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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.

For The AU Review

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: 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: 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: 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: Pond + Doctopus + Peter Bibby – The Zoo, Brisbane – 14/12/13

Pond

In the future, when I think back to the time I saw Pond just before Christmas 2013, the main memories I’ll have – besides the outstanding performance of the bands themselves – will be ones of sweat, perspiration, humidity, and even more sweat. That’s what happens when Brisbane’s aircon-less The Zoo is sold out in summer, but what the hell; it’s Saturday night, the cold beers are flowing, and everyone’s getting loose in preparation for Pond.

After a set of folky, charismatic songs by Peter Bibby, the ramshackle trio of Doctopus take to the stage and batter their way through a fantastic collection of sweaty, lairy and hairy tunes, complete with sometimes unintelligible banter between. Theirs is a straight-up, fire-’em-off approach that is both exciting and catchy at once; a coarse but finely-executed set of rough-at-the-edges garage rock. Any band with an instrumental song called ‘QI/Stephen Fry’ and who fly-kick each other in the middle of songs is okay by me. (TIP: their album Buddies is free on Bandcamp – get on that thang).

The Zoo is heaving long before Pond is due to take the stage, and it’s refreshing to see that the crowd is seemingly entirely full of good vibes and enthusiasm for the head-liners, and there’s a generally great atmosphere despite the amount of perspiration going on. The Perth six-piece are in fine form, as they power through ‘Whatever Happened To The Million Head Collide’ and ‘Xanman’ early on, before moving through a set heavy with Hobo Rocket numbers. I’d seen Pond previously (at Laneway Festival last year) and while they put on a good show on that occasion, something about being enclosed on the smaller stage makes frontman Nick Allbrook a more engaging and entertaining mix of rabid posturing, banshee-like wailing, and clear enthusiasm for everything the band is doing.

‘Fantastic Explosion of Time’ is an obvious highlight, but it’s the pulsating juggernauts of extended jams throughout and a manic finish (including the expected level of crowd-surfing) that make the gig – and the band – such a unique one.

Live review: Muse + Birds of Tokyo – Brisbane Entertainment Centre – 10/12/13

Muse

You know those people who seem to be at every gig, the ones who wait until the head-liners have just come on stage before pushing their way through the crowd to get a good spot at the front, and pissing everyone off in the process? Yeah, those guys.

Those guys don’t exist at a Muse gig as far as I can tell, such is the desire for this audience to get into the dreaded arena of Brisbane Entertainment Centre early to get a good vantage point to absorb the spectacle that is the Devon trio’s live show. Making people more polite; that’s quite an achievement, even by Muse’s lofty standards. Winning hearts and minds even before the show starts; well played Sirs.

A result of this is that the arena is already almost full by the time Birds of Tokyo take to the stage, and despite seeming a little swamped by the size of the venue at times, the Perth band put out a strong set of songs, including ‘When The Night Falls Quiet’, ‘The Gap’, ‘This Fire’ and ‘Wild At Heart’.

As Muse‘s almost U2-sized inverted-pyramid lighting rig descends from the ceiling to form a bank of retina-melting screens, the band ready themselves behind to face their followers and an Iron Maiden-like voice-over and eerie piano hints at horrors unknown. In almost simultaneous explosions of light, sound, smoke, and collective audience orgasms, the darkly-dressed trio appear and launch into ‘Supremacy’ and hundreds of kids down the front appear to lose their minds in some sort of cult-like pact.

‘Supermassive Black Hole’ is next, followed by the funky ‘Panic Station’, allowing Christopher Wolstenholme to stylishly slap the wood of his illuminated bass fretboard. Front-man Matt Bellamy is a tiny ball of energy and beats his black boots across the stage and down the runway into the audience throughout, dandily strutting like a prog-rock Freddie Mercury and shredding like a hard-rock Brian May. It’s an undeniable fact that the light and laser show are a large part of the overall ‘wow’ factor of a Muse gig, and these elements are what most people end up talking about afterwards, but it’s nice to see it backed up with top drawer musicianship from the three band members, backed up by touring member Morgan Nicholls.

