Theory of a Deadman skate on very thin musical ice for me, occupying that dodgy space where rock meets country. They certainly seem to be enjoying some Australian success this year and their recent release Medicate has been on constant rotation at Triple M, so it seems. And I take it this success is what has brought them to Australia for their first ever tour. So doing some research, I was very surprised to read them described as one of the biggest bands in the world and that they have had 10 US top 10 hits, with 4 going to number one! Where have I been hiding? So I was very intrigued to see what these 4 guys from British Columbia have to offer and as I drive past the Prince Bandroom on Fitzroy Street looking for a park, I am surprised to see a queue out the door and around the corner. Maybe I underestimated these guys and their appeal?
So I will start this with a confession….. I’m a closet Nickelback fan, circa 2003/4 particularly. And hailing from Canada is not the only thing Theory and Nickelback have in common, having signed to Chad Kroeger’s 604 records in 2001 to release their debut, self-titled album. And having spent the day listening to Theory of a Deadman’s back catalog, and most recent album, there are other similarities. Lyrical subject matter; slutty girlfriends (Bad Girlfriend, Theory of a Deadman. Animals, Nickelback), drinking (RX, Theory. Never Again, Nickelback) and probably others. And at times, lead singer Tyler Connolly can sound very like Chad and he even has a dual mic set up on stage, a trademark of the Nickelback sound.
Up first at the Prince Bandroom were Chasing Lana. 4 young guys from Melbourne who seem to be getting some good support gigs in recent months. They have a great pub rock sound, some rocking songs, and they don’t sound like anyone else, always a good thing in a very crowded hard rock genre. Drummer, Chris, reminds me of Chad from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, until he takes his hat off, and then turns into Dave Grohl during the Nirvana years with head banging and hair all over the place. Lead singer and guitarist, Dave, sports a beautiful PRS guitar, possibly an SE Mark Tremonti signature model (major bonus points if it is)? I think these guys can take it to the next level. As a band, Chasing Lana have the goods, they just need to iron out a few bugs and there is nothing to stop them having great success.
Up next is Bad Moon Born, a 5 piece from Sydney. Singer, Frank Lakoudis (who I’m positive was on the Voice a couple of years ago?) has a definite Robert Plant vibe going on and opens with a tuneful scream. The music is old school rock, but they by no means sound like a cover band. Frank is very apologetic about his voice not being up to full force with a cold, but I couldn’t hear it. His voice sounded pretty good to me. They smash out a solid set of songs and finish off by handing out caps and T-shirts to the crowd. Great self-promotion guys, I liked it and I will definitely be checking out their EP, Chemical Lullabies.
Theory of a Deadman takes to the stage to the cheers of their faithful fans who have waited 16 years to see them live. They open with Low Life, from their 2011 release, The Truth is……… A great upbeat and danceable number to start off their set. They follow this up with Bitch Came Back and this is a song that concerns me a wee bit. There is a definitely a hint of misogyny in some of their lyrics. They seem to me like a bunch of good time guys and a lot of other lyrics I found really clever and I do love wordy songs. So I really hope this is tongue in cheek. The next song, Straight Jacket being a perfect example of Connolly’s clever lyrics – And you’re supercali-pessimistic-expiali-narcissistic. Genius, I tell you.
They launch into Blow, with the line that everyone can relate to “sometimes, it makes me want to blow my fucking head off”. Not known for playing covers, they closed their current album Wake Up Call with a lovely version of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game which is sung beautifully with Connolly accompanying himself on keyboards.
I’ve been watching drummer Joey Dandeneau closely. He’s awesome. I don’t care what his birth certificate says, he is the love child of Phil Collins. He looks a bit like him (a younger version with more hair), he provides backing vocals via a headset mic like Phil in the Genesis era, and he even drums like him with big bass hits a la In the Air Tonight. Like so many bands, Theory seems to have had a revolving door of drummers since their inception in 2001 but I hope this one’s a keeper. He delivered a rousing drum solo mid-set which was both entertaining and skillful.
They teased me with the intro to Alice in Chains Nutshell, a personal fave and Tyler talked about how he came across his Dad’s record collection at the age of 10 and how this set him on the path to loving music. “Music can cure a shitty day and you turn it on when you’re down.” In a similar vein, the lovely lady who I’d been chatting to told me that the next song up, So Happy, had been the song that got her through a separation and divorce. I think this is the ultimate compliment that a fan can give a band. That a song resonated with someone so strongly, that it helped them through a hard time (although this one sounds more like a revenge song, which can also be cathartic).
The main set finished up with Angel, one of their US hits and I hate my life which Connolly described as the perfect song to listen to when your “foody” team loses. After a brief break, they returned for a 3 song encore, commencing with their current hit RX (Medicate) and followed by a bit of GnR Paradise City which elicited a great sing along. Finally, they closed with Bad Girlfriend which went down a storm (guys loving it wishing they had one, and girls loved it, wishing they were one, maybe?)
Thankfully for me, a live Theory of a Deadman has a lot less of the country sound which I found an almost constant element when listening to their recorded music. I have read them being described as post-grunge and even metal. Someone needs their head read on that one. I think they sit very comfortably in that crossover genre which obviously goes down well in North America, and in suburban St Kilda. I found Theory of a Deadman very entertaining live. All the guys are enthusiastic, personable and are involved in interacting with the crowd who lapped it up. They promised to look at coming back in the summer and playing some festival gigs and I for one hope they do.
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith