receives perhaps the biggest response of the evening. It fills the amphitheatre from the river to the hot-dog stand and back again, as a captivated audience sings along. Conclusion: London Grammar’s music is built for big spaces.

The gig/mini festival vibes are over by the Brisbane City Council-approved 10pm, leaving plenty of time for reflecting on what was a pretty damn good day of music.

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Live review: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Riverstage, Brisbane – 25/1/17

nick cave brisbane riverstage 25/1/17

“It’s always so f**king hot in Brisbane,” says Nick Cave, four songs into the set. “How do you even tolerate it?”

The answer to that question probably includes tonight’s audience being willing to endure the heat and a whole lot more for the chance to spend the night before a public holiday in the company of one of Australia’s finest artists (somehow the words ‘musician’, ‘singer’ or ‘songwriter’ fall pathetically short when applied to Cave).

It may be hot, hot, hot at Brisbane’s Riverstage, but such trivialities melt into the background when faced with the all-conquering qualities of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; whose latest album ‘Skeleton Tree’ is getting its first airing in these parts. For that reason, themes of loss and death are particularly heavy in the set, but nothing exists in a single dimension with Cave. Despite the darkness, frustration, and anger in much of his music, the show is a remarkably humorous affair. Cave urges the audience to write to the City Council over the “fucking absurd” 10pm curfew, playfully shouts “Sexual harassment!” when a female audience member gets a bit too hands-on, makes a subtle dig at that Trump guy, and gloriously messes up his vocal timing at a couple of points: all adding to the enjoyment of the spectacle.

nick cave brisbane riverstage 25/1/17

An opening trio of ‘Anthrocene’, ‘Jesus Alone’ and ‘Magneto’ confirm it is going to be a special night, before a slithering and emphatic ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ provides an early highlight, followed by the towering ‘From Her to Eternity’. Cave dominates the stage as he slides left and right, arms gesticulating wildly and face contorted with intensity. At almost 60 he is still as magnetic and charismatic a frontman as you are likely to encounter, adding to the near-ritualistic nature of the show.

‘Tupelo’, ‘Jubilee Street’, ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘Into My Arms’ are up next, with Cave describing the latter as the best version they have done in 15 years, and, with a cheeky smirk, asks the audience to “leave it to the professionals” when song requests are hollered. ‘Red Right Hand’ brings perhaps the biggest highlight of the second half of the show, and sees Cave once again getting among his worshippers at front-and-centre.

‘Skeleton Tree’ is the obvious closer, and with one eye on a clock showing 9:50pm, the band reappear quickly to run through ‘Mermaids’ and an apocalyptic ‘Stagger Lee’. There’s a lingering question over whether the “fucking absurd” curfew has robbed us of at least one or two more tracks, but if the feeling in the chests of several thousand people leaving the Riverstage isn’t 100% gig-going satisfaction, I don’t know what is.

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Live review: Sufjan Stevens + Ngaiire – QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane – 4/3/16

sufjan stevens brisbane

QPAC Concert Hall – seemingly as tall as it is long and with 1800 seats – is a bloody big venue and needs some big noises to make it feel full.

It’s clear within seconds that Sydney’s Ngaiire, supporting Sufjan Stevens on this tour, is a singer who is more than up to the task. Diminutive in size, but certainly not in vocal ability, the Papua New Guinea-born artist will surely have won many new fans with this over-too-soon 30-minute set. ‘Fall Into My Arms’ is an early highlight, while single ‘Once’ and ‘I Can’t Hear God Anymore’ are moments of unbridled joy. What a bright future she surely has.

The Sufjan Stevens Show in 2016 is essentially a two-part drama: an intense trip of 14 tracks from across the 40 year-old’s career with all the electronic trimmings, followed by a stripped-down, semi-encore of a further handful of songs that brings it all home with intimacy and charm.

The opening trio of ‘Redford (For Yia-Yia and Pappou)’, ‘Death With Dignity’ and ‘Should Have Known Better’ have the audience in raptures as a searingly-vivid light show evokes the feeling of being in a particularly garish (and particularly loud) church or cult meeting. The five-piece band go about their task with a near-telepathic sense of communication, as the mood of a piece can lift or drop depending on a look or the slightest gesture.

