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[Review] Taylor Swift @ Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne 16/02/2024

Review By Tess

Hello, my name is Taylor, and I will be your hostess for this evening’s Era concert.” What an understatement; there are concerts, and then there are Taylor Swift concerts.

When Taylor Swift’s Eras Australian tour was announced last June, it created a buzz on social media and among fan communities. Fans eagerly marked their calendars and set reminders for when tickets would go on sale. They then began planning their outfits, choosing themes that matched their favorite Taylor Swift era. This frenzy, reminiscent of Beatlemania, is fueled by a combination of excitement, nostalgia, and the thrill of witnessing Taylor’s storytelling in person.

Strolling through the Treasury Gardens on our way to the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, we found ourselves amidst a sea of cowboy hats, sequins, and friendship bracelets, with white boots in abundance. It appeared that when it came to glitter and sparkle, the more, the merrier.

Tonight, is the largest crowd she has ever played to, with attendance ticking over at 96,000 people. The atmosphere inside the MCG was electric as the clock face appeared with a timer, letting us know the arrival of Miss Swift was imminent. The Swifties’ excitement was intense, filling the air with a buzz that was almost overwhelming. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The roar of the crowd created a wall of sound that, I am sure, shook the very foundation of the mighty G. It was inside this wall that the outside world fades away, leaving nothing but the shared experience of the music and the storytelling that was about to unfold. It was hard to hear yourself think, but I took the opportunity to look around and take in the faces around me, old and young. I noticed the one element that united them all: sheer joy. There is nowhere else they would rather be than here, in Taylor’s universe, ready to sing, scream, cry, dance, and rejoice to their favorite Taylor tune.

As Taylor takes the stage, the energy shifts to a level I didn’t think was possible. Opening with Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince and Cruel Summer from her Lover Era, the stage exploded into a burst of colors and movement. The crowd echoed her every word; this is what they had been eagerly awaiting. A wave of pure bliss enveloped the stadium. “Well, hi!” The 14-time Grammy Award winner, donning the first of many outfits of the night, a custom Versace bodysuit and Louboutin boots with striking red soles which you catch a glimpse of during The Man. This song also saw a matching blazer being donned. The Lover Era wrapped up with You Need to Calm Down, Lover, and an extended version of The Archer.

Gold fireworks cascade from the top of the backdrop while the screens are filled with what looks like falling embers. It is here we get a proper visual of The Agency (her band) and backing vocalists.  Guitarists Paul Sidoti and Michael Meadows, both who have been with Taylor since Fearless, took a stroll down the catwalk to showcase their skills as if summoning the portal for us all to be transported into the Fearless Era. Taylor appears, with gold-fringed Roberto Cavalli couture mini-dress, she teamed with a pair of shimmering cowboy boots and matching acoustic guitar. Joining her on stage was the rest of The Agency, bassist Amos Heller, guitarist/keyboard Max Bernstein and drummer Matt Billingslea, as we were treated with Fearless, You Belong to Me and crowd favorite Love Story.

With a visual intro of melting ice and forestry, we enter the evermore era. Taylor stands alone in an orange flowing dress with embroidered ruffled bodice – Enchanting. Opening with tis the damn season, as night descends in the forest and seems to bust into flames, she dons a green velvet hooded cloak, as her cloaked coven members join her in a ritual, as if trying to summon her true love during an extended version of willow. Sitting elegantly at a moss covered piano for the first time this evening, she explained the backstory of the conception of the Eras Tour. Taylors ability to connect and work the audience is nothing short of amazing. She weaves her songs into narratives sharing stories and moments that resonate deeply with her fans, making each person feel seen and understood. Her setlist is a clever blend of old hits from Lover to her 2022 album Midnights ensuring every fan, no matter which era they adore, finds a piece of their heart in her performance. Champagne problems rang out as her fingers danced across the keys; she really wanted to experience 96,000 people singing this song, and they did not disappoint. It was about this time my Apple Watch alerted me of being in a loud environment, ha! As almost a thank you to Taylor the crowd raised their voice, Taylor seemed overwhelmed with emotion as tears sprung to her eyes, showing her amazement, and absorbing the love that was being directed her way, loudly, very Loudly…. For nearly 3 mins. The obvious gratitude she has for her fanbase is honest and emotional; if one doesn’t “get” the Taylor-mania, (and a lot don’t), this is where it is. I get it now, and this long-time rock chick had her heart won over. And while I will never be a “Swifty” (are there applications being taken?), I will wear my Eras t-shirt with pride as an avid fan.

