Category Archives: Live Music Reviews

Live review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Brisbane – 31/1/15

perfect pussy brisbane laneway
Perfect Pussy

“It’s so hot; how can you live like this?”

These are some of the first words Benjamin Booker mutters into his microphone as he takes to the stage at yet another talent-packed and heatstroke-inducing St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival. And he’s from New Orleans…

It’s an appropriate question from the 25 year-old singer-songwriter, as rivers of sweat run from every pore on every square inch of every dancing punters’ skin under the punishing Queensland sun. But since when did a few rays and humidity stop Brisbane having a party?

Particularly perfect party-starters are New York’s Perfect Pussy (try saying that after a few ales); the noisy five-piece charge through a blistering set of shouty punk and hardcore. Singer Meredith Graves may look fairly angelic in her all-white get-up, but once her brutal vocals and flailing arms get going, you realise she is a force to be reckoned with. The juxtaposition of her meek “thank-yous” and ferocious vocal performances is truly a wonderful thing.

Leeds likely lads Eagulls are plying their own brand of guitar noise over at the Good Better Best stage, although theirs is more of the post-punk variety. The harsh afternoon heat hasn’t stopped Brisbane’s music fans from turning out early in large numbers, and the quintet go over well.

Back at the Mistletone stage, Connan Mockasin is one of a few artists who will experience sound problems today, although the New Zealander takes it in his stride, seating himself on a monitor and pulling off some of the most laid-back licks on show today. His woozy psychedelia is perfect for hot days and stiff drinks, which is pretty damn appropriate.

At the Never Let It Rest stage, American singer Raury’s sound is the first of the day to go beyond big and into massive territory; the Atlanta native’s final song ‘God’s Whisper’ being the finest on show so far, as his band mates’ hats fly from their heads, are replaced and fly off again as they bounce around the stage.

Next is South Australian ball of energy Tkay Maidza, who is, quite simply, an infectious delight throughout her entire set. The teen rapper has justified all the hype surrounding her over the past year, and if she keeps pulling out performances that make audiences want to move as much as this, surely world domination isn’t just a pipe dream. ‘Switch Lanes’ is a highlight, as is the ridiculous ‘Brontosaurus’, but it’s Maidza’s I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-but-fuck-it grin that makes her the most fun to watch.

Andy Bull receives a suitably colossal reception from an ecstatic crowd at the Never Let It Rest stage, just before Benjamin Booker gets his sweat on next door. Despite initial problems which force his rhythm section to jam while a pedal is fixed, the classy Louisianan remains unfazed, even while one confused and inebriated woman shouts “Where’s Agnes?” No lady, this is not Mac Demarco, and go drink some water FFS.

jungle laneway brisbane
Jungle

Back at the Mistletone stage, Norwegians Highasakite finish off with an epic sing-along to their single ‘Since Last Wednesday’, before a storm warning is announced under a heavy and ominous cloud. As English duo Royal Blood kick off and bassist/singer Mike Kerr asks a heaving audience “are you ready to get wet?” that’s exactly what happens; the sky briefly opens and a temporarily-concerning mass of sopping punters surges towards the gates, causing a crush. “If you push me any harder, this girl in front is going to end up pregnant,” announces one guy caught in the mass of bodies, and the band play on, unperturbed.

The rain clears and normality is restored, and Courtney Barnett takes to the stage in front of another huge audience. After kicking off with ‘Lance Jr.’, the Melbournian proceeds to shred with aplomb throughout her entire set; a fact that only increases anticipation for her debut album, set to be released in March.

Now comes perhaps one of the most anticipated moments of the day: Mac Demarco and his dear old mum. In a cheesy move, Agnes introduces her “talented and beautiful son”, before the man himself starts into ‘Salad Days’ with all the right amounts of quirk and whimsy. The almost God-like status he is afforded by a baying audience is puzzling, but it’s all silly good fun, so what the hell.

Future Islands draw somewhat less of a crowd than might have been expected if their slot didn’t clash with both Banks and Little Dragon, and while their synth-pop is tailor-made for a festival of this size, the majority of people present at their set are clearly only here for that song, which frontman Samuel T. Herring almost introduces with a sigh, as he says “Okay – let’s do it”. The crowd at the front at this point goes suitably mental, while the rest of us hope ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ doesn’t become the band’s ‘Creep’.

Now: shit gets real as English soul collective Jungle prove themselves to be a major highlight in the dark of the Never Let It Rest stage. An opening salvo of ‘Platoon’ and ‘Julia’ is enough to get every person present moving more than they have all day, before fourth track ‘The Heat’ whips the crowd into even more of a frenzy. ‘Accelerate’ is good, but ‘Busy Earnin’’ is great, and as this reviewer finds himself involuntarily shuffling past the probable brilliance of St. Vincent, ducking his head under the water tap before tumbling into a taxi with demands to be taken to the nearest vendor of pizza slices, he realises Laneway has defeated him for another year. Jolly good show, St. Jerome.

For Scenestr

Live review: The Rolling Stones – Brisbane Entertainment Centre – 18/11/14

the rolling stones brisbane

“We know you’ve waited a long time, cuz we ain’t been back for aaaaages!”

While no apology is needed for the unfortunate circumstances in which the Rolling Stones were forced to cancel their last Australian tour, it’s nice that Mick Jagger acknowledges the fact shortly after an explosive opening double-salvo of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)’. It’s also nice that he receives a response loud enough to probably kill every bird within a ten-mile radius.

