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Margaret Court Arena
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I went to Margaret Court Arena last night for the craic (from the Urban dictionary – Irish word for fun/enjoyment that has been brought into the English language. usu. when mixed with alcohol and/or music.). I did not really expect to be impressed or sonically stimulated, but I will be honest and say, I enjoyed myself immensely.
Boyzone are on their farewell tour, appropriately named “Thank you and Goodnight”. Calling it a day after 25 years in the business, this is actually their first time playing in Australia. And by the look of the excitement of the audience made up almost entirely of ladies in their late 30’s, early 40’s (and a surprising number of Grannies), it has come not a moment too soon.
Opening for the Boyz, was one Brian McFadden (formerly of the slightly later but no less successful Irish boy band, Westlife). I say one, as he cut a very solitary figure on the big stage at MCA entirely by himself. It was clear that this show was not going to include instruments or live musicians. Brian began by thanking us for coming to see “some fat Irish guy and a backing track”. And that set the tone for his set, as much standup comedy as musical performance. It is appropriate that this gig was happening during the Melbourne Comedy Festival as Brian is friggin’ hilarious. He gave us a set of 7 songs to a backing tape and 2 accompanying himself on guitar, made up of old Westlife hits (Swear it Again, Queen of my Heart, Flying without Wings) and a couple of tracks from a new album, not yet released in Australia (Champagne and Wine sounded very “lounge band” to me but I really liked Cigarettes and Coffee which was very soulful). Even though I lived in the UK when Westlife were omnipresent, I can’t say I remember much about their vocals. But Brian has got a fantastic voice. Very soulful with a lovely raspy quality. This mixed with his self-deprecating humor, made him really adorable to watch.
After a short break filled with classic 90’s dance tunes, the lights dimmed and on the big screen, an artfully shot black and white film of Boyzone started playing. The landscape was rocky and wind swept and inexplicably, Excalibur sat protruding from a stone in the foreground. The in-between song patter was awesome. They took it in turns to take the front of the stage between songs and chat about their long careers, their families and life in general. Very endearing.
Boyzone have a lot of hits to choose from (6 UK number 1’s to be exact and 9 in Ireland). They began with a few lesser known tracks before launching into a series of covers that have done very well for them. Baby Can I Hold You (made famous by Tracy Chapman, which reached number 2 for Boyzone), You Needed Me (Anne Murray from the 70’s. Scarily, I could remember every word) and Father and Son (Cat Stevens). Playing in the background during some of these songs were the original videos which really brought home what babies they were when they burst on the scene in 1994. And also brought home that there is one of the original members missing.
The guys disappeared for a costume change and during this time, a film was played honouring Stephen Gately who passed away in 2009. It featured the remaining members talking about him and his passing. You hear a lot of bands talk about how their bandmates are like brothers, usually just before a catastrophic split involving lawyers and public recriminations. But this all seemed so bloody genuine and heartfelt, that even an old hardened cynic such as myself was moved. The first song after this small break was Dreams which honoured Stephen with a floor lit spot representing his spirit and with his brothers gathered around it, it was really quite sweet.
Words (Bee Gees cover) gave them their first UK no. 1 song and got the ladies out of their seats with phones and glow sticks in the air. No Matter What was a song that Stephen sang the lead vocal in, and this time the lead part was taken by their female backup singer.
Prior to them leaving the stage for the obligatory encore build up, Shane started inviting members of the crowd up on stage for a group selfie. Ending up with a group of 20 or so punters, including the group of Dublin girls who were, to put it mildly, wetting themselves with excitement.
The encore consisted of Life is a Rollercoaster (a Ronan Keating solo monster hit) and Picture of You. One last group hug in the middle of the stage and they were off.
So, having come into this gig with really, no expectation, I ended up having great craic. Boyzone has always been parent pleasers, it seems. They must have been featured on every Mother’s Day compilation CD from 1994 to present and the Grannies present tonight, were probably parents of Boyzone fans in their heyday and had come to see if that Ronan Keating was as lovely in real life as he is as a judge on X Factor. And lovely they were. They may have even got me out of my seat for a dance during the encore, thank you Boyzone.
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith
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There was no way to get lost on the way to the show tonight; all you had to do was follow the excited crowd towards Margret Court Arena. There was a buzz in the air as people, myself included, started walking around trying to find the right door to go through, and funnily enough, join the crowds of sitting people in the middle of the General Admission area. As The stage got set up for the supporting act for the night, I tried finding somewhere with a good view for the night; but it wasn’t long before everyone started to stand up and rush up to the barricades’ as it was time for the supporting act, Eves Karydas, to come out.
