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[Review] Florence & The Machine @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 08/3/2023

Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena is in the top 10 busiest venues in Australia and New Zealand. Tonight, it is home to opening act King Princess and headliner, Florence and The Machine

Queer icon, Michaela Straus, known by stage name King Princess, played a powerhouse set, all while dressed in a lace dress over baggy jeans – an obscure choice that felt so natural on the Brooklyn native. About halfway through their set, King Princess turns to one of her musicians and says, straight faced, “Uh-Oh Antwon, it’s pussy time” before launching into certified banger; Pussy is God. While the arena is only half full – people are filling the whole of the space, dancing at the back – spinning with each other and jumping. King Princess is entirely self-aware of the genre changes her set provides; ‘Now for juxtaposition, who wants to hear a sad lesbian song?” If I was picturing a ‘Sad lesbian song’, Change The Locks would be it. Heartbreaking and full of yearning, it is a beautiful ode to lost love and youthful melancholy. Coming out of the ballad, Straus has noticed a lull in the crowds’ energy. Grabbing the mic, they command our attention; “Guys you have to get more excited, I don’t care if you fucking like me or not. Get crazy! Get loose. Let’s get crazy.” And so, we do. The crowd starts jumping, hooting, and hollering. Straus goes from shredding guitar, to grinding and dancing on the ground – pulling out all the stops, without breaking a sweat. In the middle of major hit, 1950, they stop. Almost teary, they take a moment. “Australia’s always been a place that’s supported me. Shout out to the Queer community in Australia.” Looking through the crowd and seeing Queer couples of all ages kiss each other, hold hands, sway together – it is a beautiful moment of community, love, and connection. Finishing the set strong, King Princess is back with a smirk; “Let’s praise the rock lords!” Let Us Die is the perfect closer. Finishing the set by throwing a pick into the crowd – we are primed for the main event.  

An installation, mimicking a pile of half-melted candles in some old European cathedral, is moved onstage. Microphones are scattered around the periphery. There is a buzz in the air.

My housemate turned to me; “Have you ever seen Florence live?”

I shook my head.

With a smirk, he turned back to the stage; “You’re in for a treat”.

And, my god, what a treat it was.

The lights go black, and underneath the candles, a strobe goes off. There is nothing for a moment, and then Florence comes onstage; draped in blue lace, shoe-less, red hair flowing over her lithe frame. There could not be a more perfect opening track; Heaven Is Here. She moves in a way somewhere between rhythmic and jagged. She is possessed by the sound. So are we.

She moves seamlessly into a haunting rendition of I Am King. She stands tall, arms spread out wide, lace sleeves filtering the purple light now filling the stage. This feels more like a Church sermon than a concert; this is The Gospel According To Florence Welch.

Suddenly, the energy shifts, and we are swept into Ship To Wreck. The crowd goes nuts – free from their trance. They are jumping and screaming and singing, and so is Florence. The next few songs, Welch dances around the stage, gliding from one end to another, motioning for her captive audience to sing even louder. In a moment between songs, she laughs a little into the microphone – “To those of you who know me, and those of you who’ve been dragged along tonight and are wondering, ‘What the fuck is this?’ – welcome to the show. It is so much better if you just give into it. I promise. If you do everything I say, you’ll be fine.” Who are we to disobey? While performing Free, she simply raises her hand on the lyric ‘as it picks me up’ and lowers it ‘puts me down’, and the whole crowd follows her, as if under a spell.

When it is time for one of Florence and The Machine’s biggest hits – The Dog Days Are Over, she tells all of us to put our phones away, to “Be here, connect with each other.” There is not a phone in sight and everyone, even those of us in the seated area of the arena, jump together and sing together in beautiful, free catharsis. Her voice is unbelievable; she is a Kate Bush, a Stevie Nicks, and yet, something else entirely. It rings smooth and clear and fills up the entire stadium with ease.

Welch then makes her way offstage and into the crowd for Big God.  She approaches the crowd and holds a fan’s face with gentle hand. As she sings to them, she wipes away their tears, and then pulls away to stand above the barrier which holds back the crowd. The lights onstage stop their changing from red to purple and go black once again. She is lit by a single spotlight, and as she sings, fans clamour to touch her. Reaching up to hold her hands, her arms, anything. In the darkness, all you can see is hands reaching up through the spotlight. They are desperate to be bestowed with some of their Messiah’s goodness, to be washed clean of their ills by this religious figure which stands above them.

Florence Welch is a master of tone-shifting without breaking focus. Jumping immediately into What Kind of Man, the stage pulsing with red light that bathes all 14,000 of us. Her body moving with every flash. The stage and her are one being. And then, suddenly, she is speaking again, the stage lights a gentle violet. Her voice is cracking, as if she is about to cry. “I invite you all now to hold onto each other”, and so we embrace or hold hands or press our feet together. The father and daughter in front of me, the older lesbian couple, the high school best friends – all wrapped up with each other. We are treated to a song that was not played at all on the tour before her closing Australia and New Zealand leg, The Bomb. She dedicates this one to her support act; King Princess, because it’s her favourite song.

Choreomania brings another run into the crowd. This time she sprints to the back, the crowd parting for her like the Red Sea. She stands above them, and once again they desperately reach for her.

You said that rock and roll is dead/

But is that just because it has not been resurrected in your image.

The crowd is screaming these lyrics back to her, people coming out of nowhere to gather around her.

Like if Jesus came back, but in a beautiful dress.

The arena lights up as Florence raises her arms to the sky, and the crowd follows in perfect, mirrored synchronicity. I’m not a religious person, but I was covered in goosebumps. She was delivering a sermon. Her crowd her devoted followers (one man had been to 42 shows). It was like the most beautiful, loving, joyous cult you could imagine.

Finishing with a mix of My Love and Restraint, she begins pulsing, raising her arms, moving her body in almost inhuman ways. Then, pushed out of her trance she begs – “This is the Dance Fever tour! For years we couldn’t gather like this. This is the resurrection of dance. I want you to leave everything you have here, in this room”. And the crowd goes ballistic. After 2 hours of songs, they are still going with as much vigour as they did for the first track. She is infectious.

Previously, Florence hasn’t played Never Let Me Go, at her live shows. “It was written at a time where I was very sad, and very drunk. And if you could imagine in terms of Florence and the Machine songs, what has to be the Saddest and Drunkest? That is very sad and very drunk. So, it sort of hurt too much to sing it. But I’ve had a lot of time to think about what performance means to me, and connection with you means to me.”  And as things go quiet before she sings, voices scream at her “I love you!” and we all cheer. Voices sing alongside her, tears well up in all of us. It’s heartbreaking. It is a reclamation.

Finishing with Shake It Out and Rabbit Heart, I left feeling very much lost for words. It was more than just a show. How could I possibly capture the energy left in that room?

Welch has been very open about her history of anxiety and depression, as well as alcoholism. Clean and sober for several years, you can feel a weight is lifted from her. As she dances around stage – effervescent, ethereal, divine, she reminds us that there is a simple divinity in being alive. There is so much joy, along with the pain. That no pain is too great to overcome. “I gave my hard emotions to you, to protect. Thank you.” Just as we keep her pain safe, we keep each others pain safe. This was a show about connection, to ourselves, to loved ones, to strangers. It was a beautiful reclamation of femininity, queerness, truth, and selfhood. That despite all the hurt, all the heartache, all the grief – we can still dance, barefoot, sharing our fear, our hopes, our doubts, and people will be there to scream and sing along with us. Florence holds us with her music. It was as cathartic for us as it was for Welch, who seemed so happy, lost in the moment, fully present and alive. She is a symbol of overcoming, of community and of love. I left, teary-eyed, feeling closer to myself, excited to face a new day and rejoice in being alive.

I have seen God. She is a woman. And her name, is Florence Welch.

You can still catch Florence & The Machine’s Dance Fever Tour

Tickets available here 

 
 
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[Review] Sacred Reich / Vio-Lence @ Manning Bar, Sydney 08/03/2023

I stand tonight in the heart of many happy metalheads. After multiple cancellations, delays, and pandemics; we blew the dust that had settled upon our tickets from 2019 for the Aussie Thrash Fest has arrived. Sydney is the second stop on the tour, which began in our nation’s capital. Before the grand finale in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide will also be decimated!

A double header of these thrash titans is sure to be a wild ride.  

Founded in 1985, at the height of the Bay Area thrash movement, Vio-lence came up alongside fellow Bay bashers as Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Heathen, Forbidden, Laaz Rockit, Dark Angel, and of course Metallica. Tonight, we celebrate their very first visit down under. Aussie fans may have thought they’d never see Vio-Lence on our shores as they’ve had many stints together, only recently reforming in 2019 after their 2003 split. 

Sadly, guitarist and founding member Phil Demmel (ex-Machine Head) isn’t with them on this tour. One man down doesn’t stop remaining members storming the stage and throwing down Bay Area style! Red lighting creates a menacing atmosphere as they ferociously fire through many well known songs including Serial Killer, Calling In the Coroner and Kill on Command. Vocalist Sean Killian is a true professional, commanding the stage ensuring every punter who makes eye contact with him, he’s returning. A nice surprise was seeing Christian Olde Wolbers (ex Fear Factory) on bass duties. He’s been with Vio-lence since 2020 and is having a great time up on stage. He’s always had a wonderful stage presence and gives his everything, a great addition to an already solid line up. Vio-Lence have ignited the crowd with their merciless set, most songs coming from 1988’s Eternal Nightmare. As this is their first time to Australia, Vio-Lence fans have been waiting a long time to hear these tracks. There are smiles a plenty as their time is wrapped up with Phobophobia, Upon Their Cross and World in a World

As the sounds of Sacred Reich ride through the outdoor smoking area, fans are dropping everything to run inside. By the time I’ve rushed in with the masses, The American Way has kicked off with many fists in the air, singing along. Vocalist Phil Rind takes a moment to say hello to the crowd. When asked if anyone was born after 1994, a fair few hand rose. Rind chuckles and informs us all that 1994 was the last time Sacred Reich were on our shores with Sepultura. 

Most of the songs tonight come from their latest album, 2019’s Awakening. Including Divide & Conquer, Manifest Reality and Salvation. World renowned skinsman Dave McClain (ex Machine Head) is holding down the beat with precision and concentration. I’ve been seeing Dave play since I was a young teenager and I’ve always admired his style, tonight his bass drum emanate through each one of us bringing a whole new meaning to feeling the music! One confused crowd member may not know where he is as he screams for ‘Holy Wars!’ (of course, by Megadeth, not Sacred Reich.) Phil handles this well by giving his two cents on which albums he likes, because the one thing we all have in common tonight, is thrash metal!  

I can’t help but watch new blood Joey Radziwill, on rhythm guitar. He is pouring all his energy and enthusiasm into his axe tonight, headbanging at every moment, not missing a note. Free and Who’s to Blame garner great responses from the crowd. Sacred Reich have always been a little different to the rest, preferring to cover social and political issues than the more demonic elements of their peers but despite the intense subject matter and the furious riffing of the likes of Death Squad, frontman Phil Rind’s beaming smile, friendly on-stage demeanour and positive inter-song banter was at odds with those weighty topics. 

