Photo Credit: Allan Klimo
I’ve always thought Margaret Court Arena a slightly odd music venue. It has seen more heads going from side to side following a tennis ball, than up and down in time to a beat. It feels like a school gym where the kids are allowed on the basketball court for the year 8 dance and lacks the atmosphere of the Forum or even Festival Hall. So I feel that bands who play here really have got to “bring it” to get the crowd going.
The last time I saw Incubus at Soundwave 2015, I was so disappointed. Their stage set up meant that all of the band members were facing in to each other. It felt like they were playing for each other and themselves and not for the crowd and I felt really excluded from the performance. So it was with high hopes for a better experience that I took a seat at Margaret Court Arena last night.
The warm up act was Melbourne’s own Indie, punk, rock, electro enigma, Ecca Vandal. Genre defying is how she has been described, which is why I failed to really attach a satisfactory label to the style of music she offers. I felt a bit sorry for them as they were squeezed down the front of a stage, crowded with equipment draped in black cloth leaving not a lot of room for Ecca to strut in her red cut off shorts and jacket, but she did a good job earning the applause of the Incubus faithful who had arrived early. I’ve seen Ecca Vandal supporting before in a more intimate venue with some of her own fans present and she seems to attack the support role with energy and commitment that I admire. Accompanied by drums, bass and lead who both switched to keyboards and samples regularly, I was reminded of No Doubt and a young Gwen Stefani, a comparison I have since read in other reviews. Having released her debut album, in October 2017 full of catchy, energetic tracks and with a national headlining tour under her belt, I hope big things are ahead.
As the crowd grew and the queue for the bar got longer, I had a chance to observe who was out to see Incubus on the first night of their whirlwind 3 date Australian tour. Not as many man-buns as I expected, and a crowd leaning slightly to the female side, which I totally expected. At last the lights went off and the band appeared to the rapturous applause of the crowd. Lead singer, Brandon Boyd, wearing khaki shirt, black beret and baggy pants is rocking the long haired Jesus look these days. They opened with Glitterbomb from their latest album, 8 which saw Brandon join drummer Jose Pasillas adding to the beat on a large drum. They followed this up with Circles from the seminal “Morning View” of 2001 before back to the present with Nimble Bastard, the first single released from 8.
By this stage, it was clear that Brandon is a man of few words with nothing more than a “thanks” in between songs but that’s OK. The songs and their musicianship have always spoken more for this band, now celebrating 27 years in the industry, than their onstage performance. The 3 founding members, Boyd, Pasillas and guitarist Mike Einziger met in high school and with the addition of DJ Kilmore and Ben Kenney, they form a tight musical unit.
The number one hit, Megalomaniac warmed up the faithful and they sang back with enthusiasm. The extended intro to Pardon Me with Brandon adding to a wall of sound on the pedals and knobs of Einziger’s pedal board disguised the hit well but once the song emerged, a proper pit formed. I think this song particularly has all the signature elements that make Incubus special and unique. Melodic verses, bridging into heavier choruses that you can sing along to, layered with the turntable skills of Chris Kilmore and you have an Incubus song. There may be a formula, but their songs are far from formulaic.
I fully expected Nice to Know You to be their closing encore so was surprised when this song appeared from a very jazzy intro. Stellar got everyone singing and girls up on their boyfriend’s shoulders and the backdrop of the cosmos with solar flares and black holes on the big screen was a fitting accompaniment. A slap bass line led into a cover of INXS Need you Tonight. Boyd was definitely channeling his inner Hutchence, both vocally and in sex appeal (or maybe it was that by this time, the shirt had come off revealing his stunning mandala full back tattoo!). The floor looked like a Saturday night at the Metro in 1989 as a thousand people danced to the Aussie classic.
The last song of the main set was a slightly stripped back verse and chorus of Wish You Were Here. But by the time the 2nd chorus kicked in, they had reverted to the full on version and crowd sang it back with passion. The end of this song segued into the Pink Floyd classic Wish You Were Here and they left the stage to rapturous applause.