A short blast of AC/DC’s ‘Back To Black’ precedes ‘Knights of Cydonia’, the excellent ‘Feeling Good’ (Nina Simone can’t be beaten), and ‘Follow Me’, before Bellamy has the crowd aping his every move during ‘Undisclosed Desires’. He puts his right hand up; hundreds put their right hand up. He bellows skyward; hundreds bellow skyward. Things are getting biblical in Brisbane at this point in the evening, ladies and gentlemen.

Later numbers ‘Time Is Running Out’, ‘Plug In Baby’, and an encore of ‘Starlight’ and ‘Survival’ make the audience act in what can only be described in a manner approaching going totally ape-shit, and after one last blast of searingly painful lasers to the eyeballs, the band is gone and all that’s left is to rub our eyes better, tackle the gridlocked traffic surrounding the venue, and wonder just how in the world Muse will manage to top this performance next time they visit.

Live review: Steel Panther + Buckcherry + Fozzy – Riverstage, Brisbane – 6/12/13

It’s pitch black and the humidity is thick. I can’t see two metres in front of my face, and unseen creatures slither and skulk in the bushes and trees around me. Bewildered by the black summer night, I try to work out which way is best to go, and my eyes strain to pick out shapes of branches and hulking tree roots ahead of me. A sense of dark foreboding shakes my very soul, my ears prick up, and the hairs on my arms stand on end as a heavy rustling approaches from my right. As I tense up and close my eyes to await my fate at the hands/claws/teeth of unknown beasts, a nearby streetlight clicks on and the scene before me becomes clear. It’s a middle-aged guy with a mullet in a Steel Panther T-shirt taking a piss with one hand while slurping from a can of Jack Daniels and Coke with the other. Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens really needs to be better lit after dark.

After my heart rate has returned to normal and a quick set by the Chris Jericho-fronted Fozzy in front of a small but increasing crowd, Los Angeles hard rockers Buckcherry take to the stage. “We’re fucking jet-lagged but we’re here,” announces frontman Josh Todd, before using his fantastic rock ‘n’ roll voice in numbers like ‘Everything’, ‘Sorry’ (dedicated to “all the hot chicks on this continent”) and Icona Pop’s fucking horrible ‘I Love It’. A short blast of AC/DC’s Bon Scott-era ‘Big Balls’ is much more welcome despite an obvious lack of rehearsal on that particular number, as is some of The Rolling Stones’s ‘Miss You’ before the band’s own classic ‘Crazy Bitch’. It’s easy to see why they are often compared to classic hard rock bands like Aerosmith and Guns ‘N’ Roses; they are a classy, tight, straight-up rock band capable of playing big rock songs in style. And Todd’s shirtless abs seem to be a big hit with the ladies and probably a fair percentage of the blokes.

Once the stage is set and the lights are dimmed, it only takes someone backstage to hit the play button on Iron Maiden’s ‘Run To The Hills’ to get the majority of this audience frothing at the mouth for Steel Panther. After a short video of the band playing ‘strip battleship’ backstage, the spandex-clad quartet appear and kick into ‘Eyes of a Panther’.

Now, it’s no secret that Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx and Stix Zadinia (as they call themselves) can really play, as all four members are seasoned musicians and have been parts of various ‘genuine’ metal and rock bands going back decades. In many ways they are more successful than the bands they are taking off, and while some of their music and on-stage banter at first appears to be fun, it’s only when you realise that there’s a large amount of people in this audience taking this shit seriously that things get uncomfortable.

By third song ‘Asian Hooker’, the act is no longer funny. In fact, it’s just plain fucking boring. Steel Panther are often compared to original rock piss-takers Spinal Tap, but the thing about Spinal Tap is that their jokes were well-constructed and smart, and the laugh was always on them. A Steel Panther set is basically the same two or three dick jokes repeated with increasing levels of crudeness, punctuated with calls to the most brazen girls in the crowd to “show us your vagina”. You’d need to be a brain-dead moron to continue to find this shit funny for an hour and a half. Add overt sexism, jokes about paedophilia, and clear racism, and you have one of the low points of live music this reviewer has witnessed this year. Slagging off the likes of Hoobastank and the Goo Goo Dolls I welcome with open arms, but for fuck sake, this band needs to get some new material in the banter department. New songs from their upcoming album like ‘Gloryhole’ and ‘Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World’ suggest that the themes won’t be changing any time soon.