Two songs in and it already feels that incredible amounts of energy have been expended by both band and audience. The lack of a support band hasn’t kept an arena-sized bunch of music fans of mostly advanced years from allowing themselves to be whipped up into a frenzy by Jagger, who almost can’t find enough parts of the stage in which to shake his bony hips and flail his arms like it’s 1969 all over again. Besides the prancing peacock frontman, ol’ Keef and Ronnie are looking mean and lean (and dressed mostly in green) as they puff on cigarettes and interchange licks. Charlie is the epitome of cool and reigns everything in. Touring members are sounding and looking hot. The knowledge that we’re witnessing a bunch of frail septuagenarians roll casually yet efficiently through their hits has been suspended from our minds and we are being drawn into the Stones’ world of swagger, mystery and comfortable trainers, if only for a couple of hours.

‘You Got Me Rocking’ is up next, followed by ‘Tumbling Dice’, after which Jagger gets playful, referring to the G20. “Everyone in Brisbane was so well behaved, I hear” he says, almost sneering. “Even Tony Abbott was well behaved” Cue boos. “No shirt-fronting for Abbott. He was in a Putin-free zone.”

The always-outstanding Mick Taylor joins in the fun to run through ‘Silver Train’ and ‘Bitch’; the former taking a few seconds to start, while Jagger confesses they are “trying to remember the arrangement.”

A punchy 1-2 of ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’ takes the fervour up a notch before Jagger introduces the band and leaves the stage to let Richards take lead vocal on ‘You Got The Silver’, ‘Before They Make Me Run’ and ‘Happy’. “All you up the back there – I’m thinking of you,” he mocks, in his trademark whisky-soaked voice; the voice that gives rise to the argument that he might be the best vocalist on stage tonight, just as there exists the strong argument that Mick Taylor is the best guitarist present. Not that it really matters, anyway.

An extended version of ‘Midnight Rambler’ sees just about all band members do a circuit of the tongue-shaped extended stage, and ‘Miss You’ allows bassist Darryl Jones to unleash his incredibly funky fills. ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Start Me Up’ keep the hits a-comin’, then Jagger cranks his inner dandy up to 11 as he comes back onto the stage draped in huge red feather cape for ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, and ‘Brown Sugar’ gives back-up singers Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler the chance to strut their stuff.

And now, the obligatory encore. Huge kudos to the guys and gals of Vibrancy, the Choir of the Cuskelly College of Music, for their perfectly-executed take on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, although their choral careers might have just peaked – sorry guys, it’s all downhill from here. Closer ‘Satisfaction’ does the job, and multiple bows and a spot of fighting over tossed plectrums and drumsticks later, and the night is complete. Not bad for a bunch of guys labelled as has-beens as far back as the early seventies.

For Scenestr

Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – 11/9/14

holy holy

FOR the second night in a row, Oh Hello! is the place to be to kick off BIGSOUND Live, as Brisbane quintet WAAX bring an early dose of bluesy psych-rock with plenty of big riffs and bite to get the evening started. Frontwoman Marie DeVita has just the right amounts of snarl and throaty vocals combined with a slightly unhinged stage presence to make her one of the most engaging singers on show over the two nights.

One of those fantastic BIGSOUND Live surprises comes next, as Dunedin trio Males come close to obliterating the eardrums of everyone packed into Ric’s Bar, with an outstanding show of powerhouse, sweat-drenched drumming from Paul ‘Pipsy’ McMillan being worth the ticket price alone. This band deserves mountains of attention.

What happens next at Black Bear Lodge is a much more serene affair, with Melbourne’s Fraser A. Gorman knocking out mellow moods with plenty of boyish charm and big grins. His proclamation of “I hope everyone’s going to hit the tubs tonight super hard, because I fucking am” gets a big response.

Over at The Rev, Adelaide’s Jimblah is putting everything into his performance despite a fairly static audience, and next door at The Brightside Tkay Maidza has drawn just about every industry figure to her show; the diminutive South Australian opening with ‘Arm Up’, complete with searing synths.

With times running over at The Elephant, a vast horde of Holy Holy fans are treated to the last few songs of electro-poppers Coach Bombay, including their final track ‘Girls’, before the Brisbane lads themselves take to the stage after a quick changeover and instantly bring a touch of class to proceedings with the opening duo of ‘History’ and ‘If I Were You’.

The small number of punters packed into the Underdog to see Flyying Colours can consider themselves lucky, as the Melbourne psych-rock/shoegaze quartet put on a fantastically absorbing and colourful show, complete with colourful language on the subject of Peter Garrett’s abilities as a member of parliament. Their latest single ‘Not Today’ is well worth checking out, based on this performance.

flyying colours

Despite having been away from the spotlight for what seems like a long time, Brisbane’s Art of Sleeping sound like a band on top form. Frontman Caleb Hodges assures the large gathering that they have been working on new material, although the band’s ‘old’ material still sounds fresh.

To finish off the night, it had to be Melbourne’s The Bennies at the New Globe Theatre. Frontman Anty had been prancing around the Valley in gold spandex trousers all night, before taking to the stage and bringing the party vibes in abundance. After expressing his disappointment with the music industry for not having yet been offered any cocaine, he leaps around the stage shouting “let’s take cocaine and pingers and go fucking apeshit!” Good idea, Anty. Well played, everyone.