Eves came out on stage and within seconds was already starting her first song, swaying around and getting comfortable on the stage. After two songs Eves said hi to her crowd and introduced herself and her two musicians on drums and the keyboard before announcing that she’ll be singing Wildest Ones, the closing track on her new album Summer Skins. The crowds, even if they weren’t there to see Eves, or didn’t even know who she was until she came onstage like myself seemed to really enjoy the music she was singing. She had a very chill way about her, very calm and confident, having a very clear and understandable voice, even the way she danced all over the stage carefree was the difference between a fun and boring experience.
Towards the middle of her set, she performed a cover of Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head, and personally, I think that that’s the song that everyone was most excited by. Everyone was singing and dancing around and having heaps of fun. The last song she performed for the night was Further Than Planes Fly, she explained to the crowd that she’d written this on the top deck of a bus in England after having a bad day at the studio. She was watching the planes flying overhead and she got a text from a guy she’d just met, all it said was ‘hi’, but it lit up her entire world.
It’s easy to say that all of her songs are extremely personal to her and all come from her experiences growing as a person and living. Once the song was over, she thanked the crowd one last time and walked off stage. The lights all turned on, exciting the crowd knowing that the next person onstage would be George Ezra. More and more people started filling up the stands and the floor in anticipation for the next set.
Within about forty minutes of waiting, the lights dimmed and La Traviata (composed by Giuseppe Verdi) filled the room and the long-awaited George Ezra skipped out onto the stage, followed by all his amazing musicians. All the members quickly found their instruments and started up straight away with Don’t Matter Now, instantly engaging his fans by encouraging them to clap and sing along with him. Soon after, the dreamy collection of English singer, songwriter and musician introduced himself and his lovely band and started off the night with the first story of many. He told the crowd that he was looking to write some new songs and decided that he didn’t just want to sit in a hotel and do it. ‘I just thought why are you staying at a hotel George when you can meet a complete stranger over the internet and stay in their spare room? It wasn’t until I was in the plane landing that I thought why the fuck have you done this George?’ And the next few songs were some that he had written while on this trip.
This ever-growing musician had all of his fans singing their lungs out the entire night, cheering, dancing and having a great time. Ezra had almost all the seats filled and the general admission standing area was all shoulder to shoulder but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying their night and enjoying the music he was pumping out.
Later in the in the night he said that the next song would be Paradise, and he told another story to go with the song. He said that he was sick once during a tour and he was laying in his bed on the tour bus feeling sorry for himself, and this idea kept going through this head for a song so he recorded it on his phone and then forgot all about it. About 7 or 8 months go by and he finds it in his phone and makes Paradise. Such a beautiful song resulted in almost the entire arena holding up their phones with the torches up, lighting up the entire world for a song.
Towards the ending of the night, he performed the most desired songs by the crowd, Budapest, and Shotgun, resulting in the loudest singing by all the fans that it was almost impossible to hear George singing at all. Truthfully, these two last songs were the only ones that I knew going into this show tonight, but it was truly a great performance and show, and the music was fantastic. It’s easy to see that this is the best thing in his life and loves making, producing and performing music for his adoring fans.
Review Contributed by Miranda
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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
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It was a slightly balmy night in Melbourne, as the city and surrounding arena precinct was brimming with music fans. With Queen playing at Rod Laver Arena, and Fall Out Boy at Margaret Court, there was an eclectic array of people absolutely everywhere. It certainly was a great sight to see so many music fans across the entire area.
On approaching the arena however, it became more evident as to who this crowd were here to see. With fans ranging from angsty teens to people in their twenties and upwards, including what appeared to be plenty of adult chaparones for the younger ones, the common thread was lots of bright hair colours and piercings.
Earning the right to support Fall Out Boy on this their M A N I A Tour, is Brisbane’s own 5 piece indie punk outfit WAAX.
WAAX have their current EP Wild & Weak out now, and it follows on from their 2014 EP Holy Sick.
Consisting of Tom on drums, Griff on bass, Ewan and Chris on guitar and Marie (Maz) on vocals, their sound is strong and tight, but the standout was Maz’s vocal. She brings an absolutely powerhouse dynamic to the group. Her vocals are heavy, robust and simply suit the group perfectly. Not too many female vocalists can pull off the sound she does without it sounding somewhat strained. All the while Maz belts out tune after tune with her voice never faulting.
Maz’s voice is commanding of your attention, which is a fantastic trait in a front woman.
Given that they are unsigned as yet, I have no doubt that with the exposure given to them on this tour, it may not stay that way for long. Check out their bandcamp site and have a listen. You could well be very pleasantly surprised.
