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[Review] Del Amitri @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 23/02/2023

There is a standing joke in my house involving Del Amitri. If guests are coming around for dinner, my husband will say, “time to put Del Amitri on”. They are always my dinner party music of choice. Why – it is perfect for that – inoffensive in lyrics and musical style, upbeat melodies and just perfect background music. That doesn’t sound like a band that I would put on in my head phones and listen to deeply but I do that too. And when you listen deeply, Del Amitri is actually the antithesis of everything I like, musically. First and foremost, it is borderline country. Country music makes my skin crawl. Harmonicas, steel and slide guitars and wiggly wiggly organs (played with high vibrato) will send me running to the hills (running for my life, even). And if you listen to the opening verse and chorus of Del Amitri’s Kiss This Thing Goodbye, and other songs, that’s exactly what you’ve got. So why are Del Amitri so dang likeable?

There is no better way to get excited for a gig than by finding a pub where other fans might congregate. The proximity of The Cross Scottish themed bar in Fitzroy Street to the Palais seemed a sure bet and sure enough, the tables were full to bursting with expat Scots, enjoying Steak Night and a pint of Tenants (piss weak Scottish beer) before the show. There was a real sense of excitement in the air, after all, Del Amitri have not visited these shores for 30 years.

The Palais is the perfect venue for bands whose music can be enjoyed perfectly from the comfort of one’s arse. The seating is probably as antique as the building and is prone to being lumpy and a wee bit uncomfortable after a couple of hours but on Thursday as the support act, Darren Middleton came on, all assembled were making themselves comfortable and settled in for some listening pleasure. The name meant nothing to me at first. The music from him and another guitarist/keyboard player and a drummer was very much in the right vein for the evening…pleasant and easy on the ears. After couple of tracks, he mentioned that he had written songs for Bradley Cooper to sing in A Star is Born! Hang On, who is this guy. All became clear when he dropped another big name….Powderfinger. Darren Middleton is none other than lead guitarist and songwriter for the hugely successful Aussie band of the 2000’s. Now he had my attention. I missed Powderfinger’s entire career, pretty much and if it weren’t for my sister sending me a Triple J top 100 CD every year, and picking up a copy of Vulture Street in a Tower Records bargain bin, I would never have heard of them. Darren’s solo work lacks a bit of the spice of Powderfinger, but I felt the presence of singer songwriters who have gone before such as Neil Young, who Middleton lists as an influence and you could tell.

2023 Del Amitri consists of just two of the original band members who started playing together in 1982, Justin Currie on bass and lead vocals, and Iain Harvie on guitar and backing vocals. And these two make some really beautiful harmonies together, at times, sounding Eaglesque. They opened with When You Were Young which seemed appropriate for a band of 50 somethings to be playing to a crowd of fellow Gen Xers. Undoubtedly looking older, but still sporting a very fine head of hair, Justin’s voice has lost none of the range and beautiful tone that is such a part of this band’s success.

Del Amitri’s second album, Waking Hours of 1989 and Change Everything of 1992 spawned their biggest hits, the first played tonight was Always the Last to Know. This song opens with the most heinous musical crime there is (in my humble opinion) – COWBELLS! But once you get over this it is a song, like so many of this bands, that tells a great story and brought a few “wee wiman” in the crowd to their feet.

They were powering through this set at breakneck speed. There was very little patter in between songs which was a bit of a shame and I think the crowd would have loved a bit of banter. He did manage a “Is it supposed to be this hot?” Thursday was a bit of a scorcher but you will come to Australia in February so Aye, it is supposed to be this hot.

The wonderfully upbeat Kiss This Thing Goodbye was greeted with a loud cheer from the audience. The song begins with the harmonica, again, walking a very slippery slope between pop and country, but again, still managing to be inoffensive to my sensitive ears. The next hit out of the box was the wonderfully moody and even a little bit sad Driving with the Brakes On. One of my faves.

After a set of 18 tracks, more hits than misses, the main set drew to a close with the wonderfully philosophical Spit in the Rain and Stone Cold Sober.

The message that more was expected was very clearly sent as the crowd, now on their feet, showed their appreciation and begged for more.

A 5 song encore ensued. It was always a given that this would include their biggest hit and one of the best pieces of lyrical story telling I have ever heard, Nothing Ever Happens. This song speaks of the repetitiveness of an ordinary life and it always makes me think of my Mother in Law who worked in the tax office as a typist for over 30 years.

Scotland is my second home, having spent all of the 90’s and most of the naughties living in Glasgow and I feel as proud as any Scotsman when I see “home” grown talent do well internationally. Del Amitri have been appreciated by more than homesick Scots in Australia since they first toured here in 1990 but I fear that this may well have been the bands’ Australian swan song. I am grateful to have felt the swell of affection for the band in Glasgow when they could be heard on the juke box of every student pub and University union on the west coast. And I’m grateful to have seen them grace the stage of the Palais on a balmy summer’s night in Melbourne, 30 years later.

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[Review] Empire Of The Sun @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 21/02/2023

As the afternoon sun drew behind the clouds and the heavy rain beat down on the street, the doors to the historic Enmore Theatre were opened for the first of two sold out Empire of the Sun Sydney shows. 