The night appeared to fly by after such a lengthy wait, which was testament to the band’s powerful, hugely entertaining performance. Long-time axeman Wiley Arnett kicks off Surf Nicaragua to close tonight’s set, igniting a small riot on the floor of the Manning Bar. 

As the punters saunter away from the stage, hungry for 1 more song, smiles are still wide on everyone’s faces. The merch table is many people deep while security attempt to clear the venue. To experience a bands first trip to Australia, and one almost 30 years in the making was truly special. Hardline Media proving once more they are a promotor for the people. 

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[Review] Stryper @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 05/03/2023

The yellow and black attack are back after last gracing out shores in 2018, they have made their return and the fans couldn’t be happier, the unending line snaking up and around 170 Russell in Melbourne a testament to the numbers waiting to get in.  As I made my way down the stairs it was clear there was a b-line for merch knowing it sold out last time Stryper were in town. So after a quick stop there I got my spot up close to the stage so I didn’t miss a minute of the action.

Opening the nights proceeding were Crosson, delivering a set almost reminiscent of a theatre show, complete with dancers, costume changes and a few rocking tunes in-between. They have been around for quite a while so it must be working for them, and they had the crowd starting to warm up by the end of their set. Followed closely by Sydney’s Panik who gave a flat-out thrash set, for a threesome these guys packed a punch and had 170 rocking with big riffs and high kicks. They left the punters well and truly ready and left me well impressed.

The heavy metal tunes were pumping from the speakers, the fans were singing along getting their voices warmed up, could any compete with Michael Sweet? definitely not, but we all like to think we could. The Marshall amps were stacked across the stage ready to be put to the test with Robert’s kit perched on top in his trademark sideways style. The lights dimmed the tension palpable, we have been waiting out the last few years to have Stryper back in Australia, and we were more than ready to rock out with them.

After touring as a trio last time due to Oz’s ill health I am happy to report that all four members were here and looking sharp. As they took the stage the fans erupted, it was clear they had brought their singing voices and weren’t afraid to use them. In God We Trust got the party started followed by Revalation and More Than A Man. Constantly engaging with the crowd Michael Sweet exuded happiness to be touring again and to be back in Australia. After having his own health issues of late we were delighted to have him here as well. While the set list wasn’t as extensive as Stryper’s last visit there was lots to love as Surrender and Calling On You rang out.  Free was up next, the boys smashing out the songs with gusto,

Oz and Michael shredding skills both exemplary, as always the solos were hit to perfection showing the room just how it is done. The booming drum intro to Sorry from the ripping album God Damn Evil had everyone up and about, and while it was apparent Robert had been having a few technical issues with his kit he didn’t let this stop him hitting the gritty depths of the wicked groove. The hits keep coming with All For One, Always There For You and the amazing Divider which was explosive in its delivery and had the fans singing along.

The Valley ripped the venue a new one, it was loud, and it was heavy, just how we like them, then followed by the one we all wanted to hear Yahweh! Styper bibles were at the ready, randomly thrown out to the crowd over the course of the evening. While one grazed my hand, sadly I didn’t get the coveted keepsake, maybe next time, as Michael promised they would keeping coming back for as long as we would have them. Perry Richardson was magnificent, dazzling us all night, his smile as wide as the stage, loving every minute. The fans loved right back as Soldiers Under Command rang out, the punters losing their minds as this epic song played and 170 sang along in loud voices keeping them primed for To Hell With The Devil a classic Stryper hit and one we all happy made the cut.

As the night drew to its conclusion, we were hopeful for just one more song and through the higher powers our prayers were answered with the boys returning for Sing-Along Song. This took the crowd to celestial heights, we were drained nothing left in the tank but we screamed out hearts out as they boys came to the forefront giving them the applause they so deserved. Robert threw not drumsticks but his stack of bibles to the hungry crowd, and still they remained elusive to me. Next time I will have my bible catching hand on point!  Final waves and thanks were given, and we were left to recover from a night of hot sweaty, godly rock, that can only be described as angelic. 

Stryper were the preachers, and we were their congregation, spellbound by their words, captivated by their songs, we were disciples schooled in the church of heavy metal, and didn’t we love it! 

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[Review] Richard Marx @ NEX, Newcastle 01/03/2023

Back in 1987, when Saturday morning tv was filled with the latest music videos, a handsome young man appeared on the screen. He was the epitome of a late 1980s pop star with a flowing mane cut into a designer mullet and the voice of an angel. Young women’s hearts melted for this lad (including mine), but he was so much more than just another pretty face, he had real talent, too. Single after single reached the Top 10, and this success followed through into the 1990s (and beyond). Even grunge couldn’t dim this man’s star. And to this day, he is the only male artist to have written songs that have reached the number 1 position over the past 4 decades. A song of the year Grammy Award winner in 2004, Triple Platinum status, in excess of 30 Million in record sales, 26 Top 20 singles, 17 Top 10, 14 Number 1s, this man is a powerhouse. So when I woke up to the news that I was going to be attending his concert in Newcastle (my hometown) tonight, I was more than just a bit excited. What a way to start the month! 

Introducing Mr Richard Marx, an Adult Contemporary Pop-Rock American Singer / Songwriter / Musician / Producer. He has written and co-written hit songs for artists like Kenny Rogers, Nsync, Luther Vandross and our very own, Keith Urban, as well as a slew of chart-toppers of his own.

Arriving at the NEX complex in Newcastle, NSW, the line to enter was long due to this concert being sold out, but the staff did their best to get us all inside and seated quickly and efficiently for an 8pm sharp start. 