The encore began with No Fun, the opening track of 8, followed by a piano and voice verse of Drive, with the chorus supplied by the crowd before continuing with the album version. Warning seemed a fairly soft track to finish on, I thought, but it seemed to please everyone well enough and as they lined up for the obligatory bow, the applause was appreciative and heartfelt.
Incubus have always struck me as bit of an “artsy fartsy” band, particularly with Brandon Boyd dabbling in fine art and writing in between musical projects these days. They also appear as a microcosm of America with such a diverse ethnicity among its, members. Does that relate to Australian audiences? From the reaction of the crowd on Friday, yes it does. Did they “bring it”? Hell yes. Although they seem to focus more on the music and less on the performance than some other acts do, it was a tight and entertaining show and I really enjoyed seeing the passion of the fans who clearly adore them and sang their little hearts out.
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith
Melbourne had dealt us a hot one as I hit Festival Hall for night one of two sold out shows featuring hip hop extraordinaire Macklemore, as he brings his Gemini tour to our shores. With the future of this fine music establishment hanging in the balance, it was with trepidation that I took my seat, would this be the last time? I certainly hope not.
Ventilation is still not high on the list at Festival Hall and we were sticking to our seats in minutes as the fans streamed in. Xperience took to the stage right on time, delivering a twenty-minute set to get the hip hop juices flowing. Once he told the crowd he had played with Macklemore on several of his albums they were instantly won over and arms started bouncing to the beat. Eric Nally joined him for one song, clad in black and a blindfold he worked the stage with punchy vocals and some very interesting dance moves. The punters clapping along enjoying the entertainment.
Dave B was up next, another short twenty-minute set but instantly he had the attention of the audience with their hands swaying side to side with the beat. His set was over in a flash but I had a feeling we might see him again before the night was over.
The wait between acts was brief, and as the lights dropped for the last time the fans went nuts. This was what they had been waiting for, and with the venue now packed to capacity it was crazy loud. Opening with Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight, Macklemore bounded on to the stage his legions of fans screaming in response. The stage was full, backing vocalists, dancers, musicians and the main man himself, with a screen showing diverse images changing rapidly, with lyrics and pictures flashing to the beat. It was a killer opener and from the fans reception I knew it was going to be a big night. Firebreather turned us all red with some dynamic lighting that almost burnt the retinas straight off my eyes, but once my vision returned it was quite a spectacle to witness with the screen a mass of fire and flames. Thrift Shop caused a meltdown as the hoards lost their minds, who knew that having twenty dollars in your pocket could cause a riot!
Macklemore’s charisma and charm evident with every word and I can see why he has sold out this tour and has such dedicated fans. As he discussed his most recent trip to Australia it was easy to guess what the next song would be, Same Love, it was beautifully received with fans holding their hands aloft to form love hearts. The feeling of unity was overwhelming with backing vocals that were truly beautiful it was a definite stand out of the night. Willy Wonka made for a fabulous edition with Macklemore taking the stage in a purple velvet jacket and orange hat as the big screen showed images from the movie we all know and love. Corner Store saw the return of Dave B, and Dance Off was another hit being dropped. Of course, with a name like Dance Off it was time to pull a few punters up to strut their stuff which was gave us all a giggle.
Finishing out the set was Can’t Hold Us, and at the request of Macklemore it was phones down and enjoy the song like it was 1976! The fans went absolutely crazy bouncing and clapping and as one of the older generation it was awesome to see the youngsters being taken in the moment, social media forgotten if only for 5 minutes. It was a surprise when Macklemore took to the crowd, climbing amongst the punters, riding high on their hands finishing out the night. But we all knew he wasn’t really finished, we just had to make some noise to drag him back to the stage. Excavate saw his return to the stage, followed by Downtown which was fabulous. Macklemore’s voice on point all night, not missing a note, a true hip hop professional. Full credit to all singers, dancers and musicians they were all technically brilliant and made the show the powerhouse that it was. Eric Nally also popping in and out for cameos over the course of the night, added those finishing touches that polished the already precision show to perfection.
Xperience returned for the finale Glorious, fans singing loud and proud, loving every minute not wanting it to end. With all swept up in the emotion that live music delivers it was time to finish up on Macklemore’s request with three shouts of PEACE, leaving everyone on a relaxed high. After throwing at least six towels into the crowd for souvenirs Macklemore departed, ready to a rest up and do it all again tomorrow night.