‘Drawn to the Blood’, ‘Eugene’, ‘Carrie & Lowell’ and ‘Blue Bucket of Gold’ from 2015’s all-conquering Carrie & Lowell make appearances before the band disappear and reappear after deafening calls for more.

sufjan stevens ngaiire brisbane

Now, dressed in fairly ridiculous orange t-shirt and cargo pants, Stevens is more laidback and chats to the audience, including labelling his banjo a “strange instrument”. The closing section of the show is, in many ways, more rewarding for the gig-goer, as it provides a chance to see the musicians’ true skills at work in a stripped-down and more measured setting.

Songs including ‘The Dress Looks Nice on You’ and ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jr.’ are worked through, before obvious closer ‘Chicago’ sees Ngaiire return to the stage for a grand finish.

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Live review: Fatboy Slim + Erick Morillo + Nick Galea – Brisbane Riverstage – 25/1/16

fatboy slim brisbane riverstage 2016

A near sell-out crowd witnessed a bonafide EDM legend’s triumphant return to Brisbane on a balmy Australia Day Eve, as the man sometimes known as Norman Cook proved he’s still the master of his craft.

An opening run-out for local talent Nick Galea was followed by a two-hour set from Erick Morillo as dusk closed around the natural amphitheatre of the Riverstage. “If you’re having a good time, make some motherfucking noise,” the Colombian-American demanded, to massive cheers. “If you’re having a good time and you’re gonna have sex tonight, make some motherfucking noise,” came next, to a much less confident response.

After only a few minutes turnaround, Cook appeared on stage at 8:30pm, and attacked his audience with a non-stop assault of sound for 90 minutes. Such is the length and breadth of appeal of Cook’s career that it could almost be divided into eras, and elements of every one of them got a run out and were met with a similar positive response.

‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ and ‘Renegade Master’ kicked off proceedings, and as Cook moved through a relentless run of his many tracks and remixes, he also found plenty of time to pay homage to his musical heroes, with excerpts of Iggy Pop, Marvin Gaye, the White Stripes, Talking Heads and of course, the Chemical Brothers thrown in for good measure. A couple of well-appreciated Bowie tributes were nice touches, including mashing ‘Rebel Rebel’ into the mix, and the light show would have worried every epilepsy sufferer from Southbank to the Valley.

The only way to finish was, of course, his signature tune, ‘The Rockafeller Skank’. As the vast, happy audience poured out of the Riverstage, Fatboy Slim had to be given major credit for raising a valid question: when was the last time so many happy Brisbanites came together and danced their socks off on a Monday night?

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Live review: Rise Against + Clowns + Outright – Brisbane Riverstage – 4/12/15

rise against brisbane riverstage

“This is the sign that it’s been a great gig,” says Tim McIlrath, holding aloft a rancid, steaming trainer which has just landed next to him. Like with everything the Rise Against frontman says or does at Brisbane’s Riverstage on Friday night (4th December), a deafening roar is hurtled stage-wards from a ferocious audience. And after this comment, the shoes keep coming.

Every great gig need to start with great supports, though, and tonight’s show is lucky to have two of them. Melbourne hardcore outfit Outright are first to force the dials into the red with an intense early set. Singer Jelena Goluza will have undoubtedly won her band new fans with an impressively brutal vocal onslaught over a 25-minute set and a passionate speech about domestic violence before the track ‘A City Silent’. Fantastic work Jelena; the music world needs more of you.

Next up is Melbourne’s hardcore/punk gang Clowns, whose frontman Stevie Williams finds himself with a ripped shirt as early as the first song after getting among the audience at front-and-centre. The quartet are typically energetic and charming over a furious 30 minutes; in turn mounting monitors and amps, demanding that some dude “delete his fucking Tinder” and get off his phone, playing monster riff after monster riff, and finally, posing for a photo with their audience. These guys have got to be near the top of the pile in terms of what Australia can offer the genre right now.

As the R, I, S and E are unveiled from beneath their drapes and the steam begins to rise from a heaving crowd in front of the barrier, an obviously up-for-it band get to business with ‘The Great Die-Off’, ‘The Good Left Undone’ and ‘Satellite’ as an opening salvo, with a few hundred metres already run by guitarist Zach Blair and bassist Joe Principe, as they switch position and stances repeatedly. A testosterone-heavy crowd laps up everything coming from the stage and shows its appreciation with the aforementioned soaring shoes, pinging plastic bottles, and a cacophony of tone-deaf vocal accompaniment fit for a footy match.