It’s been 5 years since the Australian band, fronted by Luke Steele, performed on home soil, so you couldn’t help but feel like this was a special occasion. 

As the crowd filed into the venue, it was glaringly obvious that Empire of the Sun had not only retained fans from their inception, but had gained fans throughout the years, some of which were probably only babies when Walking on a Dream was first released. Even though EOTS released their first album in 2008, the crowd was brimming with punters of all ages.   

As soon as the show begins, it’s not hard to see why the band has held such a wide audience captive for so many years. From the very start, the energy was high octane. Electricity fills the air as the lights finally go down and other worldly visuals appear on the back screen.  As the music begins, the backup dancers walk across the stage, their silhouettes showing off the shape of their costumes, of which could be straight out of a science fiction movie.

Finally, Steele, recognisable from just his silhouette, makes his way to centre stage with his guitar slung casually over his shoulder. Drummer Olly Peacock and guitarist Ian Ball join Steele on stage and moving in unison to the beat with the dancers, they open the show with Standing On The Shore, a synthy hit from their first album. Not quite recognisable at first, the beat kicks in and familiarity washes over the crowd, giving them a taste of what’s to come over the next hour. While Steele remains the main character of the show, Peacock and Ball add stylistic flourishes to the music that would be vacant without them. 

The set list is a healthy variety of the band’s discography, including one of Steele’s solo projects Listen To The Water, a song he tells the crowd he wrote while he and his family were staying in a log cabin in California during the Covid pandemic. Steele occasionally stops the show to talk to the crowd, mentioning the pandemic a few times, mostly to point out how much he’d missed Australia and playing music to a live crowd. He stated that in the height of the pandemic, he’d promised his kids they were going to get back to Australia. Luckily for EOTS fans, this was a promise he kept! 

The band’s biggest hits are sprinkled through the set list, the first coming 5 songs in. We Are The People starts and the crowd roars. There are people all over the mosh climbing on their friends’ shoulders, while the entire crowd jumps to the beat. 

Coming in third last, I was disappointed when Walking On A Dream started to play, knowing it wouldn’t be the song to close out the show. The whole package of music and visual elements coming together and the vibe emanating off the crowd really felt like a finale.

When the real finale of the show starts and the discernible sound of Alive starts to play, the electricity of the crowd is palpable. I rejoice in being proven wrong in thinking I knew what song should close out the show. The bass thumps through everyone and the chorus kicks in, Loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive. The crowd knows every word and they sing it back to Steele while he runs wildly around the stage, giving us every last bit of himself.

The common thread throughout the whole show can only be described as quintessential Empire of the Sun. Every facet of the show is littered with elements of the band’s personality. From the various costume changes to the glittering lights and visuals that could have easily passed as a standalone show. This wasn’t just a display of the band’s musical talent, but a clear exhibition of their creativity and an example of what a very specific vision looks like when it comes to life. We can only hope that this is only the start of a new chapter for Empire Of The Sun.

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[Review] Soccer Mommy @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 18/02/2023

The opener of the night at the Croxton Bandroom are Garage Sale, they are a new Melbourne 4-piece whose new release Shimmer, has put them on the radar. Even though they’re a new band – everything about Garage Sale takes me back in time. Their bassist, wearing a white lace dress with gothic accessories, the guitarists and drummer with floppy hair, all of them bathed in red light. The year was 1993. They sound like this glorious mix between Sunnydale Real Estate, if SRE had released Nirvana’s Marigold, and had the sex-appeal of Hole. Maybe grunge isn’t dead after all? It’s been reborn, in the shape of Garage Sale. I felt like I’d heard these songs before, but they were so fresh and punchy – I couldn’t have. I was clearly not the only one excited about the Melbourne foursome’s homage to the Seattle Scene. Dripping with sex appeal, grit and reverb, Garage Sale have already amassed quite a number of fans, many of whom were in the room headbanging, slamming the table or unable to tear their eyes away.

You know the old expression: It was enough to make a grown man cry? Well, Phoebe Go does.

Coming back from smokers, we were met by the smooth voice of Phoebe Go. The band room was suddenly packed – 2 or 3 times the amount of people than were there 20 minutes ago, came out of nowhere. We were all fighting for a view of the stage, and the woman on it. Phoebe Go was desperate to hide behind her fringe, she would shuffle a little self-consciously between songs, but as soon as she started playing, she was someone else. I was almost shocked to hear her say “Thanks for having me, Soccer Mommy. You guys fucking rule.” It seemed so brash and off-kilter for the same person who wrote Hey, the person who made the grown man next to me well up with tears with her emotional closing ballad We Don’t Talk. How could I possibly have missed Go in my endless late-night searches for the Ultimate Sad Girl Ballad? Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go! Listen to (Phoebe) Go!

Sophia Allison is Soccer Mommy, but tonight she had a four-piece backing band. They were a rag-tag crew, from Rodrigo on keys and guitar, wearing a gaudy 80’s ski-jacket to Mick on the bass, his bald head, big-framed glasses, sea-glass bass all something out of a Spike Jonze video. And boy, were they tight. The songs went from soft, sparkly, wonderfully melancholic folk/pop, and turned into harder rock covers, with shredding solos, lots of echo and so much drum and bass I felt it in my feet.