Right on time the support act entered the stage, acoustic guitar slung across his body. He introduced himself as Dandelion Head, otherwise known as J Blynn, an American, now Melbourne-based guitarist / singer / songwriter who was recently a featured artist on Rage. 

J is also Richard Marx’ guitarist. As Dandelion Head, he played a 5 song acoustic set including his latest song, Sad Eyes

Then it was a quick outfit change and he returned to the stage with a drummer, bass guitarist and Mr Richard Marx himself, in tow. Showtime!

The main event started with a video montage of Richards achievements, and then the band opened with a song from the latest album, Songwriter, titled Believe In Me, which led into Rush Street hit, Take This Heart, followed by Endless Summer Nights. At this point a lady from the audience approached the stage in front of Marx, holding a sign saying that it was her birthday and could she get a selfie with him. He obliged happily, also signing the album cover she handed him. He told the crowd that he got into the music business to get attention so please take photos and videos, upload them to you tube and social media, do whatever makes you happy, this is your night. Then he crooned the popular ballad, Angelia. Marx then introduced Same Heartbreak, Different Day, telling the audience that it is a special song to him as he co-wrote it with his second son, Lucas, it’s from the latest album and then Marx remained on stage while his band left. He explained that he had written a song for his 2014 album Now And Forever The Ballads that all 3 of his sons had individually told him that they liked, so he had asked them to play this song for this tour via a video recording. He spoke proudly of his talented sons and then a video of them playing When You Loved Me began while Marx accompanied on guitar and sang the song. Afterwards he stopped to take a sip of a strange lemon concoction drink and told another amusing story this time about Canadian singer Bryan Adams and this same drink which apparently is great for singers but also is used as a detox. The crowd laughed and next up were hit songs Too Late To Say Goodbye, which Richard suddenly added to the setlist on the fly – I guess he felt this audience was a Repeat Offender kinda crowd. Following that he played Hold On To The Nights, and Now and Forever. Richard stopped to chat with the crowd again, telling us how he had co-written one of Keith Urban’s popular songs and had worked with American Boy Band, Nsync in the early 2000s, which was the segway into him playing Long Hot Summer by Urban and This I Promise You by Nsync. The set closed out with Marx’ ode about the music industry, Don’t Mean Nothing.

The band left the stage and the crowd clapped and called for an encore. I mentally counted at least half a dozen more “hits” that were yet to be played so I waited for the band to return. First up was a song from the 2020 album, Limitless, accompanied by a video montage clip of Richard and his wife, Daisy Fuentes. The sweet and romantic Front Row Seat.  Marx introduced the popular chart topping, Hazard accompanied by the original video clip being played on the screen, moving seamlessly into Satisfied where the audience sang along loudly as Marx asked us to sing back to him. Should’ve Known Better got the crowd up and out of their seats and dancing in the aisle and singing along. Then it was time for the final song of the night, Marx sat at the keyboard and began to play Right Here Waiting, everyone was singing along with him, not wanting this night to end.

Richard Marx is an artist who knows and understands his fanbase. He’s here to promote his new album, Songwriter, released on September 30, 2022, but he also knows we’ve all come along to hear certain “hits” and he doesn’t disappoint. During the show, people in the audience yelled out thank yous, cheers and encouragement as Richard entertained, performing a cracking setlist made up of fan favourites from the 1987 debut Self Titled album right through to 1994s Paid Vacation and peppered the setlist with some newer content, engaging with the audience by telling funny anecdotes, using self-deprecating humour about ageing, and heartwarming stories about his family. His show included several video montages that included his family which added to the presentation while also telling the story of the songs. Marx spoke often during the show, regaleing the audience with stories and mentioning his Australian friends Keith Urban and John Farnham, and wishing his old friend well. Richard Marx fans are their fans, too and Marx is savvy enough to realise that and elicits the response he desired. Connection made. His main audience are fellow GenXers who have grown up, and older, with Marx, they “get” him. The whole vibe of the night felt different to most other shows I’ve attended. It was pretty low key, laid back, and relaxed, a safe space. Maybe that’s just Newcastle, maybe it was the 75/25 female to male ratio audience, but I believe that it also had a lot to do with Richard and his band.  And hearing these old songs again, it felt like a familiar place, a warm hug from my past, from a simpler time, come to revisit. 24 hours later and I’m still smiling at the new memories of last night, and getting to share this experience with my brother made it even more special to me. He loved the show, too.

Marx is the original Mr Nice Guy, he playfully accepted wolf whistles from the audience with good humour, obliged a fan with a selfie and autograph during the show, and encouraged everyone to have a good time, and to sing loudly with him. You go to a Richard Marx show to have a fun time and you get it – in spades, walking away at the end of the night with a big ole smile on your face. And it’s not just Marx that brings that joy, his band clearly love their job. They smile the whole time they are performing, it’s a contagious happiness.

The only real downside to the night was that it ended after about 2 hours of pure enjoyment and entertainment. It’s no wonder that this entire tour is sold out. I am definitely going to the concert the next time Richard Marx hits our shores again. 

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[Review] Heilung @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 04/03/2023

The comforts of my solitude and slumber was suddenly interrupted, welcomely after months of waiting, by the call of the Valkyries, hence the ravens of Odin guided me not to the tall glorious door to Valhalla, but the Roman inspired architecture of The Forum. Tall branches and exotic decoration adorned the stage as the auditorium was bustling with a heavily varied arrangement of character, from patrons fashioning their quintessential metal black, to individuals going above and beyond for the show dressed in old cotton garbs, headpieces, masks, even painted with impressive bodily artwork. I expected nothing less for the first visit down under by the titans of amplified history, Heilung 

 

Right after a touching and well needed acknowledgment to the sacred indigenous land we stand on, we were greeted by Kai Uwe Faust, wielding a burning incense in which its sparks were blown onto all the equipment and microphones, concluding with the audience, as if to give the venue a blessing prior to the experience we were about to have. He was later joined by none other than Maria Franz, both donning their iconic antler headpieces, along with a fierce, incomparably talented ensemble that all gathered in circle to perform an opening ceremony before the show commenced. 