It’d be fair to ask what the fuck did I expect from a Steel Panther show exactly. The answer would be that the band be far less enthusiastic about the darker parts of their act, and much more satirical with their comedy, instead of relying on the lowest common denominator with which to get laughs. Also, not to be so bored and underwhelmed by long stretches of the so-called ‘banter’, which seemed to exist solely to fill time in many instances. It’s telling to see that the majority of the audience laughing so hard are white males with beer guts, with a large amount of them probably old enough to have seen Motley Crue in their heyday.

After pulling a group of girls out of the crowd and encouraging them to flash their chests at the audience, the band is forced to cut their encore-free set short by the strict 10pm curfew at the Riverstage. ‘Death To All But Metal’ is a strong song on which to finish, but as I make for the exit gates, the crowd bellows “bullshit, bullshit” to a by-now empty stage, and behind my pained expression I’m thinking that I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Live review: British India + Lunatics on Pogosticks – The Zoo, Brisbane – 22/11/13

British India

In town to play a brace of dates in support of their ‘Blinded’ single launch from their successful fourth album Controller, Melbourne quartet British India – like the rest of us – would endure the stifling humidity of Fortitude Valley’s The Zoo to once again prove they are still one of the best young rock bands in the country.

With multitudes of scantily-clad young punters sinking Smirnoff Blacks and playing pool at the back of the sweaty venue, up-and-coming Triple J Unearthed High winners Lunatics on Pogosticks get the crowd up front even more warmed up with a set of noisy and energetic pop-punk tracks with hints of the more raucous side of Sonic Youth.

British India waste very little time in getting right into the action; starting their set with the always-excellent ‘March Into The Ocean’, before running through a near-perfect mix of songs from Controller, classics like ‘Tied Up My Hands’, ‘Run The Red Light’, and a cover of Blink-182’s ‘Dammit’. While there is plenty of energy, suitable amounts of jumping around on-stage, and a decent level of audience banter via frontman Declan Melia, the best thing about British India is that they can really play; there is proper musicianship under their appropriately gimmick-free exterior.

Finishing up with the rousing ‘This Ain’t No Fucking Disco’ in front of an audience by now losing their collective marbles, British India prove they have lost none of the strengths that have been their trademarks for nearly ten years.

Live review: The Breeders + Screamfeeder – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 29/10/13

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Roll up, roll up; it’s nostalgia week on the Australian music circuit, and time for every boring old middle-aged bastard to come crawling out of their miserably mundane existences to take another dull stab at revisiting a rose-tinted version of their faded youth with all the vigour of a discarded teabag. At least that’s how I feel about the peppering of paunchy forty-something fuckwits hanging around outside The Tivoli bragging about their glory days in the early nineties when grunge was king and they still had hair.

“Alright motherfuckers,” exclaims one particularly inarticulate example. “The last time I saw The Breeders they were playing on a bill with Sonic fucking Youth and fucking Nirvana”. Well, I once saw two tramps having sex in a doorway; what’s your fucking point grandad? It’s a real achievement on your part to have been born when you were. Keep up the good work and get the fuck out of my way.

Morons aside, tonight promises to be a pretty special evening. It’s been twenty years since Last Splash first pumped from the speakers of our cassette players and despite its almost unbreakable ties to the nineties, it still sounds bloody brilliant. But what about the show, the gig, the live arena? That’s where the test now lies for the recently reformed and rejuvenated band, and tonight’s performance will show that class never fades away, it just hibernates from time to time.

Support for tonight is Brisbane’s own Screamfeeder, who are an apt choice for this show. They’ve been knocking around for a similar amount of time as the head-liners, or “an awesome forty-five years” as frontman Tim Steward proudly tells us, although they put in a set of such high energy and skill that if we all rubbed our eyes, looked at the floor and looked back up again, it might feel like 1996 all over again. By the time the always excellent ‘Dart’ is rolled out, The Tivoli is full and by closer ‘Bunny’ we are champing at the bit for The Breeders.