To me, there has always been something so uniquely feminine about Soccer Mommy, but as I looked around the room, I saw so many young men. Her Spotify repertoire seems to be adjacent to similar artists Phoebe Bridgers and Indigo De Souza, but these are guys with shirts half-unbuttoned, beers in hand, I was intrigued: what did they get out of Soccer Mommy?

Her major hit circle the drain was the second song of the night. I listened to the people around me, slurred voices screaming the words back at her: things feel that low sometimes/even when everything is fine. We were entirely hers, the music flowed out of them, into us. When she asked us “How do you guys feel about the Devil down here?”, no one hesitated, no one questioned the absurdity of the question. Instead, they all cheered and threw up rock-and-roll hands or did their very best Devil-call, or they booed. If she had asked us to jump, we would have said “How high?” If she had asked us to bark, we would have scared off the neighbour’s cat. We were at church, and she was our preacher.

I realised that Soccer Mommy doesn’t just write songs about the feminine experience, she makes music about the youthful experience. She writes songs for our generation, all of us who were given unfettered access to the internet, and far too early exposure to Richard Siken poetry. Her music resonated with me, the drunk men going hard in the middle of the room, the quiet girl sitting alone at a table. She has taken our journals, our Tumblr blogs, our deepest fears, and greatest hopes and is performing them with unbelievable lighting, double-vocal reverb and many (many) guitar changes. Winding through two-albums worth of hits, a heartbreaking solo performance of Still Clean, and finishing with Your Dog, everyone who was at the Croxton that night, will leave with a bit of Soccer Mommy’s joyous, cathartic melancholy with them forever.

She understands every heartbreak I’ve ever had. She’s seen the ugliness I see sometimes when I look at myself a-little-too-late-at-night in the mirror. She’s punched that guy in the nose. She’s thrown up in an uber. She’s seen me, seen us. She takes all of those feelings which we think make us wretched, horrible, unseemly, and says “Do you want a backing band with that?” or “Jump on in! The reverb’s the perfect temperature!” And it is the perfect temperature; her music washes over me like waves on the sand, and I am washed ragged to smooth, right there, on the Croxton’s sticky floor. Seeing Soccer Mommy at such an intimate venue reminded me of why I love music, love being a hopeless romantic, love being a woman, love being a little bit ugly and a little bit messy. Soccer Mommy reminds us that total strangers will wrap their arms around each other to cry, and then, not even a song later, to dance and hold each other up.

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[Review] Icehouse @ Riverstage, Brisbane 18/02/2023

I suspect that the motivation behind any artist, but especially musicians perhaps, is to make the audience feel something. Feel anything. To feel differently for having experienced their art.  Well, Icehouse’s return to Brisbane on Saturday night certainly did that for me.  Though the band frequently tour Australia extensively, including just recently in 2022, this “Great Southern Land – The Concert Series show” was my first live encounter with them.  Being an eighties baby, I grew up knowing and loving their songs… but that was a long time ago.  What a relief and absolute joy to realise that this chart topping, platinum selling musical force can still hold their own, and then some.  Joining them as special guests on the RiverStage were Eskimo Joe and Karen Lee Andrews

Though traffic carnage brought about by another concert (cough: Ed Sheeran) meant I missed Karen’s set, there is no doubt her soulful, chilled vocals and guitar playing would have mixed well with pre-drinks on the lawn as the sun went down.  Her four-piece band are known as some of the hardest working in the industry and I will make it my business to seek out the Polynesian singer’s classical blues rock show in future.

The 6-piece Freemantle act, Eskimo Joe are next on stage. It’s been several years since the ARIA award-winning band has released an album (their latest, a live recording in collaboration with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra), but their choice as support for Icehouse simply makes sense.  They burst on to stage, vocalist and front man Kavyen Temperley donning a white suit coat and slicked back hair, channelling Elvis perhaps. Initially, there are some sound issues making the lyrics and melodies less clear than punters may have liked. Their set is started with Sarah off the Black Fingernails, Red Wine album. This is followed by New York.  Despite being released as the third single from this same album, Temperley explains New York was really the first to result from their early planning of acoustic songs.  Understandably, bands must walk a fine line when touring, never wanting to sound exactly like the studio press, but the start of this one is almost unrecognisable. In Older Than You from the band’s second album, A Song Is a City, a disproportionate focus upon the heavy beats doesn’t quite allow the beauty of the melody to be captured. Indeed, given the unquestionable skill the band have as writers, I felt it wasn’t until quite late in the set that the sound properly represented this skill.  The haunting piano solo introduces Echo next,  before London Bombs continues the slower pace.  This one was written in Cairns Temperley tell us.  The unmistakeable sounds of (recorded) bagpipes welcome Foreign land from the album Inshalla.  It is obviously a favourite for the band, each clearly relishing the moment, but paying particular homage to drummer, Joel Quartermain. 