Fall Out Boy were always one of those bands where people generally knew at least one Fall Out Boy song even if they weren’t aware it was a Fall Out Boy song. With a crossover of pop punk and emo punk that appealed to both the youth and the older fans alike. Starting out their career in Chicago Illinois, in 2001, they had stepped up out of the hardcore punk scene, and brought with them a sound coupled with lyrics that had them a growing fan-base from the outset. Taking a hiatus in 2009 until 2013 they returned with the same intensity as before, to win over a whole new generation.
Being no strangers to our shores, the guys have been here in ’07, ’09, ’13, ’15 and now bring their M A N I A tour down under for our pleasure. Having not seen them live before myself (a fact I had been kicking myself intensely for) I was really keen to have them kick it all off and get started.
A few more of the GA crowd swelled in and the place was just about full. It felt like an eternity, but eventually the darkness fell across the arena and the scream from the predominantly female crowd was absolutely deafening.
Opening with The Phoenix, from their album Save Rock and Roll from 2013, it was clear right from the start that they have lost none of that star quality that rocketed them to the top of the pop punk/emo punk/pop rock scene that they dominated for years.
I was in awe at just how loudly the crowd were singing along. The band then played Irresistible and Hum Hallelujah before addressing the crowd for the first time, and they were hugely welcomed with even more high pitched screaming. With intermittent bursts of some extraordinary pyro, the production made for a very entertaining backdrop.
Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down was next and if I thought the crowd sang loudly before they stepped it up yet another notch.
The fact that three of the founding members are still driving the bands success is a testament to their partnership. Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz have this amazing chemistry and their vocal styles compliment each other perfectly. And in addition to this, their voices have not diminished over the years either sounding as good as ever.
What was really encouraging was that these guys still believe in supporting the youth and recanted a story about always keeping yourself a little dangerous as it inspires you to reach for your goals. Like wearing baseball gloves to school every day when you want to be a baseball player. Keep that alive in you, don’t conform to what is expected, be a little dangerous and continue to fight hard to be what you want.
Immortals and Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea were churned out next, but when they launched into Centuries, the roof was nearly blown off with the screams, and the crowd singing was a memorable event. This was backed up by Save Rock and Roll, The Last of the Real Ones, Young and Menace, Dance Dance and Wilson. This was coupled with a remote (from near the rear of the floor) guitar session, followed by a quick escape, and a little big screen humor, which let to what appeared to be t-shirts being tossed to the crowd
For the members of the audience not well versed in all of Fall Out Boy ‘s hits, the next would be first of many they would surely know. I Don’t Care, with its anthemic lyrics caused yet another rousing scream and such loud singing that it rivaled the band themselves in volume, which continued as the lead into This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race and Hold Me Tight or Don’t.
There was a point at which some of the seated fans were asked down to the floor to join the masses as a payoff for how into they were getting from their seats. There was also another roar of approval when as a nation, Australia was congratulated for it’s gay marriage revelation. And rightly so.
Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy , Thnks fr th Mmrs and Champion took out the next mayhemic block of intense tunes..
The big screen and the pyro played a huge part in the whole production. Everything was perfectly timed and complimented the songs really well.
Then it was time for the encore, and whilst we knew it was the encore, just how many songs we would get was anyone’s guess really.
Thriller was the first song of the encore, followed closely by my personal favourite, Uma Thurman, My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up) and finally closing with the very fitting Saturday.
By the end of the show many of the crowd were drenched in perspiration, as the energy and vigour with which they had been bouncing and dancing all night simply had not ceased. There were streamers and confetti everywhere, all signs pointing to a very successful show, as were the smiles on the faces peeling out of the venue.
I was hugely impressed with mostly the quality of the sound being produced and the vocal strength being maintained over the years. Fall Out Boy certainly have lost none of their shine at all.
I look forward to the next time they grace our shores, as they are really a class act not to be missed.
Review Contributed by Jodi Maree
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The sea of fans flowed into Margaret Court Arena for a night of moshing and madness, the security checks on entrance becoming the new normal at gigs as we were wanded and waved through.
Our offerings in the support department were Pagan and Bare Bones, both sensational warm ups for the main event, and an awesome platform to gain a new following. Many punters had turned up early which is always the case in Melbourne, we love our live music and are always supportive to new bands rising through the ranks.