The production is nothing short of breathtaking, with dazzling visuals, elaborate modular staging, and quick costume changes that mirror each Era. Next up was one of my favourite parts of the evening as the blackened backscreen revealed a black snake slithering across the screen, fading in and out to the footsteps of determined heels seeming to walk our way. Are you ready for it…? HECK YEAH! I was ready for it. Taylor appeared in a Roberto Cavalli one-legged jumpsuit. The black material glittering with a three-dimensional embroidered ruby red snake, winding from the bottom of her leg to the top of her neck. Sidenote: I was excited to see, Paul Sidoti wielding a EVH Kramer, hats off to you sir!! Delicate, Don’t Blame Me and the ever-popular Look What You Made Me Do round out this rock pop era of Taylors expansive career.

Without a chance to catch my breath the MCG was bathed in purple. Light up bracelets we were all given glowed purple, alternating throughout the stands creating a sparkling effect. But it is not just the spectacle that captivated, it is the raw and genuine and unrelenting energy that Taylor brings to the solid 3 and half hour concert. Dipping into her passion for story telling through music transforms the concert into what feels like an intimate gathering, despite the grand scale. Each song, from the anthemic to the acoustic, is delivered with such sincerity that it’s impossible not to be moved. A short visit to the Speak Now Era, performing just 2 songs, Enchanted and Long Live in a beautiful lilac ballgown, which thanks to its crystal-embellished skirt captured the light beautifully.

As Taylor transitions into the Red Era, starting with the spirited anthem 22, the stage lights up primarily in red, reflecting the song’s lively energy. In what has become as no surprise to diehard fans but was certainly a surprise for young Swiftie, Milana Bruno. To the delight of die-hard fans and the surprise of young Swiftie, Milana Bruno, one fan at each show is chosen to receive the hat worn by Miss Taylor herself. Milana won everyone’s hearts as she beamed, holding back tears while Taylor approached her at the end of the catwalk to place the signed, coveted ’22’ hat on her young fan’s head, and gave her a big hug after Milano gave Miss Swift a friendship bracelet.  Core memory activated.

Shedding her white t-shirt, which incidentally read “a lot going on right now” — the opposite of her Instagram post during the pandemic, which said “not a lot going on right now” — she revealed a red sequined bodice and black sequined shorts. Miss Swift and her posse of very talented dancers broke into We Are Never Getting Back Together. In what seemed to be an affectionate nod to a popular Australian idiom, she turned the mic to one of her talented dancers during the bridge:

Ugh, so he calls me up and he’s like, ‘I still love you,’

And I’m like, ‘I just, I mean, this is exhausting, you know?

Like, we are never getting back together, ……… and Kameron Saunders pulled off ‘YEAAAH, NAAAAHHH’ perfectly.” On ya, Kman, I LOVE IT!

After a lively but shortened version of I Knew You Were Trouble, Miss Swift now back on guitar gave us a gorgeous 10 min rendition of All Too Well. I am completely astounded by her dedication to her craft, she has now been going solidly for just shy of 2 hours.

Just when you think you can sit for a minute, Taylors voice rings out across the darkness. A spoken poem, lyrics taken from Wildest Dreams and Seven, setting the tone for what’s to come. The Folklore cabin appeared on stage, creating an intimate and enchanting atmosphere that transported the audience into the heart of the Folklore album. The production’s ability to transport you into another world is truly astounding.