The band comically shout out to the ‘expensive plastic seat’ section at this point, hinting that- while they won’t force anyone up off their seats- this group have a strong responsibility to set the vibe for the evening.  Next up is Setting Sun which featured in the 2011 film The Last Song, rumoured to be the scene for the beginning of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworths’ off-screen romance.  The band dedicate the song to Miley who is, they suggest, practically an Aussie citizen now. Like the lyrics in this one, the predominantly ‘older’ audience, clearly know and understand they’re “forever young”, partying in strong numbers at Brisbane’s Riverstage.  Who Sold Her Out follows next.  Temperley describes an intense pressure to produce a second song -one packageable as a single – for their debut album.  Determined not to ‘sell out’, the band explain this one was actually written far earlier but released in response to this pressure and to the threat of the label pulling the album.  Black Fingernails, Red Wine is up next – the song the band attributes to changing their lives forever.  Here too I perhaps would have liked the vocals and piano to been better accentuated but the powerful crescendos and cuts and unparalleled lyrics see the audience get amongst it. 

Like us, Temperley explains he is starting to get very excited to see Icehouse, an act they refer to as one of Australia’s best ever. He describes growing up listening to Icehouse, being mesmerised by their mysterious sound.  The set ends with From the Sea, undoubtedly their best adaptation of the night.  The near-incomprehensible skills of drummer, Joel Quartermain, are again showcased before From the Sea is extended.  Punters clap and sing along. All in all, this act has solidified its position as an Australian tour de force but should “the world repeat itself somehow”, and I get the chance to see them again, I hope the sound technicians can better present Eskimo Joe and all their talent.  There is a full 30-minute interlude between Eskimo Joe and Icehouse but watching the amazing roadies work, there is no doubt that every minute was required. 

Until Icehouse’s set, visuals were quite minimal, but the headliners start the show, fittingly, with a visual acknowledgement of country.  Let us hope this is a sign that this Great Southern Land continues to grow and learn. With the stage still otherwise dark, audiences are awoken first with the sounds of an isolated synthesiser, then single piano notes and finally, drums.  It is obvious immediately that any sound issues are now behind us ….. and that we are in for a night of astounding music. Icehouse start with their namesake track – ironically, released when they were instead known as The Flowers.  The crowd clap along and enjoy the stylistic and ultra-modern visuals.  Uniform from the Primitive Man album is up next before Fatman, both of which evoke (pleasing) New Order memories.  And then they played… Electric Blue, possibly their most successful song charting at number one in Australia, as well as in the top ten in both New Zealand and the United States.  While we all know the track, Icehouse cleverly accentuate both the guitar and sax solos within, allowing Paul Gildea (rhythm guitar) and Hugo Lee (saxophone) to stun with their exceptional talent. 

After four decades of music making, the band hold countless accolades. Beyond the official titles and awards though, one of their chief accomplishments has been as frontrunners in extending the use of the synthesiser beyond dance tracks. Hey Little Girl, their next song for the night, is one such example.  It is hauntingly beautiful and allows Iva to show off his voice – a voice that miraculously appears to have gone unchanged for forty years.  In Mr Big, off their 1986 Measure for Measure album, the instrumental and experimental bridge translates well to the big stage, and again reminds us just how ahead of their time this Australian band has always been. Soon enough, Iva looks to be introducing his band members – many of which have changed over the years- but he doesn’t, instead suggesting that “to the left of me… and to the right are …….humans. A little touched perhaps. A little mad”. Nice way to introduce Crazy, the next track and next most successful commercial tune for them – also hitting top ten in Oz, NZ and the states.  During Crazy, old footage of the original videoclip is run, including what has to be Australia’s best mullet and one that even I might forgive.  What an odd sensation for Iva and original crew, I remember thinking. But while they may look up and not recognise themselves, the punters certainly recognise and love this one- perfectly joining Iva in the vocals when encouraged.    Despite being a slow song, it is No Promises and the synthesiser specifically that gets me out of my seat for the first time.  Hugo Lee’s saxophone solo keeps me there and I find myself even involuntarily screaming for more. Michael Paynter next returns to the stage to lend vocals for Touch the Fire.

Though the night had many highlights, for me, it was the quiet acoustic version of A Man of Colours, the title track from their fifth studio album, that I will remember forever. I’m not an emotional person by nature. Not someone who cries a lot …but I can say without hyperbole that the song was so incredibly beautiful and powerful that I was choking back many tears.  Iva brings out the Oboe towards the end and saxophonist, Lee, takes us on another journey.  This really was something special.  Love in Motion comes on next quickening the pace and allowing me to get my boogie on. 

In a surprise move, Great Southern Land – Australia’s unofficial anthem is not last or even an encore but next on the set.  In introducing it, Gildea thanks Iva, suggesting none of them would ‘be here’, like all the songs, without him.  Despite turning 40 this year, Great Southern Land, continues to thrill audiences, as does the next one, I Can’t Help Myself. The band relish the ongoing applause enticing us to be louder again – louder perhaps than Ed Sheeran’s crowd just kilometres down the road?   The last song (or so they tell us) is We Can Get Together with Temperley from Eskimo Joe returning to join the band.

First encore is a cover of Marseilles by The Angels, a band we’re told Icehouse used to support for and for whom they continue to have great respect.  Here all members clearly rock out enjoying the moment and pay tribute to the pianist specifically.  It’s a pity at times – I recall thinking – that unlike Jazz gigs where solos are applauded mid song, often solos of this nature appear to go unnoticed. They certainly were not though and the pianist, like the drummer and saxophonist all deserve special mention here.  The band end the night with Nothing Too Serious, the lyrics of which can’t help but make me laugh.  While I was not wearing an Icehouse T-shirt on Saturday night, I swear one in five punters were.  Though the shirts, like the punters themselves perhaps, may be a little ‘warn around the edges’, they were certainly ready to party and not going home disappointed. Thank you Icehouse. Thank you for making me catch some feelings. 