The fans flooded the floor and it became the proverbial sardine tin, with fans packed tighter than I have ever seen. I pitied any punter who dropped their phone or the like as there was no room to move for retrieval. To my amazement as the lights dropped the masses surged forward, packed tighter than I imagined was humanly possible as Chamber the Cartridge rang out. The fans went crazy, and instantly a mosh pit formed front and centre. The sweaty participants losing their minds in the craziness that only a mosh can deliver. Give It All saw singer Tim McIIrath take to the crowd and balance on the fans as he finished out the song, an awesome interaction before he quickly jumped back up on stage and launched into The Violence from the latest album Wolves. It was around now that the first casualty of the mosh was carried past me, she seemed bent but not broken and I am sure she will return to slam again in no time.
Sensational lighting set the tone for the stage as these seasoned professionals worked their way through the hits of their extensive history together. Tim singing through a megaphone and twirling his microphone, making it look like child’s play, his contact with the fans was fantastic and he was truly humbled by their adoration. The Good Left Undone and Collapse both whipping the fans into a frenzy, with plastic cups and jumpers being hurled skywards as they spiralled into overdrive. Drummer Brandon Barnes was a machine and kept the night running like clockwork, his precision drumming bang on all night.
I was a bit miffed as we went to complete black out, people started murmuring, looking around unsure what was happening, then from out of nowhere Tim popped up at the sound desk on a small stage, just a guy and his guitar to treat us to three acoustic gems. While all were amazing the standout was definitely Hero of War, its poignant lyrics sending shivers though the arena. Beautifully emotive as the singing from the crowd echoed Tim himself, it’s message not lost and one that will stay with me for a very long time. Tim also took the time to thank his fans for coming, thanking those who have had to travel and just being grateful to us all. Musicians could definitely take a leaf from his book in showing appreciation to the fans it was a fabulous gesture.
Back to the main stage and super shredder Zach Blair was in fine form as they jumped into Help Is On The Way, add to the mix bass player Joe Principe who is the glue that makes this tight knit unit so bloody awesome and you have Rise Against at their finest. Wolves, the title track from the album of the same name was killer, followed closely by Satellite which nearly blew the roof off Margaret Court. As the band retreated for a brief reprieve the fans started chanting for one more song and their wishes were granted with the final song of the night, Savior. The perfect finisher as the hoards lost their minds one last time. Then add to that yet another terrific fan experience with the guys passing out the set-lists, picks and drum sticks to the fans, shaking hands and high fiving as they left the stage.
This show delivered from start to finish, no stone was left unturned, they were the ultimate professionals on every level, and as the fans filed out into the fresh air I have no doubt they would be back again in a heartbeat should the opportunity arise.
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale
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Returning to Australia for the first time in way too many years, Alison Moyet is back and touring on the success of her ninth album Other released in June this year. Katie Noonan was lucky enough to get the support slot for the show and gave us forty minutes of her back catalogue spanning many years and several of her bands over the time.
The opening intro filtered across Margaret Court Arena, April 10 from the new album Other, a spoken work song which was a lovely way to open the night. The applause was huge as this stunning lady took to the stage, launching straight into I Germinate also from Other followed by When I Was Your Girl and Wishing You Were Here. Nobody’s Diary was the first Yazoo song for the night, and you could feel the eighties nostalgia building amongst the fans, all waiting for that one song that was their favourite back in the day.
Alison’s amazing voice has matured beautifully with age, her husky sound sending chills down your spine or raising the hairs on your arm with a single note. Her two accompanists taking care of the nights music and backing vocals with the electronica sound that all her fans are so familiar with.
A word for the wise, do not ever heckle Alison Moyet, one well inebriated man tried his best last night and was shot down in seconds making him look like the fool he was, Alison’s witty comeback applauded by everyone, except the prankster who was eventually removed by security.
Next was a beautiful tribute to Alison’s Mother, The English U, with hit after hit flowing, All Cried Out was a definite fan favourite. Lover Go and The Rarest Birds both from Other were simply breathtaking, closely followed by Is This Love? and the Yazoo hit Situation which had MCA rocking and everyone dancing in their seats.
Alison shared some lovely memories with us over the course of the evening and with a career spanning over thirty five years there was definitely a lot to draw on. Alas as the night was coming to a close we were hopeful for a few more and we were not disappointed. After a brief break the trio were back to deliver the goods and round out what had been a fantastic night of amazing music. Whispering Your Name was the first of three in the encore, with Love Resurrection and the phenomenal Don’t Go finishing out the night. The arena turned in to a disco on steroids everyone basking in the glory that is Alison Moyet.
From the first note of the evening it was clear that Alison really was like a fine wine and had only got better with time, so we can only image what her next tour to our shores might hold, lets hope its not another thirty years in the making.
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale
Photos Contributed my Matt Allan