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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.

Live review: Blondie – Waterfront Hall, Belfast – 26th June 2013

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It’s a deliciously warm summer evening in my hometown; the kind that makes it seem that the sun won’t ever go down. In Belfast for the first time in about five years; I’m arguing with a taxi driver as we do about seventy miles per hour along the carriageway. He foolishly but stubbornly reckons Blondie were the first band to release a rap record, while I’m certain ‘Rapper’s Delight’ at least came before, even if it wasn’t the first. And weren’t Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five knocking around before either of them? I’m not sure on that one, so decide to keep it in my back pocket in the event of this debate heating up.

A dismissive “nah,” is all he’s got when I repeatedly make my argument that 1979 demonstrably came before 1981, and that elements of rap have been seen throughout reggae, jazz, and other forms of music well before front-woman Debbie Harry was even thought of, and also who-fucking-cares-anyway-can’t-we-all-just-enjoy-the-fucking-tunes. So, it’s with this sense of infuriation that I arrive at the Waterfront Hall to catch the classic new-wave band, now in their thirty-ninth year. Cheers, cabbie.

Thankfully, Blondie are way too much of a class act to let a smartass taxi driver spoil the vibe. The 2500-seater venue is full to capacity, and although the age-range of the audience is generally in the ballpark of those old enough to have enjoyed the band in their heyday, the energy level and atmosphere are high and buzzing, in that order. With an act that is obviously honed to perfection, the sextet take to the stage exactly on time, with Harry stealing the limelight with her trademark platinum blonde hair and an interesting red catsuit type number. It’s only about halfway through opener ‘One Way Or Another’ that surely every member of this – by now bouncing – crowd is reminded of what an original, and classic band this is.

Harry, from the off, is immeasurably infectious, and at 68 has lost none of the sex appeal that was such a trademark of the band in the late ’70s and early ’80s. She is a front-woman who is never boring, always visually engaging, and still has the pipes to fill out a venue of this size. Maybe it was her years spent working as a Playboy bunny, or simply a naturally engaging personality that taught her the need to not simply stand, but to always have a stance. Look up the ‘Heart of Glass’ video for example, and she’s not just standing behind the mic, but she’s there, hand on hip, one knee pushed forward, gently swaying her hips in an almost hypnotic motion. She also knows when to take a back seat and let guitarist Chris Stein or drummer Clem Burke’s sounds come to the fore. Did I mention that word class, already? Or the fact she influenced just about every white female vocalist who came after her?

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Newer songs mix with old dependables, with ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, ‘A Rose By Any Name’, and ‘The Tide Is High’ following in quick succession, with the Waterfront audience now looking like unwilling participants in a mass epileptic fit in a retirement village, before Harry announces “there’s something here that’s big, wet, and wild: Mr. Chris Stein on the guitar!” Oh Debbie, you’re a tease and you know it.

A couple of unannounced new tracks are fired off to a relatively muted response, as token youngster Tommy Kessler engages in some impressive axe shredding, with the predictable result of several hundred middle-aged women now hanging on his every move, and the scene being set nicely for the biggest cheer of the night, which comes during the first few notes of ‘Atomic’.

Closer ‘Heart of Glass’ is perhaps Blondie’s best-known song, and at the time of writing was considered to be nothing more than another album track by the band, hence its position tucked three-quarters of the way down the track-list of Parallel Lines. Clem Burke proves himself to still be a hard-hitting drum machine during the final tracks, as the Belfast crowd loses its collective marbles, and Harry and co. strut off-stage for a towel down and a cold drink.

An energetic encore featuring new song ‘Take Me In The Night’, ‘Call Me’, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’, and finale ‘Dreaming’ brings a fine night of entertainment to a close, and the band leave the stage for the last time to the sounds of near-deafening appreciation.

For those seeing the band for the first time, it’s a glorious moment, and for those seeing them for a second or maybe third time, it’s probably even more so. While the hits get the biggest response, this is a band with plenty of mileage remaining, and with new songs being written constantly, they aren’t happy to rely on their past. While songs like ‘Atomic’ probably won’t ever be bettered, it’s exciting to think that Blondie are going to give it a damn good try.