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[Review] Arch Enemy @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 18/02/2023

In Thrash Metal there are the Big 4. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. Of the Big 4 in Melodic Death, Arch Enemy is clearly the Megadeth of their genre.

Heavy Metal is not merely a passion to its fans, it’s a religion, and in a religion – you do not turn up late to church. This was evident by how full The Forum was even before the opening act, Valhalore took to the stage.

Valhalore are described as an Epic Folk Metal band and Epic is the perfect adjective to describe how their set began. Sweeping orchestral arrangements gave way to thunderous drums that built to a crescendo of harmonized guitar melodies, complimented by the Celtic overtones courtesy of flutist, Sophie Grace.

Their music transcended the usual musical boundaries and managed to smoothly navigate its way between the violence of Black Metal and the earthy warmth of European Folk music. From the response of the crowd, you could see that they already have a strong presence and following in the local scene and frontman, Lachlan Neate had their full attention throughout the set. The rhythm section, comprised of Joseph Dipisa-Fiorenza (Bass) and Morgan Cox (Drums), was crushingly heavy and consistent.

A special (maybe slightly biased) mention has to be made to the guitar duo of Anthony Willis and Lucas Fisher. Both of whom I proudly recognise as brothers in the Ormsby guitar family. The guitars looked and sounded damn good and the finesse in which they played their instruments was the greatest endorsement one can give.

Europe might be the birthplace of Folk Metal but Valhalore showed that the Aussies are definitely on par with the big boys.

A massive banner covered the entire back of the stage and flags with Arch Enemy’s logo flanked the sides along with two Marshall stacks on each end. They began their set with Deceiver Deceiver off their latest album and man were they loud – very loud!

Alissa White-Gluz has such a presence about her that just oozes charisma and attitude as her voice tore its way through the songs and the audience. They followed this up with The World is Yours and the iconic, Ravenous from the legendary Wages of Sin album.

If there is a more sophisticated guitar duo than Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis in the metal scene today, I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of one. They play their guitars with a fiendish level of technicality that makes them appear more than mere mortals. There is no distinction between rhythm and lead roles, and absolutely no egos between them either. Riffs and solos cascaded flawlessly with a preternatural fluidity and together with bassist, Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Daniel Erlandsson, they gave us a masterclass in showmanship and proficiency.

These days, any time a band shows up to a live gig with amps I always sit up and pay extra attention. Technology has now made it possible and much more cost-efficient for a band to omit amplifiers from their live shows. Therefore, those who choose to go the extra mile and use them, hold a special place in my heart. To the non-musicians this might seem like an insignificant detail but often it’s the sum of the most minute details that add up to make the largest impact.

The first time I heard Arch Enemy was 22 years ago when the album Wages of Sin (which has now gone on to be regarded as one of the cornerstones of melodic death metal) was released in 2001. The song Enemy Within captivated me and finally, after all this time, I got to see it performed live together in a mammoth 5-song encore that included, Burning Angel, Snowbound, Nemesis and Fields.

Sometimes we can hype things up in our mind and get disappointed by the result. However, on very rare occasions reality supersedes our imagination. Arch Enemy is one of those rare bands that has gone through various evolutions and has always come out the other side at the top of their game. This is just another beginning for them and I, along with legions of fans can’t wait to see what happens next.

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[Review] Bad Religion / Social Distortion @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 19/02/2023

Punk. Punk Rock. A legendary device representing individuality and freedom, smiting inbreeds of hate and prejudice. What better way to celebrate punk rock than attending what was an unforgettable co-headline show delivered none other by the legendary Bad Religion and Social Distortion.

The mosh pits never wavered from the moment the quintessential logo of Bad Religion was raised to the final note of 21st Century Digital Boy, as a band who’s years couldn’t keep up with them blew the roof off an enclosed but packed arena. Opening surprisingly with none other than American Jesus, Greg Graffin and his posse of fellow LA misfits showed us demonstrated no intention of fooling around short of putting on an unforgettable show, to the extend where you would forget that this staple of punk rock have been delivering unforgettable shows for 43 years.

There was almost not time to relax between hit after hit of pure energy that could be felt throughout the entire crowd, with all of us belting the lyrics of You, Los Angeles is Burning, and the iconic Generator in which my voice could not last through the opening lyrics that deserve to be screamed, or not sung at all. The banter with the crowd was a fun experience, especially with Greg’s clever quips leading involving song titles which included boldly stating that both the bassist and the crowd had “No Control” over the night’s setlist. Even during a second viewing of this iconic group, my breath never failed to be ripped away by such a force, as I have never quite seen such finesse and precision amongst tunes so electric and fast in tempo. 

Social Distortion closely followed the first half of this incredible act, however they were certainly not least in their performance. Right after a pleasantly welcoming introduction with Muddy Water’s Mannish Boy howling through the speakers, Mike Ness made his godly presence known, rocking a beret, hunched over his Les Paul, and his wildly engaging eccentricity and poses. Bad Luck as one of the opening tracks set up the vibe of Social Distortions heavily electric set influenced by many punk greats such as The Clash, Ramones, and Iggy and the Stooges, as stated by Ness himself. 

