[LIVE REVIEW] Saliva W/ Special Guests @ Max Watts, Melbourne 15/02/2018

It was a mixed crowd queueing outside Max Watt’s on Swanston Street on a balmy Melbourne evening.  A mix of grey hair, black band t-shirts, denim jackets with patches and a few skimpy tops and kinky boots.  Inside, the crowd was pretty thin 15 minutes before the show started but the faithful had already fully occupied the tiny rail at this venue, one of my favourite smaller venues in Melbourne.

The opening act were Melbourne locals Chasing Lana.  As they launched into the first song, Down Again, it was clear that they had brought the support and there was a good smattering of friends and family in the audience.  The beat was laid down enthusiastically by drummer, Chris Coote and bassist Keith Harland and I could feel it coming through my feet.  We were off to a good start.  Lead guitarist Robbie Cutting with his brother Dave on guitar and vocals kept the energy going as they went onto their second song, From the InsideSuffocate /Medicate brought some of said fans/friends & family bounding to the floor to show their appreciation for this better known track. I noticed the Foo Fighters tattoo on the back of Dave’s neck and thought I could hear the influence of the other more famous Dave in the melodic chords of the chorus.   They closed off a solid 7 song set with Pain with their fans, old and new, showing their appreciation.  Triple J list their “sounds likes” as Seether, Alter Bridge, Puddle of Mud and, Stone Sour – which is certainly some lofty comparisons for these young guys to aspire to but they won a fan in me tonight.

The scene was set for the second act up with blood red lighting for the arrival on stage of Witchgrinder.   I must admit to feeling some trepidation as black metal, industrial metal, dark metal, all labels that have been attached to this band, are not my thang.  So I was pleasantly surprised when the opening track featured power chords, a great lead break and a thumping bass.  Not so confronting after all.  Vocalist and guitarist, Travis Everett alternated between tuneful singing and a demonic growl that made my throat hurt just listening to it.  Half way through the set, lead guitarist Rick Grimm changed from his classic black, jaggy metal guitar, to a snow white beauty that immediately made me think of Prince in Purple Rain.  It looked somewhat out of place against black leather and denim and played by tattooed hands, but those hands could definitely play!  I was reminded of a Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield kind of guitar duo (only I think James wears less eyeliner ).  Although their style of music seemed slightly off genre compared to the rest of the line up, they did a great job engaging a mostly uninitiated crowd.

The audience had swelled by the time for the main act came on and it was clear that the fans were out to see Saliva’s first ever show in Melbourne.  Clearly dreadlocks are the style in Memphis, Tennessee as 3 out of the 4 band members were sporting them ranging from shoulder to knee length.   They opened with the thumping Ladies and Gentlemen and I was slightly perturbed by the obviously recorded backing vocals with bassist Brad Stewart only helping out on the “Booms”.  But thankfully this was the only song with this and the rest of the set was a good old fashioned live rock show.  Vocalist Bobby Amaru, the “new boy” in the line up having taken over from the original singer in 2012, has a fantastic voice for live rock.  It has a rough edge to it and seems to be pushed out by sheer effort and force of will from the depths of his guts.  By the second song, an enthusiastic mosh pit had formed and I hope the band were feeling the good vibes coming from them.

Separated Self saw a bit of change of pace.  Here Bobby showed his vocal diversity and delivered a softer, heartfelt verse followed by a killer rock chorus.  Survival of the Sickest was a request from a fan who held his phone up with a list of songs on it for Bobby to choose from.  Nothing like a bit of audience participation.  Saliva have done some interesting covers on their albums, such as Eminem and Michael Jackson and this is obviously also a feature of their live sets as at this point, they broke down into a version of Phil CollinsIn the Air Tonight, followed by Pink Floyd Another Brick in the Wall, both of which elicited a great singalong from the crowd.

The stage cleared and Bobby reappeared sporting a beanie and an acoustic guitar and proceeded to give us some of thegreat rock songs and voices of our time, further demonstrating his considerable vocal prowess.  He began with a stunning version of Bother by Stone Sour that would have made Corey Taylor proud.   Next followed a personal favorite of mine which made me very very happy/sad.  Layne Staley has (had, sob), one of the best rock voices of the 90’s and Bobby’s version of Nutshell was beautiful.  Thank you for that.  He followed this with Daniel Johns of Silverchair.  Hmmmm, maybe not in the same league but his rendition of Tomorrow was appreciated for the Aussie connection.

The rest of the band returned and they launched into Hero, a song that Josey Scott, the original singer, recorded with Chad Kroeger of Nickleback for the soundtrack of Spiderman.  This was well received by the crowd and I saw much singing with eyes closed and heads thrown back.  Sing it with feeling, people!  The laid back start to Always kicked in followed by the anthemic Click, Click, Boom which is seems to be a staple in gyms and rock playlists the world over.  And then after one more song of their 2002 Grammy award nominated song Your Disease, it was over.  The band disappeared and even an impressively enthusiastic cry for one more song from the audience did not bring them back.  The tour manager put an end to that by giving everyone the thumbs down from the side of the stage.

The jury convened in the ladies loos and the consensus was that the set had been really short, at least 15 minutes short of the advertised time.  And it was such a bummer.  I could have done with another 3 or 4 songs before hitting the road.  The lesson here is when you finish too soon, the ladies are really disappointed and you will be talked about in the toilets.   I left thinking that Saliva were really, really good and I can’t understand why they had not been snapped up for a Festival appearance before now. Let’s hope this will not be their last time Downunder.

Review Contributed by Wendy Smith