Taylor, perched on the cabin’s roof in a stunning green chiffon gown by Alberta Ferretti, with a deep neckline and flowing sleeves adorned with embroidered leaf detailing, sings a beautiful rendition of The 1. This gown, perfectly complementing the Folklore theme, enhances the magical setting. The mood shifts as Taylor, with her guitar, introduces betty and provides context, delving into the song’s narrative of youthful regret and redemption, bringing the story to life with a vividness unique to Taylor.  This was the longest era, rounding out at 8 songs including last great american dynasty (about the socialite Rebekah Harkness who previously owned Taylors Rhode Island mansion), august (summer love that was never meant to last), and illicit affairs (complexity and secrecy of forbidden love)

my tears ricochet was a hauntingly beautiful performance. Easily one of the saddest songs of the 17-song album. A song about betrayal, an end of a relationship and the aftermath of a deep personal conflict. The lyrics And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? echo through the air and hit home on a personal level. Is this what it feels like? Taylors voice coupled with the atmosphere and the staging is truly immersive and a testament to her ability to connect with her audience through her music and storytelling.

The Folklore Era concludes with cardigan, a popular song that feels like a warm embrace amidst the cold, forested world of Folklore. It’s a tender reminder of love’s enduring presence, closing this segment like a journey through a forgotten forest of stories and shadows.

However, the enchantment of Folklore is quickly replaced by a vibrant pop explosion as we transition to the 1989 era with Style. Taylor appears with her dancers from underneath the stage and treating delighted fans to the ultimate party look – an orange shimmering two-piece by Roberto Cavalli. Blank Space, and the super fun Shake It Off, made sure we were well and truly out of the whimsy of folklore and ready to party Taylor style. Taylors energy is infectious, inviting everyone present to be a little more self-accepting, learn to laugh at yourself and letting yourself just dance. One of my favorites rounded up this fun era. Bad Blood, with a beat that demands attention and lyrics about betrayal and conflict, its all brought to life on stage with a passion that matches it perfectly. Intense lighting, visuals and choreography adds to the intensity that is slowly building, and as Taylor belts out the final chorus, pyro canons erupt bringing a literal explosive ending to the 1989 era.

At the 2 and ¾ hour mark, I find myself wondering, how does Taylor Swift do this? And to think, she’s doing it again for two more nights in Melbourne! The excited whispers around me gain momentum, with hushed conversations about “surprise songs.” It seems Taylor Swift includes a couple of surprise songs in every performance, and they’re always different. What’s in store for us tonight? Earlier, there was talk of her new album dropping… No, surely not. But as Taylor makes her way down the catwalk in a yellow ruffled dress, looking as fresh as when she started, we’re about to find out. She picks up her guitar and welcomes us to the acoustic section. The crowd inhales deeply, collectively holding their breath in anticipation. “Loving him is like…” That’s all they needed to hear, and for a moment, that’s all I could hear, confirming the gift of Taylor’s version of Red.

Taylor takes her place at a flowery piano to make a surprise announcement “I think more than any of albums that I’ve ever made. I needed to make it. It was really a lifeline for me. Just the things I was going through and the things I was writing about. It kind of reminded me of why songwriting was something that actually gets me through my life.”, and it was with this that she unveiled the new alternate album cover of The Tortured Poets Department, due out April 19. It’s on this new album she announced that there is an exclusive song called The Bolter. Thinking she was about to show us this new song, I started wondering why the Swifties seems to know it already?! And swiftly (pun intended) realised it was in fact a debut live rendition of a fan favourite, You’re Losing Me. Although some were singing every word back at Taylor, many were quiet, hanging onto every word, as Taylor poured her heart into the keys, generating a sense of shared heartache and nostalgia.