For Scenestr

Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – 10/9/14

kingswood

PERHAPS it’s appropriate that the first song I hear at BIGSOUND Live 2014 is ‘Get On Your Horse’ by The Furrs at Oh Hello! It’s an appropriately-named kickstart to another night of top drawer Australian music across a multitude of stages and hidey-holes in the Valley.

After that start, the trek to the Zoo is punctuated by a short stop at the Press Club to catch All Our Exes Live In Texas; the folky Sydney quartet sounding like perhaps the most elegant act on show anywhere here tonight.

You wouldn’t call Steve Smyth an elegant performer, but he’s all the better for it. The impressively-moustachioed Sydneysider’s sweat sprays off in fountains as he throws his Gibson and himself around the Zoo’s stage, with new song ‘Shake It’ being a particular highlight among many great tracks.

Over at the Brightside, Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems show why they’re one of the most hyped acts of this year’s BIGSOUND, as they power through a rip-roaring set of songs from their EP and upcoming debut album. A cover of The Replacements’ ‘Bastards of Young’ is the perfect setup to closer ‘Dumb Ideas’, as the quartet steal the show for tonight.

bad//dreems

Following Bad//Dreems is another hyped act, the Britpop-heavy DMA’s, who finish with their sing-along epic ‘Delete’ to a massive response. At the same time, in the darkened cavern of Alhambra Lounge, Melburnians Lurch & Chief are making an unholy racket in all the best ways, with ‘We Are The Same’ being the standout.

At the Rev in Warner Street, a much more chilled vibe is apparent, as Melbourne’s Martha Brown – aka Banoffee – is going solo with a set of cool r ‘n’ b and synth numbers in an enticingly air-conditioned environment.

Every BIGSOUND night needs a big finish, and this time it’s provided by Kingswood. The Melbourne rockers are flying high, having just released their excellent debut album Microscopic Wars. Despite teasing a few bars of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and playing the intro to QOTSA’s ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ after calling for the BIGSOUND delegates to “get your hands in the air”, it’s their own ‘Ohio’ that provides the massive close. What a night.

For Scenestr

Live review: Bob Dylan – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 27/8/14

Bob Dylan

TWO days spent listening to gushing reviews from the mouths of fans who had attended the Convention Centre show on Monday confirmed several things.

One: Dylan has still ‘got it’. Two: anyone expecting the ‘hits’ is going to be disappointed. Three: you’d better get there early if you want to get within a kilometre of the exalted one for a performance billed as a “once in a lifetime show”.

It was this last point that became particularly apparent as the line of people outside the Tivoli had already snaked so far around the block that it had almost arrived back at the front of the venue itself by the time the doors opened at 7pm. Anticipation was thick in the air inside the packed 1500-capacity venue, but when Dylan and his band sauntered on stage at exactly 8pm, the atmosphere was less rock show, more warm and cosy lounge gig.

It’s no secret that Dylan has spent much of his career trying to pop the bubble of high reverence in which he’s been placed by his adoring public, and this show served up yet more evidence of that. Partially hidden from the start behind his four microphones and under a simple four-light setup that can only be described as being darker than a coal miner’s depression, the man and his band were the epitome of non-showmanship throughout, save for a few grins and cheeky taps of the foot from time to time.

The first half of the set, comprising the first nine songs, was identical to that of the Convention Centre gig, with ‘Things Have Changed’ opening, followed by ‘She Belongs To Me’ and ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothin”. Unusually for a gig at the Tivoli (or anywhere) the standing audience, to a man, politely took their spots without pushing or jostling for a better position – this crowd knew it was lucky to be here at all, slightly-obscured view or not.

‘Duquesne Whistle’ was a stomping early highlight, as was ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ a little before the interval, which got the biggest cheer of the night up to then. Standing with his legs wide apart like a quarterback calling all the plays, the 73 year-old controlled every moment of every song, seemingly without even trying.

The second set kicked into life with the country twang of ‘High Water (For Charley Patton)’, followed by ‘Girl From The North Country’ and ‘Cry A While’, before late highlights ‘Trying To Get To Heaven’ and an extended bluesy jam on ‘Thunder On The Mountain’, before the set-closing epic, ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’.

Only then were the ‘hits’ yielded to, with a two-song encore of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ (Jimi still owns this one) and a laid-back, cosy campfire version of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’; the latter sounding like anything but the archetypal protest song it is often considered to be. After a controlled finish and quick wave, the stage is empty, and the unmistakeable realisation that something pretty special just happened is firmly splashed across the faces of the majority of the audience as the house lights flick on.

Much has been said about his so-called raspy or sub-par vocals, but Dylan’s are the types of tunes that don’t need belting out. The beauty is in the words, not the delivery, but if there’s one thing Dylan and his band did tonight, it’s deliver. What did 1500 Brisbanites do to deserve this?

Live review: Band of Skulls + Apes – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 21/6/14

band of skulls

“IT’S the last night of our world tour,” says Band of Skulls frontman Russell Marsden, a couple of songs into his band’s set at The Hi-Fi. “And we’ve got nothing to lose”.

Tonight is the kind of night that breeds those similar feelings in band and punter alike. It’s Saturday, it’s Brisbane’s West End, it’s raining and the night is young. The need to be responsible is more than 36 hours away, and with a little help from this English rock trio, we’re aiming to fit a hell of a lot in.

Ballarat’s Apes are up first as the venue fills with anticipation and beer farts. Kicking into gear mid-set, the quartet make their mark with an excellent finishing brace of new single ‘Pull The Trigger’ and ‘Helluva Time’.

Marsden, bassist Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward look and sound like they mean business from the off. Lean, mean and tour-tight, the Band of Skulls trio appear up for it and then some; opening with ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ from new album Himalayan, and following on with the title track and ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On’ from Sweet Sour. ‘I Know What I Am’ gets the first big sing-along moment, and arms flail and flap in efforts to grab plectrums tossed audience-ways by Marsden. “Don’t worry, we have plenty,” he assures the most frantic, which makes no difference whatsoever.

A stripped-back ‘Nightmares’ threatens to explode into life but never does, providing a poised mid-set highlight and a final ‘Hollywood Bowl’ leaves an audience beaten and bruised yet baying for more, as stomping feet threaten to knock the smell of stale beer out of the Hi-Fi’s carpet once and for all.

A final trio of ‘Sweet Sour’, which Marsden dedicates to the crew, ‘Light Of The Morning’ and ‘Death By Diamonds And Pearls’ is a strong finish and the perfect way to mark the conclusion of one of the best rock performances to grace Brisbane this reviewer has experienced in recent months.

For The AU Review

Live review: Arctic Monkeys + Pond – Brisbane Entertainment Centre – 7/5/14

arctic monkeys brisbane

Alex, Alexxx, ALEXXXX! These words could just about sum up the Arctic Monkeys’ gig at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, such was the fervour reverberating around the arena for the band’s singer, Alex Turner. The 28 year-old has an oddly powerful hold over his audience – boy and girl alike – as he struts and poses throughout, and the result is the loudest screaming this reviewer has ever heard in the venue. More on that in a second.

The opening band for tonight is Perth’s always-excellent Pond. “Alex will be here soon; until then you’re stuck with us,” says frontman Nick Allbrook, but it’s a situation everyone’s happy with. Psychedelic rock rarely makes an appearance in a venue of this size, and it’s a great sight to behold to see the quintet brilliantly jam through their best-known tracks. They’re a band that can make a set seem like a perfectly ramshackle fuck-around while still being tight as hell, in only the best possible way.

With a backdrop of the huge glowing letters A and M and a retina-destroying light show, Arctic Monkeys arrive to deafening screams from every corner of what must be an almost sold-out venue. As they start with ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and move through ‘Snap Out Of It’, ‘Arabella’ and ‘Brianstorm’, it’s clear the band are tour-tight and focussed, and all eyes are on Turner as he moves from one side of the stage to the other, soaking up the adulation, shaking his hips, and showing how far charisma can take someone who uses it cleverly.

The first big, big moment comes at the start of ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’; a song that remains the band’s best, before Turner asks the audience “why do you only call me when you’re high, Brisbane?” Recent supports The Orwells claimed that every aspect of the band’s performance is mapped out, including ad-libs, and there is a feeling that that may be the case, but if it works this well it doesn’t really matter.

After an initial finisher of ‘505’ and despite sound problems in the encore during ‘R U Mine?’, which ended up being played twice, there was a very large group of satisfied people dispersing into the Brisbane night after this show.

Live review: The Jezabels + Gang of Youths – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 6/5/14

the Jezabels Brisbane

SYDNEY’S The Jezabels have been making headlines in the music press recently for two reasons: getting involved in a somewhat exaggerated spat with music critics on the subject of their work credentials and putting on great live shows. So, given that singer Hayley Mary was recently quoted as saying music writers need to “fucking get a real job”, it’s with mixed expectations that I pass through the doors of The Tivoli to catch their show.

Let’s get this straight from the off: this critic remains a big fan of the band and its music, despite the fact this would make me diabolically uncool in certain circles. The Jezabels continue to shrug off their detractors and make simple and great pop music, and they seem to be comfortable with the fact they’re pretty uncool at the same time. Which kind of makes them cool.

Tonight’s gig begins with the excellent Gang of Youths, who are much-improved performance-wise and song-wise since the last time they played this venue supporting Cloud Control in August. ‘Evangelists’ is a stand-out, and the only thing lacking for the band is more time to jam; these guys deserve to be big, and probably will be.

Nick Kaloper, Sam Lockwood and Heather Shannon take to the dimly lit stage of a now-packed house and receive a monumental cheer, before Mary herself strides on dressed in glittery black top and black pants and ups the volume several fold. The band begin in measured fashion with the title track and opening number of new album The Brink. Mary’s voice is what makes The Jezabels better than most similar pop bands; it soars, chills and soothes at different points and at the drop of a hat, while the rest of the band are clinically precise.

‘Endless Summer’ is next, and the audience is in Mary’s hands at this point, followed shortly after by ‘Time To Dance’, which a Jezabels audience doesn’t really do; it’s more of a stand-gawping kind of deal. Mary spins, shuffles and raises her left hand to the roof during the more majestic moments, and while the rest of the band stay fairly static, there’s enough to keep things interesting throughout ‘Look of Love’ and early track ‘Hurt Me’.

‘Beat to Beat’ is a mid-set highlight as Mary stretches her vocal range and gets out into the audience to high-five some fans at front-and-centre, with further big responses for ‘The End’ and ‘Disco Biscuit Love’.

So, what’s the somewhat confused lesson this critic learned from tonight’s gig? It’s this: fuck the critics. Nice work, Jezabels.