It’s with little fanfare that Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, Jim Macpherson and Carrie Bradley take to the stage, and after a warmer-upper Guided By Voices cover, we’re straight into ‘New Year’ and the roof-raiser that is ‘Cannonball’.

Now hear this. I caught the Pixies when they did the Doolittle anniversary tour, and while it was great to hear those undeniably classic songs being played by the full line-up of the people who first recorded them, it was a robotic and over-polished performance by a band whose majority of members seemed to be going through the motions. Nothing could be further from the truth tonight, as The Breeders gloriously fuck up intros, trip on pedal switches and quite literally get their wires crossed; all the while adding to the charm of their show and likeability of the band themselves.

The Deal sisters are a joy throughout; their big goofy grins not for one second hidden under some fabricated aura of rock star cool, while bassist Wiggs is the vision of ice-cold contrast and barely changes facial expression throughout the whole show. The audience goes daft for ‘Cannonball’ and cools down until around ‘I Just Wanna Get Along’, before a broken violin forces a switching of two songs and threatens to bring on an OCD rage among track-listing purists, and ‘Drivin’ On 9′ provides a charming and whimsical finish.

Perhaps sensing that it might be another twenty years before The Breeders pass this way again, the audience calls for not one, not two, but three encores, including tracks from Pod and a cover of ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’, with vocals led by the still-grinning Kelley. With a multitude of smiles, waves and ecstatic cheers, The Breeders leave the stage for the final time and we’re teleported back into the realities of 2013 again, feeling happy and fortunate.

As I head for home I wonder if in twenty years time we’ll be standing outside some venue ranting like bell-ends about the time we saw The Breeders. After tonight’s performance, I’d say it’s a given.

Live review: The Cribs + The Ninjas + Filthy Jackal – The Zoo, Brisbane – 25/10/13

Gary Jarman
Gary Jarman

Reading articles about Wakefield indie guitar trio The Cribs recently, I was somewhat surprised to learn that this current tour marks their tenth anniversary as a going concern. When the turn of the millennium brought the downfall of Britpop and a resurgence in New York hipster bands influenced by the lo-fi guitar lines of Television and street threads of Johnny Thunders, certain U.K. music press – panicked by the thought of their watery scene being left behind – sought to crown a new generation of bands as the great white hopes for British guitar music. Enter a thrown-together group of bands of varying quality and style, consisting of The Libertines, Razorlight, the Jarman brothers of The Cribs, and others. Amid the haze of a million indie bands, the time has passed quickly since their 2004 debut, but are The Cribs still a force, or should they fade into the dark, as so many of their contemporaries have done? Today’s gig would be the only way to tell.

First up in Fortitude Valley’s The Zoo is Filthy Jackal, who despite seeming quite isolated in a sparsely-filled venue put in a decent effort, culminating in their heaviest song of the set, ‘Bereft’.

Following them is Brisbane garage rockers The Ninjas, who immediately up the quality many fold with a quality set of groovy, sleazy, danceable, fat-riffed tunes. Sounding tight rhythmically from the off, their swagger-y songs – including the excellent ‘Yeah Yeah’ – ooze globular hints of Manchester circa 1990 (think Happy Mondays if they could play) and early 2000s indie like The White Stripes; making them a perfect choice for what is to come next.

Releasing a greatest hits record and embarking on an anniversary tour are indulgences for many over-the-hill bands, but within seconds of The Cribs taking the stage, it is clear that the three Jarman brothers (plus touring member David Jones) are anything but past it, and they are pretty damn tour-tight for guys who now live thousands of miles apart. The obvious focus is on singer-guitarist Ryan, who these days could pass for a Dee Dee Ramone look-alike, and bassist-vocalist Gary, but it’s their solidity as a unit and energy that are most impressive throughout the set. Taking songs from each of their five albums, including the excellent ‘Hey Scenesters!’ from Hey Fellas and ‘Come On, Be a No-One’ from In The Belly of the Brazen Bull, the band slash, bash and crash their way through an hour of top quality guitar rock, before heading off stage amid a maelstrom of belly-up drum-kits, dropped guitars, and sweat.