Suddenly, my ears caught attention to the familiar introductory guitar lick of Wicked Game by Chris Isaak, and relished in such an impressive cover of a legendary recognisable track mixed with a more heavier recital known to Distortion, which was in itself a set up for an incredible second half of their set built on the foundations of such powerful and touching stories and political messages, with Ball and Chain delivering a melancholic tale of heartbreak and addiction, and the clear hatred towards racism through Don’t Drag Me Down, and with this tune alone, Mike’s words leading into the track couldn’t ring truer even in today’s society:

White. White…..is not superior. It never has been, and never will be

The encore in itself was a highlight, opening with Born to Kill followed closely by Story of my Life, a touchingly nostalgic story about the old days, when times were simpler, when high school was a bore and when you always wished to court that one individual a few desks away from you, concluding with the hope of similar happiness and pursuit of success in the future of your life. The show concluded with a cover of Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, featured famously on Social Distortion’s self-titled 1990 album that, with of course an explosive link twist, still captured the essence of Cash’s legend that seeped through Mike’s vocals.

The unforgettably powerful aspect of this tour is not just a nostalgic trip back to Bad Religion’s early days touring with Social Distortion, but also the fact that both frontmen, Greg Graffin and Mike Ness, share such iconic individual vocals that never alter in any way throughout the years, whether they’re listened through records, or heard live. Such a gig will surely not be forgotten anytime soon, and seeing these two legendary bands once more would be, if I can put this explicitly, an absolute fucking delight.

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[Review] The Superjesus @ The Gov, Adelaide 17/02/2023

The last time I saw The SuperJesus live was when they were given the fantastic opportunity to open for Kiss at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre last year. Although they did nail that performance and were a great warm-up act on that particular night, any band going on before a huge Kiss show are going to be somewhat dwarfed by what was to follow on the stage.

I was certainly keen to see The SuperJesus again but was looking forward to seeing them in a more intimate hometown setting, in a room full of people who were specifically there to see them.

Not only was this gig at The Gov the perfect sized venue for the band, but I was very happy to see that Melbourne’s Dallas Crane were opening the show as I’ve always found them to be a great live act in a rock club setting.

When I arrived at the venue, The Gov’s beer garden at the back of the big room was already full of people out enjoying the warm summer night and looking like they were ready for the perfect way to start the weekend.

When Dallas Crane made their appearance not long before the sun went down, they very quickly had the crowd moving from the back of the space to the front of the stage. Right from the opening number, the band blasted through a very upbeat list of songs that kicked off the night perfectly. Front-man Dave Larkin did a great job of interacting with the crowd and keeping everyone pumped up during their performance. His vocals sounded spot-on and between his trading of lead guitar- work with other founding member Pete Satchell, there wasn’t a dull moment during their slot. Throughout the set, the band sounded very tight, with bassist Chris Brodie and drummer Steve Pinkerton providing a very solid rhythm section.

The band covered a good mix of songs from their repertoire including Ladybird, Curiosity and two of their biggest hits Dirty Hearts, and of course, Sit on my Knee, which finished off the set.

Despite having plenty of their own songs to include in this one-hour set, Dallas Crane also managed to play a couple of classic rock covers which slotted in nicely and had the busy room singing along loudly. Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll and AC/DC’s Let There be Rock were both fun additions. By the time this opening set was over, the room had really filled up and Dallas Crane had warmed the Friday night crowd up for a big night.

After a thirty minute beer break, it was time for The SuperJesus to make their headlining appearance. As soon as they began their set, the squeeze at the front of the stage was complete as everyone jostled to the front of the room. It was great to see that this Adelaide band can still play to such an enthusiastic hometown crowd after so many years of success around the country, despite not having released a new album of original songs in twenty years. This was in stark contrast to the first SuperJesus gig I attended around 1994, at The Crown and Anchor Hotel, with a crowd of about twenty or thirty people at best.

The set opened with the song Ashes from their debut album, 1998’s Sumo, and with singer/guitarist Sarah McLeod hobbling out onto the stage in a moon-boot as a result of having a broken foot. This initially seemed to slow down her stage movements but as the show went on and the crowd got more responsive, Sarah seemed to get more and more fearless and even ended getting up on the drum-riser a few times throughout the show.

There were some big changes in the band’s line-up this time around. Not long after the Kiss support slot, a new guitarist and drummer were brought into the fold to join Sarah McLeod and original bassist Stuart Rudd. Cam Blokland was now on lead guitar and on drums, Murray Sheridan, who is also the band’s producer as they have begun work on a new album set for release later in the year. Next up was Secret Agent Man from the band’s second album Jet Age. After a couple more songs from earlier albums, the band then launched into their first of the new songs that will soon be featured on their aforementioned new album. Money (We’re Only in it for Love) is the latest SuperJesus single and this one went down very well. Not only is the song super catchy, but Sarah had the crowd singing along to it without too much effort at all. Another new track Lights Out was also instantly memorable, making me think this new album might actually do alright.

As the band ploughed through some of biggest songs from their catalogue including Gravity (complete with a huge audience-participation singalong), and Down Again, it was apparent that Sarah’s voice is stronger than ever, and the band were gelling together perfectly. You wouldn’t have known that half of the band were new additions.