Live review: Queens Of The Stone Age/Nine Inch Nails + Brody Dalle – Brisbane Entertainment Centre – 17/3/14

Nine Inch Nails Brisbane

Brody Dalle and her band took to the stage at 7pm just as equal amounts of Queens Of The Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails fans were wondering which band would be first in this outstanding double bill. After a quick 30-minute set of punk rock guitars, that fantastically throaty rock voice and a song dedication to a naked biker spotted earlier in the day, Dalle had the growing crowd’s ears warmed up nicely.

It didn’t take long before everything became clear, as the dark presence of NIN’s Trent Reznor emerged in a haze of purple lighting and he and his band started into ‘Somewhat Damaged’ and ‘Me, I’m Not’. The ominous and sleazy ‘Piggy’ was a highlight, as was ‘Terrible Lie’, during which Reznor – adopting a primal and menacing stance at the microphone – carried off an intensely brutal vocal before throwing his guitar to the air and letting it crash to the stage. Drenched in green light, the band finished with ‘Hurt’, as lighters were raised skyward throughout the audience.

A quick turnaround later, and QOTSA strolled onstage, and by second song ‘No One Knows’ the entire audience was eating out of Josh Homme’s hand. In a groove-laden set, including ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire’, ‘Smooth Sailing’, ‘If I Had A Tail’ and ‘Fairweather Friends’, the band provided a looser and more relaxed vibe to what came before, with Homme at one point telling security guards “don’t worry about the fucking kids; stop trying to tell us what to do” as a few harmless crowd-surfers were pounced upon. An extended jam at the end of ‘Make It Wit Chu’ was a highlight, and an encore including ‘The Vampyre Of Time And Memory’ rounded out an evening of top-drawer music.

Judging from the similarly rapturous reactions both bands received, it was clear there was a big crossover appeal for fans of each, and while both were excellent and the gig was in no way a competition, Nine Inch Nails just about edged it.

Live review: Pharrell Williams + Baauer + Nina Las Vegas – Brisbane Riverstage – 12/3/14

Pharrell Brisbane

For a man with so many fingers in so many pies, it’s a wonder that Pharrell Williams can even spare the time to be touring Australia. Producer, musician, rapper, fashion designer; he has been called a man of many talents, and while I was aware of his ubiquitous presence across seemingly every corner of the music world in the last twelve months, I wasn’t yet convinced that he deserves the level of veneration in which he’s held by a fair percentage of the music-loving population. This gig would help me decide.

Initially to be held at the RNA Showgrounds Marquee, the show was moved to the far superior Riverstage due to huge early demand, and no doubt benefited as a result. The natural amphitheatre by the river is surely one of the best venues in Brisbane, and it’s a blessing for everyone involved that the dreaded Entertainment Centre had no part to play in the evening’s proceedings.

Nina Las Vegas took to the stage to warm up the crowd as the venue filled, and ran through an up-tempo set of party tunes before an audience still happy to stretch out on the grass with a beer in hand; it was only seven o’clock and most people had just finished work after all. “Oh my God, you’re alive!” she announced, to a fairly fuzzed-out bunch of gig-goers, before further trying to entice a bit of movement with “arms are good if you wanna say hi!” during a remix of Disclosure’s ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’.

Baauer was up next with a request to “make some noise if you’re seeing Pharrell tonight,” as I realise that I’ve never actually heard a DJ say anything interesting between or during songs; the nature of their work relegates them to using inane sentences like “let’s go Brisbane!” or “are you ready?” and while it’ll probably work at a club gig, it mostly fell on deaf ears with this audience.

With a 10pm curfew firmly in place for every Riverstage gig, Pharrell had his work cut out to make his show worthwhile when he arrived on-stage at 9:15. With his DJ and pair of dancers in tow, he simply had to walk to the front of the stage and salute for this crowd to go wild and bawl his name. What followed can only be described as a lazy, half-hearted attempt at a performance, as he reeled off shortened versions of most of the more well-known songs he’s had a hand in, with a Ramones-esque urgency but lacking in the elbow grease, entertainment value and any semblance of realism. He’s got a fairly hectic schedule, so preserving a bit of energy is understandable, but gig-goers still want to get some value for money, you know what I mean?

Starting off with ‘One’ by Swedish House Mafia, Pharrell leaned over almost into his baying and slathering audience during ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ and an excerpt of ‘Hollaback Girl’, and he still had basically done nothing on stage. I found myself wondering what would happen if the audience didn’t immediately go crazy for him the second he appeared. What would he have in his performer’s arsenal that would win over a crowd who aren’t instantly impressed by a foolishly-chosen hat, a couple of gyrating girls and a – admittedly impressive – set of abs? Luckily for him it’s a question that doesn’t have to be asked, as somehow his reputation carries him through.

“Tonight I just wanna perform for you and show how much I appreciate you so much. I know they call this the land Down Under, but this is the land on top. I want the Martians to hear the Australian voices all the way to the moon. Australia, are you ready to make some motherfucking noise?” Planetary confusion aside, this request got a huge response before more shortened versions of ‘Hot In Herre’ and ‘Lapdance’ and a request for some “oestrogen on stage” saw six or seven enthusiastically gyrating girls take their moment in the limelight.

The only song to be played in full – and indeed be anything more than two minutes long – was new effort ‘Hunter’; a song “written from the woman’s perspective”, as we’re informed. Hearing a track in its entirety made for a pleasant change to the start-stop nature of the show up to this point, but unfortunately that feeling is quickly erased when the wince-inducing lyrics of ‘Blurred Lines’ appeared.