 

What followed after was 2 hours ritualistic, spiritual form of expression and storytelling that caused my mouth to remain wide open for the entirety of the show. The grim chants and steady, unrelenting beat of the tune In Maidjan was a perfect introduction. Kai’s flawless throat singing and Maria’s vocal range of a siren constantly sent ice cold shivers up and down my body, not to mention the accompanying instrumentalists and stage performers who transformed the modern world at that moment into a glimpse of medieval pagan culture. Alfadhirhaiti…..you truly need to listen to this track itself in order to fully appreciate the monstrous power behind it. The call and response chanting of the spear/shield wielding warriors fuelled a primal warrior instinct within me that made me wish to storm and pillage the shores of England and Francia. 

 

One aspect of this show that really stood out me was the expression of wild foundation of human nature, conveying the true independence of the human body and soul devoid of rules and guide lines delivered through a perfect amplification of our history through Scandinavian and Germanic culture. For this was a culture that did not discriminate or promote prejudice, for both men and women of the times shared all when it came to duty, sexuality, and spiritualism. Women bore their naked chests displaying their strength as much as men did. Women rode along men in battle. Men embraced activities that throughout recent history would be seen as “feminine”. This was both touching and liberating. This stunningly undomesticated spiritual awakening also captivated every soul in the ordinance to the point of almost acting like Germanic warriors at a feast. Hell, at one point I let out an animalistic scream that I never though could leave my thin body! 

 

Throughout this performance we were taken through many intense tales of pagan culture. With a handful and warriors thrashing the bottom of their spears in rhythm whilst chanting promoted the ferocity of battle, Druid-like characters performing animalistic rituals and ceremonies, and the use of such unique ancient languages in their lyrics taken from the stones such as Eggja. One aspect of history they heavily display is the band of warriors themselves, in which the band recites this specifically from the writings of Tacitus whom scribed the tales of the Warriors, named the Harii, painted in black to cause chaos attacking their foes at night. The entire idea of Heilung is for them to to demonstrate a beautifully wild and almost forgotten culture in history to the modern eye, and this unforgettable performance demonstrates this flawlessly.

 

The show concluded with what I can only describe as a full on pagan rave, as all the performers built up a monstrous 10 minute track to what I could only interpret as a celebratory ritual. The percussionists thrashed their drums in perfect rhythm, the vocalists chanted excitedly, and the ensemble performers danced in such a captivating frantic way that pumped the sold out venue with non stop energy. The Warriors themselves couldn’t help but grin though the ballet as us audience members clapped and jumped along to this wholesome conclusion. The historic party ended with a final ceremony, both mimicking but responding the the opening, before these unforgettable characters gracefully exited the stage.

 

And thus I remain, 1 hour after the finale, beer in hand at my local pub, but not ever drifting from the ongoing buzz I felt which was so strong it drown out the entire rowdiness and music around me. I do not think any words I write can do justice the magic I had just witnessed. Heilung had brought to me an art that I only now have become to fully appreciate and awaken to, and I truly hope that this band, and everything they represent, will continue to prosper for years on end. 

 

Fin  

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[Review] Backstreet Boys @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 28/02/2023

There is no doubt The Backstreet Boys DNA Tour has been highly awaited, with fans patiently biding their time amongst rescheduling and postponements. But the time is upon us, and boy am I excited and gauging the amount of people heading to Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne I am not alone. It is night one of two in this wonderful city, and the fans are coming out in force, keen as mustard to get amongst some long awaited boy band action.

Samantha Jade, winner of 2012 Australian X Factor had a wonderful time warming up the packed Rod Laver Arena. She bought a few friends along for added harmonies and delivered lots of classic covers that helped settle the nervous excitement if only for a short period. Samantha was well received by the expanding crowd and had them singing loudly along by the conclusion of her set. Her 30 mins was packed with hits perfectly picked to get the party started, and Samantha showed she can still deliver the goods.

The stage was set and it was impressive to say the least, a diamond shaped catwalk host to the most beloved fans, perched happily in the middle, and a fractured ribcage of framework over the main stage which was set in several levels. Huge screens hung from the ceiling forming a triangle the perfect additional for the fans who weren’t up close. I just knew right from the get-go this show would deliver with all the bells and whistles and the ripples of excitement were growing by the second.  The screams were electric as the lights dropped and the enormous screen behind the stage came to life, with lots of glitz the ensuing intro was enough to rouse the venue to its feet as the word UNBREAKLABLE flashed up followed by BSB. Images of the Boys appeared and amidst it all smoke cannon erupted as the Backstreet Boys made their first appearance.

Opening with I Wanna Be With You the show was off and running, It was an amazing two hours packed with four 30 minute sets, each accompanied by a costume change. Each set a different member having a chat, ever gracious and thankful for the fans who have stuck with them for 30 years. Tonight’s Melbourne show was number 200 in the DNA tour, which is no mean feat considering the size of its production, with three of the BSB team hailing from Australia it was lovely for them to have some time at home while still on tour with these big guns. The hits were unstoppable The Call, Don’t Want You Back and Get Down a few to make Set 1. The dance moves still as polished as back in the day, the BSB cut an amazing form as they strutted not just the stage but around the catwalk. Happily trading hand slaps with the fans in and around the inner sanctum, Brian nearly dragged into the pit on several occasions. His cheeky demeaner ever present as he works the stage giving plenty to the eager fans and loving every minute, his interaction so genuine it shone.