Interacting with the crowd and posing for photos, the sounds of water wash over the venue, and the catwalk transforms into a pool. Taylor surveys her fans before “diving in” and swimming back to the stage, leading us into the to our final destination for the evening, The Midnights Era. Donning yet another sparkly purple dress with a matching faux fur crystal dripping jacket. Lavender Haze, and the ever-popular Anti-Hero kick off the section and I started to feel the tug of disappointment as the end was heading towards us like a freight train. Using the ever-evolving modular stage to her advantage, Midnight Rain showed the final costume change, a beautiful beaded fringed midnight-blue leotard designed by Oscar de la Renta, paired with matching glittery boots and garter to top the ensemble. Taylor delivered with unwavering emotion before seamlessly transitioning into the darker and more dramatic, Vigilante Shit. Edgy lyrics and bass heavy beats that showcases empowerment, revenge and taking control of one’s narrative. The production was very noir-esque, stark moody lighting and minimal yet effective visuals that match the songs’ theme perfectly. Taylor oozed confidence and ferocity, making each lyric a strike and a swipe at those who have ever wronged her. Bejeweled and Mastermind lead us by the hand to the finale, and we went although unwillingly, not wanting to end. Karma was simply put, a high-energy visual spectacle, infectious rhythms and an atmosphere of pure celebration. Taylor gave as much energy as she had 3 and ½ hours ago. She took a moment while extending the outro to ask everyone in the audience to thank everyone on stage performing with her. There were fireworks above the stage and stadium, confetti aplenty, there was not one person sitting there was happiness everywhere. Taylor, the last to leave the stage, took a final wave and a bow and disappeared into the stage.

The crowd, including myself is left feeling exhilarated. The collective feeling in the crowd exiting the MCG is one of connection and appreciation. For the uninitiated Swifties, like myself, the energy, the storytelling, the vision – it all boils down to a revitalised and enhanced respect for Taylor Swift – not just as a pop star, but as a songwriter, a storyteller and a performer. Taylor invites us to find a piece of our story within hers, creating a lasting bond that transcends even the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground.

For anyone who has even questioned, or doubted the magic of Taylor Swift, the Eras concert is a compelling and immersive argument that can transform scepticism into admiration. I personally have been to my fair share of concerts, and this, ladies and gentlemen, was no concert; it is a journey through the career of one of the most influential and successful artists of our time. I get it now; I do feel that deep down, I do get the phenomenon that is Taylor Swift.

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[Review] Charley Crockett @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 13/02/2024

Tuesday saw just another classic Summer day in Melbourne – 37 degrees, damaging storms, torrential rain, flooding, gale force winds, power outages, all the usual stuff – however none of this deterred a bunch of keen music lovers who ventured out to see the talented Charley Crockett. The Texan country singer has been touring Australia with his band for the past few weeks, with his final show set for Perth on 14th February. 

Knowing very little about him and only a couple of his songs, I was interested to see the demographic of his fan base. Based on my last hectic country music experience at the Forum, I was well prepared for what potentially may lay ahead for me. If you’ve been reading my previous reviews then you’ll know I love people watching, especially at gigs. The fans that rolled out to this gig were a lot more sedate than my previous experience, and proved a solid point that you can’t always stereotype the fans a musician or band may attract. Given the thick, traditional country sound to his music, I was surprised to find only a handful of Stetson hats wandering through the crowd and a limited amount of plaid shirts and cowboy boots adorning the punters. From the ages of early 20’s to late 80’s and everything in between, it really was the ultimate mixed bag of people. 

As I settled into position in the historically beautiful Forum theatre, I managed to catch the last few songs of the first support act, Sweet Talk. The local Melbourne 6 piece outfit have got a damn fine sound, and I was disappointed I didn’t get to catch their full set(Thanks public transport delays). Country, soul, blues, with slight funk undertones and hint of honky tonk, these guys have got a dash of everything in their music, and lead singer Tane Walker’s voice has got an awesome soul quality to it. This is a band I’ll definitely be looking out for in the future – I need more of them in my life! 