I wish him luck with his daughters request to bring a koala back to the State’s, it may just require another trip back to Australia with the family in tow, I am sure the fans will be ready and waiting with open arms.
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED JOSE SANCHEZ
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED ROGER BROOKS
I took my seat and watched the sea of fans fill QUDOS Bank Arena, to witness what promised to be a spectacular performance from Roger Waters.
An image was projected on a large screen behind the stage. The image, a girl sitting on the beach, staring out at the ocean. As she sat motionless, the water continued to ebb & flow as the Marram grass blew in the breeze. The same girl was seen in more images, throughout the show.
Before long, the screen transitioned into a familiar galactic backdrop as I heard, “I’ve always been mad..“, from Dark Side Of The Moon’s “Speak To Me“, followed by “Breathe“. Guitarist, (or as Waters fondly referred to him, “our resident hippy”) Jonathan Wilson, took the role of lead vocals. Together, Wilson and Dave Kilminster made a great guitar tandem.
The sudden burst of lights, surprisingly shifted my focus from the continuously changing back drop, to a now lit up stage, for the dueling bass instrumental,”One of These Days” – the opening track from “Meddle”. With only one spoken line, “One of these days I’m gonna cut you up into little pieces“.
Once again, the screen imagery transitioned. This time, a singular clock, rotating around the screen. The clock stopped, alarms sounded and the single clock multiplied, over and over until the screen was full of flying clocks. It was “Time“! Waters finally taking the mic, supported by his exemplary band. The crowd becoming more vocal, showing their approval and appreciation for an old favourite.
Lucius singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessing, captured the audience, taking us on an adventure with their astounding duet in “Great Gig In The Sky“, followed by “Welcome To The Machine“.
Waters played three numbers, back to back, from his new album “Is This The Life We Really Want“. The songs reinforced his obvious disapproval of the current political situation. “Picture This“, almost spoken word – poetical and fierce. Waters paced the stage, spitting out the lyrics “Picture a leader with no fucking brains, no fucking brains, no fucking brains“.
More favourites were rolled out, including “Another Brick InThe Wall (Part 2 & 3)“. One by One, children marched on to the stage, to form a line across the front, dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, with black hoods. As the song progressed, so did their message, as they ripped off their hoods and tore open their jumpsuits, to reveal the word “RESIST”, printed across the front of their shirts. It was noted that the children were all from our home town of Sydney, and had only met with Waters at 5:30pm the same day.
After a brief intermission, we were welcomed back to a gob smacking sight. Several screen projectors had been dropped down from the ceiling, spread across the entire length of the arena floor. Initially boasting the Battersea Power Station, complete with a pig floating between two chimneys, as “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” were played, followed by “Money“.
The band now adorned with pig masks, sipping from glasses of champagne. It had a very ritualistic feel about it, as Waters walked the stage, toasting the audience. Waters again displayed a deprecatory message toward Trump, as a large inflatable “Piggy Bank Of War” rotated around the arena, bold messages flashing on the screens, such as “Please help, we are trapped in a dystopian nightmare”. Trumps head was put on the body of a pig, the body of a baby, as well as a body with micro genitalia, among other things. I momentarily, felt like I was at a political rally, but as all Waters enthusiasts know, Waters music has always been rife with political connotations. The final statement was made, “TRUMP IS A PIG”!
Waters threw in another track “Smell The Roses“, from his latest album, before the cover art from the seminal “Dark Side Of The Moon“, was brought to life before our very eyes, with a spectacular light show. A triangular prism, hovered above the floor, with an undulating rainbow of lights and a floating moon. Never a more suitable visual to lose myself in, to the tunes “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse“. It truly was a breath taking moment, and well deserving of the standing ovation it received.
Waters introduced his band, then went on to congratulate Australia, for not having nuclear weapons. The light show continued, for “Mother“, leaving “Comfortably Numb” to close the show. Pink streamers, with the word “RESIST“, fell from above, as Waters jumped off the stage and shook hands with his many fans, topping off what was an already incredible night.
Review Contributed by Trudy Johnson