After the set closer Saturation, it was clear that the band would be back onstage for an encore. The crowd demanded it! Also, the fact that the band members walked off stage without a big announcement that it was the end of the set…made it obvious that they had more to go.

When they did return to the stage, they kicked off the remaining songs with the beautifully mellow Second Sun. This, to me, was more proof that Sarah’s voice has become stronger over the years. There’s nothing wrong with the original recording at all but this live performance certainly seemed to have more feeling and grit to my ears.

After this momentary chill-out in proceedings, it was time for the band to crank it back up again  to finish the night off. Stick Together from the Rock Music album was next, before the band said their final farewells, thanked the hometown crowd, and ended the set with a cover of The Gin Blossoms’ Hey Jealousy.

Dallas Crane and The SuperJesus both seemed to be genuinely enjoying playing in Adelaide on this stop on the tour and thanked the crowd on numerous occasions during their sets. This appreciation most definitely went both ways as both bands left a lot of smiles on faces in the venue. When the lights came on, it looked like there were a lot of people who were very pleased with this start to the weekend and looked to be in no hurry to go home at all.

Your last chance to see them on their MONEY tour. 

March 3rd 2023 @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Tickets Here

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[Review] nothing, nowhere. @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 12/02/2023

February twelfth marked American hardcore emo rap band nothing,nowhere’s debut Melbourne concert; a room not just sold out, but filled to the brink with diehard fans ready for a night of musical mayhem. As the air filled with booze and whiffs of fruity vapour reminiscent of a grungy dive-bar, there was a growing buzz of built-up energy that was set to explode.

Touring Australia with his most recent self-produced album Trauma Factory (2021), front man Joseph Mulherin’s lyrics deal with personal issues of mental health, a highly relatable topic for his young audience. With such personal connection to the music, it’s no wonder fans of nothing,nowhere were so eagerly awaiting to share the night with their idol.

Warming up the crowd was New Zealander, indie singer-songwriter, Lontalius (Eddie Johnston). Wondering onto the stage, well dressed in ironed pants and leather shoes, the alt-pop musician plugged in his MacBook and began to tune his guitar. Appearing relaxed and nonchalant, this felt like the beginning of a street performance, a one-man busking style show – this was until a heavy humming electronic bass kicked in, paired with a single spotlight shadowing across his face. The first track Comfortable boasted a gorgeous oceanic aesthetic, playing relaxed guitar chords, and singing out emotional crackling vocals ‘I said I loved you and I’ve never meant it more’.

Lontalius’ set felt exceptionally human, all his lyrics so raw, and almost intrusive. It’s a strange feeling to be let into someone’s life on such a personal level without previously knowing them. The velvety chords continued, the bass kicking in without warning – such sounds forcing the heart to jump so uniquely.

 Someone Will Be There For You showcased a more layered style of music, where if you closed your eyes, a one-man band would not be what you’d imagine. With the crowd repeating ‘someone will be there for you’, a beautiful shadow cast across his face giving us a glimpse, but not providing the full picture – a metaphor for the music which let us see hints of such raw emotion, but leaves gaps for the imagination to conclude.

I Walked Right Into It was another highlight, with a stunningly moving guitar solo during the bridge which left the once lively room in silence, the tension building throughout the song. Lontalius’ performance was minimalistic, yet so well rounded. The heavy buzz of the electronic bass playing through from start to end rattled the bones of the venue, preparing the crowd for what was to come.

The room grew silent as an ambient hum suffocated the room, the sound increasing in intensity, and so too did the heartrates of the crowd. The band emerged from the darkness and before you could take a breath and soak it all in, the music had begun. Hurtling into the first track with a heavy kickdrum and lightning-speed metal guitar, CYAN1DE did not hold back. Front man and singer/rapper Joe providing his signature style of screamo vocals – it was unimaginable that he was going to maintain such power and angst for the entire set. From the first track it was clear the fans of nothing,nowhere were not the regular emo crowd, but a heavy cult-following of young people who impressively knew each and every word of the hard-hitting, emotion filled raps.  

An ongoing structure of the band’s music is the lower intensity, controlled rap verses, in the lead up to viscous metal choruses. The three-piece band consisting of a drummer and two electric guitarists was so incredibly tight, not missing a beat the entire show. It was also abundantly clear that the drumer lead the tracks, with the volume and velocity being unlike anything I had heard before.

pretend did not stray from the structure of rap verses in the lead up to a huge chorus, the crowd chanting ‘tell me you need me even if you don’t’ as heavy strobe filled the room, lighting up the sold-out audience to see them moving in unison, the music acting as a puppeteer. The next song nightmare marked the first time the band addressed the crowd – not to say ‘hello’ or to make small talk but ordering them to ‘fucking jump’. Not a soul disobeyed. nothing,nowehere’s live shows are built upon the energy of their audience, the collaborative effort making for an experience that cannot be replicated on a studio album.

The night played out like a rollercoaster of adrenaline, the highs exceeding levels I once thought possible, and the contrasting lows leaving the crowd wanting more. Part way through the emo hit love or chemistry, the music abruptly came to a stop, Joe yelling ‘Melbourne are you still with us? I want you to prove it right now!’ This was a call to action for the crowd to take their energy to the next level – and they did not hold back. lights (4444), one of their slower-paced tracks filled the room with an ethereal feel, being backed by the sound of water droplets. However, the lyrics did not follow suit, providing the signature sound and grunge sentiment screaming ‘I don’t give a fuck if you hate me’.