The lesson learned here tonight? The Cribs are in no way a spent force; no f**king way.

Live review: Cody Chesnutt + The Cheap Fakes – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 20/10/13

Cody Chesnutt

Some gigs promise much but deliver little. Fewer promise little but deliver much. Probably even fewer again promise much and deliver even more. But what type would tonight’s gig be? This particular Atlanta new-age soul brother – whose new record evokes smooth and dreamy mental images of Prince, Marvin Gaye and Southern-fried gospel – is in town for one night only, and for a soul gig in Brisbane on a Sunday night, perhaps expectations shouldn’t be high.

Enter Cody Chesnutt; a man who will take your expectations of the gig, the evening, and even your life, and lift them tenfold. Tonight, he would not only deliver more than could have reasonably been expected; tonight he’d take this Brisbane audience to church.

Support for tonight comes partly in the form of Brisbane’s own ska-party real-deals, Cheap Fakes. The classy six-piece run through an entertaining set of tight, danceable ska jams that instantly makes Sunday night feel like a Saturday again, as the dreaded Monday blues are fought off with vigour. Starting with ‘All I Know’, the six-piece led by engaging frontman Hayden Andrews are stylish and smooth and as the sound builds and each member solos like their lives depend on it, the audience knows they’re no fakes. Andrews announces the fact that “We’re really honoured to be supporting Cody Chesnutt. He’s been one of our favourite artists since his first album. You guys are in for a treat.”

Treat indeed. After a lengthy setup time, the impossibly cool Cody Chesnutt and his band of four take to the stage; the man himself in trademark blue army helmet and red cardigan, looking lean, mean, and ready to rock our worlds. Not content to rely on older, more familiar material, the set is comprised of songs mostly taken from his latest album, Landing On A Hundred, and lacks nothing for it. “Do you wanna listen to some soul music tonight? Let me hear you say YEAH!” he screams, and the audience respond from the off.

Starting with ‘Everybody’s Brother’ with it’s anthemic chorus, Chesnutt proves himself immediately to be a worker of crowds of the highest order as he has us eating out of his hands within minutes of being on the stage. As we sing “no turning back” loudly, then softly, then loudly again at his direction, Chesnutt grins, poses, sweats and beats around the stage with the energy of a man half his age, and we know we’re in for a pretty special night. This music is the very essence of soul, and Chesnutt knows the importance of putting everything into it and leaving nothing in the tank.

‘What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next)’ is next, and this is where his band of hand-picked musicians get their first chance to truly shine as they solo. It’s also apparent at this stage that this will be one of those gigs that goes for ninety minutes but only features about seven or eight songs, as the band jam and songs melt into the fabric of each other and back out again. ‘More Than A Wedding Day’ is next, and Chesnutt explains it is his favourite of the album, being the song that comes closest to describing his recent redemption and acceptance of family responsibilities and dedication to his craft, followed by ‘Where Is All The Money Going?”, which allows Chesnutt to flaunt the range of his vocals and once again lead the crowd in a sing-along. “Even a whisper is powerful,” he declares, “Because everyone in this room is united right now.” Never a truer word.

One of the most monumental roars I’ve ever heard in the Hi-Fi brings the singer back for an encore, and as he walks through the audience shaking hands and hugging strangers, there’s not a face in the house that doesn’t have a big goofy grin plastered across it. Cody Chesnutt is a man who knows how to deliver.

Live review: Foals + Alpine – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 2/10/13

It’s a school night and one of Brisbane’s biggest and best venues is sold out – this is something very few bands have been able to achieve in recent months. Such is the diverse appeal of English indie-rockers Foals that it’s obvious this is one of those gigs that attracts people who don’t often go to gigs. Hipsters too; lots and lots of hipsters.

Support for tonight is Melbourne indie-poppers Alpine. Having just jetted back into the country from North America after playing a number of shows there, they admit to being exhausted, but put in an energetic and typically tour-tight performance, heavy with songs from their excellent album A Is For Alpine. Singers Lou and Phoebe are charming and enchanting as ever, and they finish with ‘Gasoline’ to a huge show of appreciation from the audience. With more tour dates in Canada the States on the cards in the next few days, life is only going to get more busy for the six-piece, but they’re looking and sounding mean and lean.