The obvious climax is ‘Get Lucky’, which got the biggest response of the night, before ‘Happy’ closed out the set as dancing breaks out across the entire venue, although the man himself is still fairly static and alone on a big stage. More rambled speeches about being so loud as to shake the moon or some such nonsense are made, but as I left the venue it was more a feeling of utter indifference than happiness that I felt; and I was certainly no closer to understanding the phenomenon that is Pharrell Williams’s popularity after this half-hearted and peculiar little evening of live music that was a runaway triumph for style over substance.

Live review: Soundwave Festival – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane – 22/2/14

Mastodon Soundwave Brisbane

HOW QUICKLY another Soundwave comes around. It doesn’t seem like a month has passed since Metallica, The Offspring and Blink-182 were topping the bill in 2013, but here we are again with a new crop of bands, another fantastic line-up, and a new set of timetable clashes to ponder. First world problems aside, this year’s timetable looks healthy and enticing across the board, and with the standard cancellations and what festival promoter AJ Maddah referred to as “pissing contests” between bands in the past and a weather report mostly free of rain, it’s game on at Fortitude Valley’s RNA Showgrounds.

One thing is clear from the off: Soundwave fans can agree on very little. From as early as 1pm there are friendly debates raging across the venue; the vast majority of which revolve around which bands to see next. Luckily the choices are vast, and equally luckily is the fact that Florida’s Alter Bridge are putting on a fine show of classic rock on Stage 2. Frontman Myles Kennedy is perhaps best known for his work with Slash, but his own band – in existence since 2004 – are great in their own right and his is the first of several outstanding rock voices on show today.

Over at Stage 5b Less Than Jake are rattling off the ska-punk tunes with a ferocity not often seen at 12:40 in the afternoon, and are clearly ecstatic to be here despite the early time slot. Upon singer Chris DeMakes’ instruction a circle pit is formed, and as shoes go flying skywards and several people retire to the sidelines shaken and bruised, the band kick on with ‘Plastic Cup Politics’.

Richie Sambora fills another early slot at 1:15 on Stage 1, and plays songs he trialled at his Sidewave show at The Tivoli two days previously. ‘Burn The Candle Down’, ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, ‘Every Road Leads Home To You’ and ‘Learning To Fly With A Broken Wing’ precede the big close of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’ mashed-up with ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in a strong set. South-Australian guitarist Orianthi – a former member of Michael Jackson’s touring band – is once again outstanding on lead.

Directly after Sambora on Stage 2 is last-minute additions The Living End, and they pull the biggest crowd so far. The level of devotion among their fans is evident as every note and word that emanates from Chris Cheney, Andy Strachan and Scott Owen is met with screaming, dancing and fist-pumping from a diverse audience. ‘Second Solution’, ‘End Of The World’, and ‘Roll On’ are early highlights, and a later cover of AC/DC’s ‘Jailbreak’ is a nice touch.

It’s always satisfying to discover something new and interesting by accident, and it comes in the form of English alt-rockers Pulled Apart By Horses, who are making a hell of a racket at the covered Stage 5a. Having been swapped with Crosses so Chino Moreno’s group could have the later slot, the Leeds quartet set about their business with the right amounts of style, ferocity and humility. “We’re feel like we’re in some kind of dream. And we’re shitting our pants,” their guitarist says, which only makes them more likeable.

Costumed thrash-metallers Gwar, on the other hand, don’t seem the most likeable of chaps, and while it’s fun for some audience members to be squirted with fake blood and listen to indistinguishable lyrics being screamed by a bunch of fat guys in rubber suits, it doesn’t make for a particularly tuneful set. Nevertheless, it goes down well with a number of people, despite the blasé attitude to beginning their set on time.

Soundwave Brisbane 2014

Back at Stage 1, Placebo are running through a greatest hits set but with a few glaring exceptions, starting with ‘Post Blue’ and including ‘Every You Every Me’, but leaving out perhaps their most well-known hits from their ’90s beginnings, while Norwegians Satyricon are bringing the black metal at Stage 7b with a pitchfork microphone stand and the likes of ‘K.I.N.G.’, ‘The Pentagram Burns’ and ‘Our World, It Rumbles Tonight’. Meanwhile, Black Veil Brides are repeatedly shouting “wake up motherfuckers!” to their audience and Filter get a big response from a decent number of hardcore fans despite the set being cut short.

The next happy accident comes in the form of Clutch and frontman Neil Fallon, who – along with his harmonica and cowbell – puts in one of the most visually arresting performances of the day. The band go through a series of jams in front of a fairly aggressive audience, with a highlight being ‘Once More Unto The Breach’ as a toilet roll flies across the audience members’ heads. A long, bluesy jam follows; providing a free-flowing highlight not often seen in shortened festival sets.

Deftones frontman Chino Moreno’s side-project Crosses is a bit of change for him, but it’s one that works well. When he sings “I’m so excited I can hardly take it” on ‘This Is A Trick’ it’s a nice interlude to all the hard-riffing that has been happening so far today.

Alice In Chains provide a poignant moment back at Stage 1. “There have been six guys in this band,” says guitarist Jerry Cantrell. “This song is for the other two.” Acoustic number ‘Nutshell’ is of coursed dedicated to deceased former members Layne Staley and Mike Starr, while William DuVall’s vocal performance throughout the rest of the set is nothing short of epic.

Belfast punk legends Stiff Little Fingers make an old crowd happy as dusk sets in with a twelve-song set of stone-cold classic numbers, including ‘Suspect Device’, ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’, ‘Strummerville’, ‘Tin Soldiers’ and their signature tune ‘Alternative Ulster’ just as a Soundwave official tries to usher their set to a close. A new tune entitled ‘When We Were Young’ fits in nicely among the older material, and the small crowd who turn up for “the band playing next to the hot chip van”, as frontman Jake Burns puts it, witness SLF’s first ever appearance in Brisbane in a near 40-year career.

And so: the head-liners for this evening. Timetable clashes become a major headache at this point, and it’s hard to know whether to stick with one or at most two bands, or try to jump between them and risk getting caught in the human traffic jam under the rail bridge.

Green Day Soundwave Brisbane

Green Day burst onto the stage at 7pm amid a retina-searing array of lights, and the quartet start strongly with ’99 Revolutions’, ‘Know Your Enemy’ and ‘East Jesus Nowhere’. It’s clear from the off that Billie Joe Armstrong is in good form and putting his all into it; he runs across the stage and flings his guitar around with all the vigour he displayed in the ’90s, and even gets political with a call to the audience to be more aware of situations in Thailand, the Ukraine, and in Russia in reference to Pussy Riot, before reminding the crowd of how lucky we are to be together. A series of American Idiot tracks follows; ‘Letterbomb’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and ‘Wake Me Up Before September Ends’ before a series of Dookie tracks in ‘Burnout’, ‘Chump’, ‘Longview’, ‘When I Come Around’ and ‘Welcome To Paradise’ provide the nostalgic highlight. ‘Basket Case’ and ‘She’ are played pleasingly in order and a mash-up of songs including ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, ‘Shout’ and ‘Hey Jude’ bring the pace down before a big finish including ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’.

It’s all over at 9:40pm, but after a long day of bands, beer and bleeding ears it’s a satisfying feeling to head for the gates and home. Highlights for the day include Less Than Jake, Pulled Apart By Horses, Clutch, Stiff Little Fingers and Green Day, but it’s the scale and variety of Soundwave acts that is most impressive. Same time next year, everyone?

Live review: Wire + Per Purpose + Multiple Man – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19/2/14

Wire

Writing about Wire is hard, just like listening to a lot of their music. Just like spending a couple of hours in the sweatbox we know as probably the best live music venue in Brisbane. Just like waiting for support band Per Purpose to warm up. Just like, well, just like anything about now; I’m listening to Wire as I write this.

Getting together in 1976 just after the first year’s worth of English punk had reared its ugly head, the quartet of Londoners that made up Wire were never a bunch to follow trends or fashion; instead being intent to walk their own path and be one of the original instigators of post-punk. Often credited for expanding sonic boundaries in new and brave ways, they have influenced just about everything that has ever been labelled post-punk.

Now: maybe it’s the heat, but tonight’s lesson in crushing electronic noise doesn’t have the desired effect, except I don’t know what that effect should be. A sense of stark destruction, perhaps? I arrive just as openers Multiple Man are finishing, but don’t get a sense of what they’re really about. Per Purpose, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re about; droning jams, intense cheekbone-framed stares and wailing, shattered guitars. Towards the end of their half-hour set they finally get going and produce some quality The Fall-esque jams.

Wire were innovators in the ’70s, so I’m not sure why it feels odd to see singer-guitarist Colin Newman using a tablet and USB, but as their songs morph from one to the next without much of a discernible difference except perhaps the cacophonous volume of drone, it’s more the lack of a tune that is most frustrating. Something about the performance feels great; dark and enveloping in a brooding way, but in other ways it falls over; a lack of connection to the audience or any showing of emotion, perhaps.

Some bands make great records and others were born to play live, and I think Wire fall into the first category.

Live review: Richie Sambora – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 20/2/14

Richie Sambora

IF YOU BELIEVE EVERYTHING that you’ve read in the majority of music press, it would seem that the past week has been a turbulent one for Soundwave. Bands pulling out of the festival, a multitude of timetable changes and a flurry of what promoter AJ Maddah has referred to as “pissing contests” between bands have all contributed to an impression of a festival in trouble. If you look past the melodrama, however, you’ll realise that there remains a festival of almost a hundred bands of such impressive diversity and talent to make any such trivialities irrelevant, and with more rock credentials than any music fan could spend a day shaking several sticks at.

A pleasant bonus to having Soundwave roll through town is of course sideshows, and tonight’s gig from ex-Bon Jovi member Richie Sambora would be a more than pleasant addition to that roster.

With a set beginning at the early time of 8pm and with no support bands on a stiflingly humid Brisbane evening, it could be suggested that Sambora might have his work cut out to make the gig work, but this is one rock stalwart who has played more stadium gigs than some of the fans here tonight have had hot dinners, so it’s no surprise that the old master works the audience into a frenzy with a series of classic rock tracks and plenty of between-song banter. The only question remains is how much Bon Jovi material will he play, and will he mention his old song-writing (and latter day sparring) partner?

At around 8:30 the lights dim and AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ comes over the PA, announcing the arrival of the healthy looking Sambora and Australian guitarist Orianthi among a six-piece setup. Starting off with the first two tracks from his most recent album Aftermath Of The Lowdown, ‘Burn The Candle Down’ and ‘Every Road Leads Home To You’, he directs his audience to “wave your hands motherfuckers,” and said motherfuckers respond in the appropriate fashion. Explaining that his last album was a cathartic one for him to write and record, and receiving an amiable ribbing from a few people in the crowd for drinking water instead of alcohol, the 54 year-old says that “there’s too much shit around music now; people just want to hear people communicate music and jam out,” in reference to over-production and adding too many electronic elements.

