Midweek apathy, a relentless downpour and the scourge of lingering pandemic panic weren’t nearly enough to dampen the spirits at Sleaford Mods’ debut Brisbane appearance on Thursday night (12th March).
The English duo, touring Australia for the first time since their 2007 inception, left nothing in the tank after what must be one of the most brutal, hard-hitting, entertaining and darkly funny performances of recent times in these parts.
Speaking of entertaining and funny, Eamon and Josh from Sunshine Coast slackers The Chats provide a solid support slot, even though they do almost nothing of worth other than hit ‘play’ on a playlist, crack a few tins and sit in front of quizzical audience grinning from ear to ear. The award for the most laidback DJ set of all time has just been given.
For Sleaford Mods’ Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson, not much, it seems, is laidback, although they’re not above taking the piss out of themselves with as much venom as they attack the ruling classes, austerity politics and pop culture.
Opening with ‘The Committee’, ‘McFlurry’ and ‘Fizzy’, Fearn nods and bops behind his laptop that teeters on a battered, old stool, while Williamson vents spleen, sends spittle sprays for seemingly impossible distances, and contorts his body in tune with the tunes while flitting between ranting, rapping and preaching – all liberally sprinkled with a plethora of c-bombs and truth bombs in equal measure.
It’s the no-bullshit nature of the duo’s act, full spectrum of emotions witnessed onstage, badass beats pumped forth by Fearn’s laptop, and utterly acerbic and absorbing vocal and physical performances by Williamson that makes a Sleaford Mods gig a truly unique and necessary experience in 2020.
Through ‘Kebab Spider’, ‘TCR’, ‘Reef of Grief’ and ‘Jobseeker’, the pace doesn’t let up, and the diverse Triffid audience laps it up from beginning to end.
Williamson’s lyrics and mannerisms provide many of the highlights, and while Sleaford Mods may be too riddled with complexities and contradictions to be the heroes we need in 2020, anything that gets Brisbane dancing on a cold and rainy Thursday evening is worth the price of a ticket alone. Ten out of ten: should visit again.
The anticipation and tension in the air was palpable in and around the mosquito and hot chip haven that is the Brisbane Entertainment Centre as the mighty, genre-skipping rockers Tool made their first visit to the town in seven years in support of their highly anticipated fifth album, ‘Fear Inoculum’.
Support came in the form of a brutal and demanding performance by Author & Punisher, also known as San Diegan solo artist Tristan Shone, who delivered a punishing and absorbing set of pounding, industrial drones as the male-dominated, heavily lubricated audience poured into the sold-out, 13,500-capacity venue.
Reports from the quartet’s Sydney and Perth shows spoke of visual spectaculars, a strict camera ban, and a band musically at the peak of its powers, and this show didn’t disappoint on any of those fronts.
Behind blinds surrounding the edge of the stage, the foursome took their spots to an intense outpouring of emotion, kicking off with ‘Fear Inoculum’; the lead single from the album of the same name. It was a special moment for a Brisbane audience who had waited years to see their heroes once more, and it showed.
Singer Maynard James Keenan began as he meant to go on, on a raised platform behind and to the side of Danny Carey’s drum kit, surveying his domain with menace and anticipation, crouching for the most part with his mohawk and punk getup visible as a silhouette against the searing visuals. Bassist Justin Chancellor twisted and twitched as he delivered thundering notes to leave ears ringing for days, while Adam Jones was the epitome of cool as he reeled off the riffs.
“Hey Brisbane,” said Keenan. “Heard you’ve had a bit of flooding recently. Being so near the ocean and all. Yeah, whatever.”
The setlist remained similar to the band’s two Australian shows thus far, with ‘Ænema’, ‘Parabola’, ‘Schism’, ‘Pneuma’ and ‘7empest’ featuring as part of a relentless wall of sound that the audience lapped up every second of. Almost as entertaining as the show was the venue’s security team’s eagerness and enthusiasm to jump on anyone using their phone, even if not taking photos, and issue a sternly worded warning or eject them from the centre, as signage and PA announcements repeatedly warned of the perils of using video recording equipment at any stage of the occasion.
It didn’t matter, though, as, following surely one of the most intense aural assaults of recent times, hordes of sweaty, black-t-shirt- and cargo short-wearing fans left the Entertainment Centre, hopeful to not have to wait so damn long for next time.
It was a night of big hits, storytelling, sequinned blazers and a masterclass of musicianship as Elton John and his band brought their Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to Brisbane on a humid, midweek evening.
The 72-year-old may be around halfway through a 300-odd-show run for a tour which began in September 2018, but the energy level didn’t let up for over two and a half hours as the British Knight Bachelor showed he still has the Midas touch when it comes to mesmerising an audience – a task the old master has been succeeding at for close to 50 years.
A lack of supporting artist made little difference to the palpable level of anticipation echoing around the dated walls of the Boondall venue as an army of Elton diehards found their seats while adjusting flashing glam-era spectacles, removing layers of glitzy clothing and chomping on boxes of hot chips with eyes affixed to the big screens for signs of movement on their hero’s part (kudos to the tour team for the acknowledgement of the Turrbal and Yugara people as the Traditional Owners of the area).
If anyone was feeling a tad lethargic or in the depths of a midweek funk, the first few bars of “Bennie and the Jets” changed all that. Its delivery was one of power, poise and nonchalance; tossed off by a master in perfect control of his realm and with nothing to prove. The fact that we were witnessing a man who has created some of the most perfect pop hits for several decades hit like an embarrassing reminder that we shouldn’t have expected anything other than utter brilliance.
“All the Girls Love Alice” followed quickly, before the man himself addresses his people. “We hope you like what you see and what you hear,” he says, before launching into “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “Border Song”; the latter before which he takes the opportunity to relate how Aretha Franklin’s decision to record it in the early ’70s gave him and co-songwriter Bernie Taupin great confidence as young musicians. This is the first of many such reminiscences and nods to the skills and input of Taupin of the night.
The anthemic “Tiny Dancer”, as fifth song in a 25-song set, is almost thrown away without a care, but not before getting the biggest response of the evening with a spine-tingling sing-along in the 13,000-capacity venue. It’s a similar situation for “Rocket Man” in eighth position, although the band take their time with the classic track; each taking a masterful solo to transform it into an extended, bluesy jam. Elton takes his bows and laps up the adulation between hits, and a genuine connection is felt between performer and audience.
There may be moments for the diehards only, including “Burn Down the Mission”, and patches of lower intensity that follow, but towards the pointy end of the show, the hits start rolling again, with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “I’m Still Standing” and “Crocodile Rock” which perfectly set up an encore of “Your Song” and obvious closer “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
The overall feeling as the frenetic applause finally fades and the satisfied hordes dissipate into the night is that they just don’t make them like Sir Elton any more.
For Best Before
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a bloody great three nights of live music.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
Is anyone ready to pass out yet?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bring on nights two, three and four.
Fun and positive vibes were the name of the game at a bouncing Foundry in Fortitude Valley on Friday night (7th June).
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
“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.
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?
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
It’s Australia Day Eve, it’s hot as hell, and thousands of thirsty Brisbanites are looking to cut loose.
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.
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.
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).
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.
“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.
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.