All of the BSB were so humbled by the fans all taking time to talk to them, hold hands and acknowledge them, it was lovely to see they are still so invested in what has made them who they are. Set 2 was launched with Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely, Incomplete and Undone. The stage backdrops constantly changing to suit the next song, visually it was a fest for your eyes and at times overwhelming with its Backstreet goodness. The Boys singing voices primed and just as good if not better than I imagined, the harmonies still quite magical and smooth as silk. The Shape of My Heart and Drowning another two fan favourites, the boy band moves melting the hearts of many.

Set three saw two large boxes appear on stage one with BSB and one with DNA which Kevin and AJ jumped into after being left onstage. It was time to give a bit back to the screaming girls that in another life threw their underwear on stage, now the boys would change in the boxes and throw THEIR underwear to the fans. It was a fun aspect and gave lots of giggles as the boys changed their threads and emerged looking fresh and ready to melt hearts. Quit Playing Games With My Heart saw the boys take a seat at the front of the catwalk as the stage raised to greet them. Nick and Howie facing the fans in the inner sanctum, happily chatting and signing autographs, could these guys be any sweeter?! As Long As You Love Me saw glowing mic stands arise from the stage floor and caused many a girl to swoon. No Place from the DNA album had a wonderful addition, the huge screens above us showing footage of all the Boys and their families singing the song and doing their day to day things. It was such a beautiful moment to match this stunning song, family is everything and while they are away they are bringing a little bit of home with them.  Then it’s time to head to the sky, the stage they had been sitting on raised up towards the roof and the Boys played a lovely A Capella tune showing they have the good even without music. The large screens above them descended until they swapped places and were actually on top of the screens singing from the rooftops. Quite the spectacle, but there was no time for rest as they hightailed it back to the mainstage for All I Have To Give, seeing out set three.

Tension was mounting, Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) had to being coming in hot and as the big screens came to life with another stunning intro the floor opened and the Boys appeared all donned in white, rising to the familiar tune we had been waiting for. Let me tell you, it DID NOT disappoint. The moves hit in stunning brilliance the stage awash with electric candy skulls in shocks of colour and laser lights. Rod Laver was on its collective feet and overwrought with happiness reliving this song of our youth. This last set packed a punch with hit after hit, We’ve Got It Going On, The One and I Want It That Way to name few. As the boys took their bows we were certain there was a few left in the tank and after a brief stage absence they were back to finish out the night. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart set pulses racing, and then the mega hit Larger Than Life which saw the smoke cannons explode and the dance moves hit celestial heights. Confetti rained down and streamers launched from the stage, a truly fitting end to a phenomenal show and one I will remember for years to come.

The Backstreet Boys really separate the wheat from the chaff, and they have been sowing golden fields uninterrupted for over 30 years. If there is one show you need to see in your lifetime it is this one, and while Backstreets Back, for many they never left!

REMINING DATES FOR THE BACKSTREET BOYS: The DNA World Tour – Australia 2023

  • ROD LAVER ARENA, MELBOURNE WEDNESDAY MARCH 1
  • QUDOS BANK ARENA, SYDNEY SATURDAY MARCH 4
  • QUDOS BANK ARENA, SYDNEY SUNDAY MARCH 5
  • BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE WEDNESDAY MARCH 8

ALL TICKETS ON SALE NOW.

For complete tour, ticket and VIP Experience information, visit: backstreetboys.com & livenation.com.au

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[Review] Alexisonfire @ Hindley St Music Hall, Adelaide 27/02/2023

Making my way to the venue I am thankful mother nature has given us a reprieve from the heat. That being said I have a feeling that Hindley St Music Hall is going to be a sweat-pit tonight. It’s been a few years since Canadian five-piece Alexisonfire have played here and talking to people around the place over the last few weeks it seems that their fans are extremely keen for this gig. Releasing their latest album Otherness in 2022, the band have some new material to show us along with all the crowd favourites.

Hailing from Tasmania, Luca Brasi are up first performing their cool style of indie punk. Playing to a reasonably packed room of hardcore fans may have been a daunting experience for some, but it didn’t seem to deter the boys.  Opening with Dying To Be Alive, we got a taste of the bands catalogue through songs like Anything Near Conviction, Aeroplane and Tangled; Content.

A laid-back stage presence, along with their catchy melodies was a pleasant way to start the night. Some one yelled ‘Tassie represent’ which enticed some banter between the crowd and the band. This was a prelude into the boys playing Let It Slip “a song about how fucking sick Tassie is”. Fans grooved along with Party Scene while Tyler Richardson’s vocals smoothly washed over us. One punter was over eager to see the main act yelling “Play some metal” to which the boys obliged with a quick AC/DC riff and a laugh.

I need to be honest here, I know who Alexisonfire are but haven’t really listened to them a great deal, much to the surprise of my gig date. Over the years I have heard the stories of Alexisonfire live shows. Monday night I witnessed it. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start and I don’t think words can even come close to describing it.

The venue is plunged into darkness. You can feel the atmosphere on the ground change. Blue light swathes the stage, some lovely symphonic music plays and five mates wander casually into our view. Grabbing their instruments, they shuffle around and strum a few notes. Screams erupt from the around the venue as George Pettit grabs the microphone. Next minute all hell breaks loose. Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints assails our ears while absolute chaos reigns on the stage. Bassist Chris Steele resembles a man possessed as he twists and grinds his way around the stage, ducking and weaving around the other band members.