Next up were Sydney country band Caitlin Harnett & the Pony Boys. With their solid country sound and Caitlin’s distinct soaring vocals, they proved to be a big hit with the crowd despite Caitlin joking at times “You don’t even know who we are”. Their recently released album All Night Long is sure to be a hit with fans old and new, and the song Sidelines – which Caitlin wrote for her sister- is definitely a stand-out track. 

There was an excited buzz travelling throughout the audience now, and I could tell everyone was gearing up for the main event. Well our appetites were about to be fed, as Charley’s band entered stage left followed by the man himself, decked out in his crisp Ten Gallon hat and acoustic guitar strapped firmly to his front. They opened the show with $10 Cowboy, and the crowd were absolutely thrilled! 

Charley then greeted us with a “good evening Melbourne”, which was met with a rowdy applause. Bass player Colin Colby then switched out his electric bass for a classic upright double bass which gave the next track, Black Sedan, a really deep and rich sound. 

Just Like Honey and Lies and Regret followed which the crowd really got into, and the latter was a real toe tappin’ boot scootin’ affair. Charley was flying through the songs back to back with minimal audience interaction in between, and amongst those were some James ‘Slim’ Hand covers including In The Corner. Into the mix he also threw in Hard Luck & Circumstances, Odessa and Look What You Done To Me, which had slight hints of New Orleans Jazz vibes with it’s arrangement. 

It was then we went to Welcome Hard Times, before it sounded like we were headed into a Mexican stand-off when the moody intro to The Man From Waco rang out and had the crowd singing along to the chorus. After a few more songs, including a Jerry Reed cover of I Feel For You, Charley then thanked and praised his wonderfully talented band and said that “they make a $10 cowboy look pretty good”. He then said he had to ask us something, and asked if we were having a good time? This was met with deafening cheers and applause, in which Charley then summoned a big Hallelujah from everyone in the room. 

It was then into another cover, this time Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got to Memphis, before we got down with the funky blues tune Travelin’ Blues. Charley then picked up his banjo for the first time that night and proceeded to play the bluegrass sounding track Darlin’ Six Months Ain’t Long, promptly followed up with Lily My Dear. Trinity River was a hit with the crowd, and once again this track with its upbeat jazz feel makes you feel like you’re marching down Bourbon Street in New Orleans in a Second Line Parade. 

It really amazes me how a song can make you feel an experience that you’ve never encountered before, and during Run Horse Run I truly felt like a cowboy in the Wild West riding in the saddle of my faithful steed. After finishing the ode to his home state Goin’ Back to Texas, he cheekily told us that because this was his second Melbourne show he was twice as good as he was the night before, money back guaranteed. His set then drew to a close with Midnight Run and a huge and thunderous applause from the crowd who were hungry for more. When I say the crowd were hungry, they were bloody starving for more once Charley had departed the stage. The cheering and stomping from the audience would’ve put the hyena stampede from The Lion King to shame, and the sound was deafening as the crowd were trying to summon him back to the stage for an encore. There was a long delay where it looked as if that was it and a few concert goers started to disperse, but their ravenous calls were met with Charley reappearing with his acoustic guitar and singing a solo version of Lonesome As a Shadow. It was then one last song with the full band before the night drew to a close and a lot of happy souls were left to venture out into the night for their journey home. 

Charley’s voice is a deep, smooth salve for the soul and at times reminds me a lot of the late great Johnny Cash. I am far from a country music aficionado by any means, however I feel his style of country music is a lot different to what you hear commercially released these days. His old school country sound pulls from influences like Hank Williams and George Jones, and made me feel like I was back in the 1950’s sitting in some little honky tonk bar in the depths of the Deep South. Charley is certainly a talented performer, not just vocally, but musically and with his cute little dance moves and dashing cowboy looks, he really is the whole country meal deal. I really enjoyed my night with Charley, and can now officially call myself a fan! 

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[Review] Rise Against @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 05/02/2024

Monday the 5th of February brought Sydney sweaty record breaking humidity and Chicago based rock band Rise Against playing at Sydney’s intimate Enmore Theatre. On their 25th year together, Rise Against are celebrating the occasion by joining Blink-182 on their Australian and New Zealand tour, but not before treating fans to a few special solo shows. One in Melbourne and one in Sydney.

The band, which was formed in 1999 and went by the name Transistor Revolt for a year before settling on Rise Against, which they have stuck with since then. The band is made up of Tim McIlrath on vocals and rhythm guitar, Zach Blair as lead guitarist, Joe Principe on bass, and Brandon Barnes on drums. They are well known for aggressive and catchy hooks, as well as their outspoken lyrics on social issues such as animal rights, political injustice and environmentalism. 

Setting the tone for the night was Redfern based punk rock band, Beerwolf. With a very similar sound to Rise Against, they were the perfect choice as opener for the night. The band chatted with the crowd between songs, and at 8:30pm the band played their last song for the night and cleared the stage. 

Sound checks were carried out and finally the lights went dark. As the band took the stage of the Enmore Theatre, I imagine they were reminded of the last time they walked out on the same stage on March 9th, 15 years earlier.

As the air conditioning of the intimate Theatre strains itself, the distinctive chord progression of Prayer of the Refugee begins to play and the crowd recognises it, pushing forward towards the stage. Rise Against absolutely fills the venue with their energy right from the start, an unmistakable characteristic of a Rise Against show. 

What follows is truly a set list for the fans. An ode to the early years of band. Taking the audience back through history, starting in 2003 with Like The Angel from their album Revolutions Per Minute and unraveling the set with some of the biggest hits from their early albums.

The set list featured the most tracks from the albums The Sufferer & the Witness and Appeal to Reason, such as Re-Education (Through Labor), Ready to Fall, Survive, The Good Left Undone and The Audience of One

The set also included the tracks Satellite and Make it Stop (September’s Children) from their 2011 album Endgame and was only sprinkled with tracks from 2017 onwards with the only tracks making an appearance being The Violence from their album Wolves and Nowhere Generation from their newest album of the same name. 

There were more than a few stand out parts of the night. One being the acoustic set before the encore. The first track Hero Of War was a treat only for Sydney, having been left off the setlist the night before in Melbourne. Following up with Swing Life Away, McIlrath dedicated the track to his late friend Chris Cornell, former member of Soundgarden and Audioslave. McIlrath seemingly takes a moment to reflect, speaking with the crowd about doing what you want to do today, in case tomorrow doesn’t come. 

The other absolute stand out moment of the night was the song Give It All. The energy put out by the band to the audience was reflected right back by the crowd. For the first time McIlrath was down off the stage, standing on the barricades and singing quite appropriately ‘I give it all

Now there’s a reason why I sing

So give it all

And it’s these reasons that belong to me’.

The mosh pit holds the energy after that for the last two songs, as the band close the set with one of their most well known songs, Savior

Even after being together for 25 years, Rise Against are still complete Punk-Rock powerhouses. It’s obvious that their passion for the music and the message are what keeps them releasing music and touring, with such intensity and vigor for so many years.

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[Review] Royal Blood @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 13/12/2023

The Hordern Pavilion transformed into a rock playground on Wednesday night as Royal Blood, the notorious UK rock duo, graced the stage in support of their latest album, Back to the Water Below. Along for the ride were local acts Psychedelic Porn Crumpets and The Buoys, as supports for the entire Australian run. It’s been a long 5 years since their last headline run in Australia, and releasing two new #1 albums in their absence, fans are chomping at the bit to see them once more.

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, hailing from Perth, took the night up a notch. As the second support act, sthey brought their unique brand of heavy drums and intense rhythms to the stage. Their setlist, featuring tracks like Tally-Ho, MundungusNootmare (K-I-L-L-I-n-G) Meow!, and Hymn for a Droid, showcased their ability to seamlessly blend heavy and (dare I say) psychedelic elements, the perfect addition to the evening by complimenting the headliners. There is no doubt that they gained many new fans tonight.

Before the show, the audience was treated to a prelude of Rage Against the Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, and Arctic Monkeys, over the venue PA – they sure know their clientele tonight!

As the lights dimmed, Prodigy’s Firestarter signalled the arrival of tonight’s headliners. Purple hues bathed the stage as Royal Blood emerged, front man Mike Kerr sporting sunglasses, and drummer Ben Thatcher, true to form, donning his signature hat. The set kicked off with Out of the Black instantly lighting up the crowd. From the first chorus you can hear the venue singing over the band, and this doesn’t stop for the remainder of the evening. As the first song is wrapping up Thatcher jumps down from his drum kit and motions for the crowd to split in two. He then hops down into the masses and joined his fans, snapping photos.

A brief hello led straight into an enormous set featuring hits like Come on Over, Boilermaker, Typhoons and Lights Out, each met with a louder roar from punters. During moments of banter between Kerr and fans, he says ‘a lot has changed in the years we haven’t been here but one that remains the same are the shoey chants.’ As he has newfound sobriety, he asks for a volunteer from the mosh pit to do one for him as he plays us the next track. One of the highlights of the night was Little Monster, which was met with howls from the crowd so loud that Kerr steps away from the microphone to the front of the stage to allow us to sing.

In a 2017 interview with The AU Review, both members expressed their hatred of encores, Mike Kerr said ‘we’d rather do our thing and destroy the place, and leave’. Although Royal Blood are now an encore band!  Returning with unexpected twist as they were joined by Chris Young from Psychedelic Porn Crumpets for Waves, from their latest album. A collaborative ballad showcased not only the seamless synergy between the two bands but also the exceptional vocal prowess of Kerr. The evening reached its pinnacle with the chart topper Figure It Out, ending on a truly unforgettable moment as fans dug deep and gave every last ounce of energy.

Royal Blood’s performance tonight, was nothing short of spectacular. The duo demonstrated an unparalleled mastery of their craft only honed by years of dedication and touring. From the power of Troubles Coming and How Did We Get So Dark? to the emotionally charged encore featuring hits like Waves and Ten Tonne Skeleton, the night was proof of their evolution as musicians. The energy, the flawless execution of their extensive setlist, and the unexpected collaboration with Psychedelic Porn Crumpets created an impression that stayed with the audience long after the last note had faded. I lost count of how many times I exclaimed after hearing the first note of the next song, the hits did not stop coming all night. With an absolutely stacked 18 song set list, this was easily the best I have ever seen Royal Blood and it only makes me hungrier to see them again.

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[Review] Jackson Browne @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 29/11/2023

Review By Terri Nas

Wednesday night was a wet and soggy occasion(classic Melbourne Summer), and it was baby boomer central as I headed over to Margaret Court Arena to see legendary American singer, Jackson Browne. If there’s one thing I love as much as going to gigs, it’s people watching. As I stood outside waiting for my friend to arrive, I watched the crowd roll in and it occurred to me that never have I been to a gig where a huge portion of the crowd had to enter via the accessibility entrance. These boomers were here for a damn good time, and absolutely nothing was going to get in their way.

Browne is currently touring Australia after having to postpone his tour earlier in the year due to illness. Supporting him on his tour is Australian singer-songwriter, Liz Stringer. This is one home-grown talent that I am admittedly ashamed I have never heard of until now. Stringer has an absolutely incredible voice that has the ability to stop you in your tracks. It’s raw, husky quality is equally matched with refined smoothness and during a couple of her slower songs, if I’d closed my eyes I would’ve sworn I was listening to Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac. Stringer is a true storyteller and her songs really struck a chord with me. Her song The Metrologist is brilliant and the intensity of the bridge had me holding my breath, waiting for her to come up for air during the fast paced lyrics. I thoroughly enjoyed her entire set, and she now has a brand new fan in me.

Once Liz Stringer departed the stage the roadies did their seamless stage changeover, and it wasn’t long until the house lights would go down in preparation for the main event. The stadium was stripped of light, and Jackson walked onto stage alone under a single spotlight to a huge round of applause. Guitar in hand and decked out in jeans and a blue plaid shirt, he opened the show alone with a moving version of Don’t Let Us Get Sick.

His band of 7 then entered the stage and took us on an upbeat ride Downhill From Everywhere, which then led to For Everyman where the stage was completely bathed in red lighting to really set the tone. Jackson’s two incredibly talented back up vocalists then joined him down the front of the stage to sing Until Justice Is Real, in which he dedicated it to those all around the world fighting racial injustice.

Fountain of Sorrow and The Long Way Around were next on the list until we got to Somebody’s Baby, in which Jackson confessed that it took him 20 years to love this particular song. He also acknowledged with humour, that “a guy with a white beard singing about a baby, is not good”. He then went on to explain that in his mind he doesn’t have a white beard and he’s definitely not 75. Those of us that have begun the ageing process certainly found this hilariously relatable.

Jackson then jumped over to the piano to play his favourite song, a cover of Warren Zevon’s The Indifference of Heaven. We then were treated to a beautiful and moving rendition of For A Dancer, which he explained was written about his first friend that passed away.

The lyrics are completely heartbreaking and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a lump in my throat at that point.

Hecklers in the audience started piping up with requests, and The Pretender was one that many called out, which was met with a chuckled response of “we’ll get there”. Jackson opted to play Boulevard next before succumbing to peer pressure and playing The Pretender, which was met with a hugely excited response from the crowd. Jackson explained that he’s actually been in Melbourne for the past week seeing the sights and lapping up our incredible restaurants, and couldn’t help but cheekily stir us about our “great weather” in response to the consistent summer rain we’d had for the past week.

Call It Alone and Time The Conqueror were up next, despite the audience still shouting requests in between. Jackson, in a good natured way said in response “we’re gonna play what I want.” Whilst the odd harmless heckle or request can be funny, when people consistently do it throughout a show it does wear thin and I find myself getting as annoyed as what the performer must be. As we started to navigate to the final leg of the set with more hits, That Girl Could Sing was a great experience with an awesome harmonising guitar battle, and then we got to the classic Doctor My Eyes which the crowd couldn’t help moving and singing along to.

Late For The Sky took things down a notch before the set was rounded out with a finale of his iconic hit, Running On Empty. The crowd were going wild and dancing in the aisles to the legendary tune. Those that weren’t up dancing, were then up out of their seats for a standing ovation at the end of the song. Jackson and his band deserved this overwhelming reception and more. We then went through the usual motions of being wished goodnight and pretending to say goodbye, until SURPRISE! Encore time!

There was no way he could finish up his 2+ hour set without singing an ode to all the roadies out there with The Load-Out, which naturally led into the crowd favourite Stay. There was a lot of audience participation and backing vocals during the entire encore because in fact, yes, we did “wanna staaaayyy, just a little bit longer”.

It was then a final goodnight to the brilliant Mr Jackson Browne and his super tight and talented backing band. Jackson and his formidable talent is a great example that age doesn’t necessarily mean limitations, given that his voice was still just as superb as ever, and I did love seeing him float between his guitar and piano throughout the course of the night. His music has that wholesome ‘Americana’ feel with long instrumentals and meaningful lyrics that reach your heart, which also have the staying power to reach multiple generations. Despite being one of the youngest there and not knowing every single song I thoroughly enjoyed my night with such a talented legend, and judging by the conversations I overheard on the way out, that was the general consensus of everyone that was in the room that night. Until next time, Mr Browne!

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