Foals’ stage setup is pretty impressive. A small army of dudes spends quite an amount of time setting up a lighting and sound rig that could fry the retinas and burst the eardrums of an audience several times the size of this one, but it’s all part of their live appeal. By the time the quintet take to the stage amid a haze of pink and blue lights and kick into ‘Prelude’ and then ‘Total Life Forever’ to huge reverberating cheers, the Tivoli is as rammed as I’ve ever seen it, and the phrase “losing their shit” could be applied to the audience collectively.

Holy Fire hasn’t been around that long, so there are plenty of tunes from that album on show, including ‘My Number’, ‘Providence’, and ‘Late Night’. Frontman Yannis Philippakis’s crowd-surfing-from-the-balcony-thing may feel a bit contrived (come on, we all knew he wasn’t gonna not do it), but again, the audience responds by almost to a man losing their shit. You’d definitely feel a little hard done by if you had suffered an “immediate eviction”, as the sign says, if you’d been caught crowd-surfing at any point before this event, but I guess you can’t evict the main man.

With an encore including ‘Inhaler’, many people have gone home after this gig claiming that this has been the best live show they’ve ever been to; such is the effect of this band’s music.

Live review: Peace + Millions + The Creases – The Zoo, Brisbane – 19/9/13

Peace

I recently interviewed Peace frontman Harrison Koisser and he told me how much the band was looking forward to coming to Australia for the first time. “I’ve heard the lifestyle is different but the ideas are the same. It sounds like something we can get along with. I want to feel it,” he said. Tonight, in Brisbane’s best venue, the young English quartet will get a taste of that feeling, which probably involves a lot of heavy sweating in their leather jackets while blasting out a series of more-than-decent indie-rock tunes.

As I make my way from the traffic lights outside The Royal George towards the welcoming stairwell at The Zoo’s entrance, gladly escaping the god-awful blare coming from the Kaliber Lounge, the four lads of Peace are ambling along just in front of me, all shabby Converse and stick-thin legs, looking nonplussed and generally pretty cool with life, and like me they grab a spot to watch the support acts. Local indie-shoegazers The Creases are first up tonight, and they play a set full of heavily-distorted guitars, plenty of fuzz all round, shared vocals between members, and a bit of jangly pop thrown in for good measure. With support slots coming up soon for some bigger bands, these guys are worth keeping an eye on.

Next up is Millions, who have a different but equally good vibe, and a higher level of musicianship. The audience responds well as the band work through some new and unfamiliar songs throughout the set, and despite there not being much crowd interaction – as with all the performances tonight – the band, and particularly guitarist Ted Tillbrook’s impressive riffs, keep the top quality tunes coming; a highlight being ‘Stone Roller’ from last year’s Cruel EP.

Peace have recently toured with Mystery Jets, The Vaccines, and Palma Violets, so it’s tempting to lump them all together by describing their existence as some sort of resurgence in English indie guitar bands, but in truth, they play a style of music that has been around the block several times. Their sound is almost like a Brit-pop revival with more than a hint of psychedelia, and probably quite apt for this place and time, given that a large percentage of the Australian music-loving community is pissing their pants about Blur making their way Down Under very shortly. In saying that, they are a talented bunch of guys who aren’t into rehashing riffs, sounds, or styles from any previous era, and can put on enough of a show to make you forget about all the blog buzz and hype surrounding their debut album. Such attention has probably done them a disservice, as they’re a kick-ass live band first, bunch of pretty indie-boy pin-ups second. The quartet launch straight into their up-tempo set, only pausing to say hello before fifth track ‘Float Forever’, which Koisser introduces as “a slow one”, and the big choruses of ‘Toxic’ have heads nodding venue-wide, after he begins the track with just his solo guitar and voice. ‘California Daze’ is still probably their best song and would sound amazing at an outdoor summer festival, as it does in a small venue, and despite the ‘next big thing’ tag a large section of the music media has tried to force on the band, tonight’s gig is definitely a triumph of substance over style.