For the next hour we are taken on the most amazing journey, not only musically but visually. Alexisonfire are taking no prisoners tonight. Song after song is shot at us like a machine gun with no chance to catch our breath. Scanning the crowd, punters eyes are darting this way and that as they try to focus on each band member, which I have to admit was damn hard!  Having three vocalists brings an amazing dynamic to listening to Alexisonfire. The voices of George, and guitarists Dallas Green and Wade MacNeil meld to form some of the most manically sublime sounds, which is just crazy when they barely stand still.

Each song took the crowd closer to the pinnacle of ecstasy, inducing a fevered pit where bodies of all ages appeared above the sea of heads. Boiled Frogs, Sweet Dreams of Otherness, Blue Spade and 44. Caliber Love Letter all led us to the first notes of Crisis when the crowd completely lost their minds, yep the pinnacle had been reached. Bodies that had floated became more frenetic in the air as the barrier came alive. This is what live music is all about, exchanging energies and feeding off each other. The Northern’s slower tempo gives momentarily relief, the crowd gather their thoughts and breath briefly. The familiar drum beat starts, and Young Cardinals spirals us back into the vortex. Honestly this is one of the highest energy gigs I have witnessed, this is five mates having the absolute time of their lives and we are privileged to witness it. Summing up our night, Happiness by the Kilowatt is an apt song to take us home. Walking out onto Hindley Street, apart from the odd car horn, the only sound you can hear in the street is the crowd singing the chorus of Neil Young’s Hey, Hey, My, My along with the band. My biggest tip from the night is that an Alexisonfire gig is something that everyone needs to experience once in their lifetime regardless of their taste in music.  

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[Review] Harry Styles @ Marvel Stadium, Melbourne 24/02/2023

Melbourne was awash with Harry Styles mania as this postponed, rescheduled and pandemic interrupted Love On Tour show finally made it to our Aussie shores. Marvel Stadium was host to this phenomenon and if you missed the memo, you could easily think Marvel was holding the world’s biggest hen’s night! There was feather boas and sequins for miles as every man, woman and their dog donned a cowboy hat (preferably pink) and hightailed it to get a piece of Harry fandom.

The merch room, yes it had its own room, was pumping with long lines for those who didn’t take advantage of the cheeky opening a day before showtime. But needless to say, it was a very popular place and undoubtedly the weekly wage of many will be done and dusted. As I took my seat in Harry’s House it was a spectacle to behold, with over 50,000 people filling Marvel Stadium to the rafters. No mean feat and to think it was only night one!

Opening the nights proceedings was British indie outfit Wet Leg. Relatively new to the scene, forming in 2019, they have raced to fame and have a massive following in their own right. They gave us a forty-minute set with plenty to like. Bring In Love, Wet Dream, Angelica to name a few, finishing out with their debut single Chaise Lounge. They were warmly received and thoroughly enjoyed by the packed house, founding members Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers quite mesmerising bringing the boho feels to a warm Friday night. I am sure they will have gained a new Australian following after their fab performance.

Preshow songs started pumping from the PA and the crowd was instantly up and about, and when Bohemian Rhapsody rang out the phone torches were out and the stadium sang in one voice, adrenaline and nervous excitement radiating from every corner, and to think the show had not yet begun.  There was a quiet lull for just a moment as the entire mass took a collective breath and launched into what would be almost two hours of non-stop rollercoaster ride that is Harry Styles.  Opening with Music for A Sushi Restaurant the screams were ear piercing, the venue exploding in long pent-up emotions and love for their idol as he took centre stage. His sparkly striped polo and leather pants setting the scene amongst his enormous stage set up, complete with huge screens to give eyes to the people in the back bedrooms. A flood lit runway brought Harry up close to the fans and he used it all night, reading signs and catching almost everything that was thrown his way, hats, balls and boas included.

Golden, Adore You, Keep Driving bringing out all the feels, as Harry weaved his magic working through all his hits keeping the fans captivated every step of the way. Daylight, Woman and then one that is very special to Harry, Matilda. Instantly Marvel lit up with phone torches setting a stunning backdrop as Harry sung from the catwalk stage. A feeling of love overwhelming as the whole stadium harmonised along. A stunning scene and one that will stick with me for a long while. Harry was very gracious to his fans, taking time to banter and chat, helping one girl to come out after reading her sign, and singing happy birthday to another. Those little things that mean the world and are literally a life changing moment for them. Nice one Harry, what an all-round great guy!

Smashing through hit after hit, Little Freak, Satellite and Cinema the crowd here hungry for more and Harry delivered song after glorious song. Treat People With Kindness a lovely addition and really what the night was about, loving everyone no matter who you are, where you come from, your sexuality or your ethnicity. None of that matters, just love openly, acceptingly and be kind to one another. There was no better way to bring the love to the room than with a One Direction favourite and boy did Marvel erupt as the opening chords of What Makes You Beautiful rang out. Everyone’s inner tween bursting out with pride singing next level loud, such a fun song that has stood the test of time and was quite the nostalgia trip for many.

With Harry’s disclaimer that he would not being doing a shoey nor would he ever do it again, it came down to Pauli Lovejoy his percussionist, who happily jumped in and took one for the team. Cheers ringing out as he downed the tainted bevy, clearly not enjoying the experience at all but giving the fans what they wanted. Speaking of the band, they are absolutely fabulous, it is hard to give them your full attention when Harry is upfront, but they are super tight and sounded amazing. Kudos to you all, you kept the night running like clockwork and we cannot thank you enough.