‘Prayer of the Refugee’ receives a huge response, as does a towering ‘Ready to Fall’, and while McIlrath’s solo section, including ‘Swing Life Away’, takes the sting out of proceedings for a while, a massive finish is assured with ‘Savior’. Rise Against loves Australia and Australia loves them back is the takeaway from this evening.

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Live review: AC/DC + The Hives + Kingswood – Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre – 12/11/15

AC/DC brisbane 2015

IT’S been a long five years since the AC/DC train rolled through Australia on the Black Ice tour, so it’s not surprising that seemingly every rock fan in Brisbane has descended on QSAC, armed to the teeth and ready for battle with flashing devil horns and the blackest of black T-shirts, ready to see if the Rock or Bust show can top that triumphant memory.

The great thing about AC/DC shows up to now is that fans know exactly what they’re going to get: two-ish hours of straight-up, world class rock ‘n’ roll with duckwalks and inflatable cartoon groupies thrown in for good measure. This time, though, something is different: rhythm linchpin Malcolm Young and long-serving drummer Phil Rudd are no longer with the band; the former now suffers from dementia and the latter found himself under house arrest. Replacing them are Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young on guitar and drumming veteran Chris Slade; both have served time with the band previously. So, are the new/old boys up to the task?

Kingswood are the first to step up and warm the audience’s eardrums, and they do so with hard-rocking aplomb. Opening with ‘She’s My Baby’, the Melbourne quartet immediately sound massive, and as the cool-as-funk synths of ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’ slice the dusk air, it feels like they’re making this look and sound easy. Frontman Fergus Linacre’s towering vocals during closer ‘Ohio’ sound right at home in a stadium.

Everyone’s favourite Swedish garage rockers are next, and it’s great to see that after 20 years in the business, the Hives are still throwing themselves around stages with as much hyperactivity as they did after breaking big in the early 2000s. With his trademark high kicks, microphone swinging and crowd baiting, frontman ‘Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist covers several kilometres around the stage, issuing unintelligible demands and declaring his love for Brisbane. ‘Walk Idiot Walk’, ‘Die Alright’, ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and the “song about me being an asshole”, ‘Main Offender’, still sound great, and by the time they’re finished with ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’, the air is thick with anticipation and the smell of a thousand upturned rum and cokes.

After the traditional animated opening, this time featuring an asteroid Angus, AC/DC kick into the title track from Rock or Bust, and any concerns over the absence of certain tried-and-trusted band members fade. Immediately sounding, and more importantly, feeling, like the AC/DC we know and love, the band is tight and heavy. Slade is a powerhouse behind the kit and Stevie Young plays as closely to his uncle’s sound as probably anybody could.

‘Shoot to Thrill’ is followed by ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be’ and ‘Back in Black’, at which stage, despite singer Brian Johnson’s top form and bassist Cliff Williams’s solid display as ever, it becomes the Angus Young show for the rest of the gig. He is basically the frontman of AC/DC after all, and whether he’s duckwalking, pointing to the audience, shredding like a maniac or throwing himself around the floor like a child having a seizure, the six-string legend has thousands of people eating out of his hand at every move.

Newer track ‘Play Ball’ sits perfectly among the Back In Black-era songs, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ earns the first of many boob flashes of the evening, ‘Thunderstruck’ receives an earth-shaking response and ‘High Voltage’ sees Brian Johnson calling Malcolm Young’s name and hearing it yelled back at him in glorious harmony. It’s after ‘Have a Drink on Me’ and ‘TNT’ that inflatable Rosie makes an appearance, which leads into an extended, fiery version of ‘Let There Be Rock’ and an encore of ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), complete with trademark cannon salute and fireworks.

It seemed difficult to imagine how AC/DC could have topped the spectacle of the Black Ice tour, but with Rock or Bust, they’ve done it. To think of what they’ve accomplished having lost a founding guitarist and established drummer is remarkable, and this show is the evidence. Whether there will be another tour is hard to call, but if tonight’s gig was anything to go by, Angus and the boys can do just about anything they want to.

SETLIST

Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Play Ball
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Thunderstruck
High Voltage
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Hells Bells
Baptism by Fire
You Shook Me All Night Long
Sin City
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
TNT
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock

Encore:
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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