Working through ‘Taking A Chance On The Wind’ followed by an excerpt from ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, Sambora leads the first huge sing-along of the evening for Bon Jovi number ‘I’ll Be There For You’, although there’s no mention of Jon as yet. Platinum-blonde guitarist Orianthi is a hard-rocking delight throughout; trading riffs and owning large sections of songs, while not stealing the limelight at any point. Its easy to see why she has been voted one of the top female guitarists in the world by several guitar magazines.

A cover of INXS’s ‘Don’t Change’ is wedged appropriately into the show at this point, before ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Weathering The Storm’ provide rocking riffs and a spot of cheese-rock balladry respectively.

“I wrote this song about my fucking ex-wife,” says Sambora, to ridiculous levels of cheering, before playing the opening chords of ‘Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing’ and finally the first reference to Jon Bon Jovi comes as he introduces ‘These Days’. “This is the title track of our 1995 album,” he says. “I know which songs are mine, and which were his.” Cue more cheering. “When he coughs up some dough I’ll probably go back.”

By now, everyone can feel that a big number is coming, and as Sambora dons a hat that looks like it was picked due its resemblance to that of Crocodile Dundee, the band kick into ‘Beds Are Burning’ by Midnight Oil, which after a couple of verses becomes ‘Living On A Prayer’. Like a time-bomb going off, the release of energy is inescapable, and for three or four minutes it feels like a stadium gig circa 1987, or every bad birthday party you’ve ever been to.

An obligatory encore including ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ is enough to finish off this audience, and if tonight’s gig reinforced anything, it’s that Soundwave is going to be special. Oh, and Richie Sambora doesn’t need the help of any old ‘friends’ to put on a kick-ass rock show.

RICHIE SAMBORA APPEARS AT SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL STARTING IN BRISBANE FEB 22.

Live review: Aviici + New World Sound + Joel Fletcher – Brisbane Riverstage – 24/1/14

One of the most in-demand DJs in the world right now, 24 year-old Tim Bergling – a.k.a. Aviici – brought his True album tour to Brisbane’s Riverstage on a nastily humid Friday evening for his first major Australian concert. Not since Future Music Festival have so many pairs of short shorts been on a single patch of grass at once, as an all-ages crowd collectively champed at the bit to have their eardrums assaulted by Sweden’s finest.

After an opening set by Melbourne up-and-comer Joel Fletcher, Gold Coast duo New World Sound get the sold-out audience bouncing with their trademark high-energy dance tunes and calls to the audience to get excited for “our boy Aviici”.

By the time our boy arrives at the relatively early time of 7:55, there is a palpable sense of release among the diverse audience as chants of “Aviici, Aviici” reverberate around the natural amphitheatre of the Riverstage and the DJ opens with the country-house number ‘Hey Brother’, followed closely by the piano-led ‘Long Road To Hell’. When it’s time for ‘You Make Me’ several hundred people are bouncing in unison in front of the stage, as thousands of streamers, jets of smoke and retina-searing lasers engulf the audience, and the sound is probably loud enough to be heard in the DJ’s homeland. By the time his remix of Calvin Harris’s ‘Sweet Nothing’ rolls around, the Swede has the audience eating out of his hand; and this is the scene which plays out until the venue’s curfew of 10pm, when the audience file out of the exits a little drained, but very elated.

Live review: Misfits + Graveyard Rockstars + The Wrath – The Zoo, Brisbane – 16/1/14

New Jersey horror-punk legends the Misfits may have had more line-up changes than Kiss, Thin Lizzy and The Ramones put together (possibly), but with founding bass player and vocalist Jerry Only still at the helm of the iconic band, they seem to be in just as good a shape as ever.

Brisbane’s The Zoo is packed and humid as a sell-out audience takes position to catch the make-up toting trio, with almost as many skulls on T-shirts as tattoos and chains hanging from a variety of facial features. First up is Sydney quintet The Wrath, who put in a strong opening set as the venue fills, followed by fellow Sydney-siders Graveyard Rockstars, whose performance is a mashing together of white horror-punk make-up, head-banging dreadlocks and foreboding tales about death and what might be lurking “six feet under the floor”. “This next song is a doomsday anthem,” says frontman Ash Rothschild. “You can take it how you will. That sounds a bit gay, doesn’t it?”

With a stripped-down stage show for their Australian jaunt, the Misfits themselves don’t take long before lowering the lights and appearing before an audience now collectively losing its marbles. Almost from the second Jerry, Dez and Eric take to the stage a mess of frenzied moshing breaks out front-and-centre, and the energy doesn’t let up for ninety minutes. Jerry Only is the focal point throughout; his trademark devilock hairstyle hasn’t changed a bit since 1977, and his spiked shoulders and skull-encrusted bass head reflect spotlights and drip sweat in tandem.

With Ramones-like speed the songs are reeled off, from ‘Land of the Dead’, ‘Scream’, ‘Attitude’, ‘Angel Fuck’ and ‘She’; the latter written when Only was seventeen, and seemingly about a hundred others. The inevitable crowd-surfing breaks out during ’20 Eyes’, and the band continue unperturbed as a sea of elbows, knees and beer bottles bubbles and boils beneath them.

Almost as quickly as it started the set is over, and I’m left with a feeling that despite the horror-punk label the band is given, there is so much more in their arsenal; from punk, speed-metal, rockabilly, and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. They just don’t make ’em like this any more.