Then a public service announcement from Harry, it’s time to dance and its ok if you haven’t been doing it so far, but now is the time as he launches into Late Night Talking and then the mega hit Watermelon Sugar HighLove Of My Life seeing out the set but of course we knew there were a few mega hits still to come so we sat tight and started the chants and foot stomping to draw Harry back to centre stage.

Harry returned to mind bending screams but took it down just a notch as Sign Of The Times played out, it was sublime and I was momentarily breathless as Marvel lit up, voices united singing this spectacular song as one. The Aussie flag making an appearance several time over the course of the night, Harry draping it around his shoulders, so grateful to his fans, thank you’s coming on autopilot. Clearly overwhelmed by all the love in the room, Harry at one stage stated, “I feel Emotional”. If there is one thing us Aussies can do it is turn up to a party, and I had a feeling we were just about to flip the lid on Marvel Stadium. As the familiar intro to As It Was rang out the fans exploded to life again, singing voices primed just for this moment, and while the show could have ended right there I was hoping for just once little green fruit to pop up to see out the show.  Queue Kiwi, and if Marvel had a roof, it would have been raised, the energy was off the charts, the fans overloaded with Harry not wanting the night to end. But nothing can last forever and exhausted, drained of every last bit of energy we lovingly waved goodbye but I am sure many will be back to do it all again tomorrow night.

Tonight’s Love On Tour show was an easy one to sum up, we didn’t just get the Watermelon or the Kiwi we got the whole damn fruit bowl and it was a glorious healthy feast for the mind, body and spirit! Thank you, Harry Styles, for bringing the love and uniting thousands in their pursuit of acceptance and happiness, it was monumental show and one I was so happy to be part of.

You can still catch Harry Styles' Love On Tour at the below dates:

Tuesday, 28th February – Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast QLD
Friday, 3rd March – Accor Stadium, Sydney NSW
Saturday, 4th March – Accor Stadium, Sydney NSW

Tickets available at Live Nation Australia

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[Review] Sting @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 23/02/2023

There aren’t many appropriate words to describe the greatness Sting’s influence on music, whether it’s his songs themselves or the known influences he draws from all corners of the world, notably classical renaissance and Jamaican reggae. What made this recent tour of his so special was Gordon Sumner bringing his son, Joe, along as a support act, and what better way to experience this at it’s fullest than joining my own father who’s been impacted by Sting’s music as early as the Police days.

Joe Sumner beautifully demonstrated his own musical prowess through a heartfelt track list of original, folky, acoustic numbers clearly demonstrating his authentic love and pursuit of his artwork. His opening tune, Looking For Me Looking For You, was a standout in itself for me personally being a lover of certain musical elements with the way Joe doubled up his vocals with a guitar lick. Other stand outs included Jellybean, a very personal soliloquy, almost nursery rhyme dedicated to his children, and Hope, joined by Paul Dempsey that provided a powerful finale to this supporting act. Joe Sumner’s authenticity as an artist and mind-blowing high vocals was in itself a treat to witness, an performance that would undoubtedly make his father proud 

You know when you see someone so legendary up close long enough that you start doubting your own present reality? This is honestly a feeling I can’t describe better as Gordon Sumner himself, along with his remarkable band, entered the arena opening the set with none other than the famous letter on solitude, Message in a Bottle. This was followed closely by other iconic Police tracks like Englishmen in New York and the up-tempo wholesome love letter that is Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. It was a struggle to find any member audience, mixed with both old and young fans alike, dancing on their feet and belting every word, including myself proudly. This was all before Sting acknowledged and thanked the fans for their lyrical cooperation, and then almost apologetically expressed a humorous, exaggerated disdain for the amount of new/solo material he would be performing for a large portion of the night.

There was nothing to even jokingly apologise for however, for Sting had demonstrated a magical setlist filled with heavy influences such as classical, R n B gospel, reggae sounds from the many artistic streets of Jamaica, and even the instantly recognisable licks and musical language of Arabic impact. Amongst this artistry, Gordon’s vocals never wavered, and this was only beautifully accompanied by the highly energetic and sensational backing vocalists, whose spirit/image never failed to plaster my face with a grin as their enjoyment of the night were never disguised. Sting also had the entirety of Rod Laver Arena wrapped around his finger between songs as his humour and level of storytelling is unmatched. The story telling impacted me most as he described his home which surrounded itself with barely fields, perfectly setting up the plaintive thirst of Fields of Gold, in which its nostalgia alone set off every emotion in my body and soul.

Right before Sting concluded his two-hour magical recital with remaining Police hits, an almost orchestral performance of What Could of Been, joined by an emotional but breathtaking montage of scenes from the hit animated show Arcane in which the track is featured on it’s OST. The energy picked up afterwards however as the iconic keys-doubled Bassline of Walking On The Moon echoed through the venue, later on followed with Stings’s son, Joe Sumner, once again joining the ensemble on stage for King Of Pain, and the strangely beautiful but haunting Every Breath You Take.

Encores have not yet exited large shows like this, and annoyingly exciting as they are, for Sting and his band only made the wait short before re-entering the stage. Sting once again let his humour run wild as he teased us fans by jokingly forgetting one last chart-topping Police number, humorously complaining about his straining vocals as every one of us screamed ROXANNE, before finally the guitarist broke the tension performing the iconic introductory reggae skanks of the legendary tune. This song did not conclude the night however, as Sting sat on a stool with an acoustic six string and wanted to formerly conclude the night with a beautiful, heartfelt rendition of Fragile dedicated to harrowing disasters currently happening over in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, giving a voice to families or individuals who is left to do nothing but Endure and Survive through such horrific events. Another tear jerker that concluded such a breathtaking and unforgettable night that will continue to flood my soul with joy months after its performance. 

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