The night so far had been highly performative and based on the emo-hardcore persona of the band; so, when Joe bought his girlfriend Hillary on stage and asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday, it was a beautiful, human moment that I’m sure the fans feel so honoured to have shared. Even within all the chaos and commotion, it was clear this group of individuals shared a lot of love for one another.

If pulled apart and digested as intended, there are many nothing,nowhere songs that are filled with positive themes. Pieces of you and fake friend were a break from the darkness, anthems about letting go of your worries about what others think of you. It was at this stage that the band became more a part of the crowd, jumping taped sections of the stage, and climbing up barricades to be fully emersed in the tail-end of the show.

Clarity in Kerosene was clearly a fan favourite, everyone with their phones in the air trying to capture the moment on video, the crowd singing the agonising lyrics in unison ‘I hope you choke in your sleep, while you’re dreaming of me’. Hopes Up was performed beautifully in compete darkness, being lit up only by the speckles of smartphone flashlights – replicating stars in a night sky. Joe’s movement across the stage remained so seamless, it is clear these are his songs and his words.

It was at this point of the night that the band had the room’s actions at their fingertips – and they were about to cause some havoc. Their newest single M1SERY_SYNDROME, is rife with gorgeous repetitive guitar riffs hiding behind the violent chaos of the drums and bass. The heat of the music physically manifested its way into the crowd, with the force of a thousand bodies surging forward. A wall of death formed in the middle of the crowd, and at that point all control was lost. It is a rare occurrence to see such uninhibited, 90s-style moshing in today’s music scene, but this concert saw bodies flying through space – a sense of bliss in delirium.

As quickly as they took to the stage, the band was off. But from the wings you could hear Joe murmur ‘one more song you say?’, hammer was an invitation for the crowd to give off every last ounce of energy they had; the crowd soaked with sweat and short of breath. nothing,nowhere departed the stage for the last time in the blink of an eye, the whole event feeling like a dream – or rather a gorgeous nightmare.

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[Review] KISS @ Adelaide Entertainment Center, Adelaide 30/8/2022

Without a doubt, KISS was THE band that started it all for me. My obsession with rock music, the way that I dress, even the majority of my friends today…pretty much everything in my life can be traced back to KISS.

As a very young kid when KISS were at their peak of popularity in Australia, they were impossible to miss. They were everywhere! Everyone seemed to be listening to KISS as they were all over the TV, radio, and on the covers of so many magazines! At school, we were all trading KISS cards, eating Kiss ice-blocks and had their posters on our walls at home.

When KISS first toured here in 1980, I still recall being devastated that I was too young to go see them and nobody would take me.

Despite Kiss-mania being a relatively short-lived phenomenon in Australia (they were pretty uncool to most people about a year after their first visit here), I remained a fan for life.

Even though I’ve since seen KISS many times over the years, since missing that first visit here, I was very excited to see that they would be returning to the country for their End of The Road Tour. Initially, Australia wasn’t included on the band’s farewell tour schedule, but thanks to that pesky virus you may have heard about, the whole tour was postponed and then rescheduled with Aussie tour dates added! Thanks Covid 19!

Arriving at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on the night, it was impossible not to feel the sense of occasion! Of course, there were fans dressed up as their favourite member of Kiss, complete with make-up and elaborate costumes, and plenty of fans just sporting the make-up with their casual jeans and rock T-shirts on.

As is often the case, a KISS concert evokes a vibe that’s like a cross between a rock show and a visit to the circus. It’s fantastic!

By the time the doors to the venue were opened, the gig was completely sold out! There were even quite a few people outside the box office holding up signs to let people know they were after tickets. It was good to see KISS were getting a proper send-off in Adelaide.

Inside the lobby everyone seemed to be buzzing with excitement. By the time I got down to the front of the stage with beer in hand, I was really feeling it myself.

Opening the show was Adelaide’s own The SuperJesus. I was very excited for them (and maybe slightly jealous) as I’ve known these guys for years and know how thrilled they were to be playing on the same stage as KISS. Obviously playing to a room full of KISS fans waiting to see their larger-than-life idols on stage could potentially be a tough gig, the band were up for the challenge for sure. They sounded tight and had a big enough sound to win over the crowd early on in their set. They blitzed their way through some of their best-known songs including Down Again, Secret Agent Man, and ending their set with Gravity, with frontwoman Sarah Mc Leod doing a great job of encouraging audience participation and making the most of the large stage. They did a great job of warming up the crowd for KISS.

Not long after this support set, the giant KISS banner was erected in front of the stage, adding to the anticipation in the room. Anyone who’s been to a KISS gig knows that when that curtain drops…a whole new world is revealed.

As time ticked down to the appearance of KISS, classic rock anthems blasted out from the P.A. getting the full room pumped up for the main event. Through AC/DCs Thunderstruck and Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll…the anticipation grew, until…those famous words echoed out loudly across the Entertainment Centre…’You wanted the best…you GOT the best…the hottest band in the world…KISS!!!!!!’

The curtain dropped right on queue and BANG!!! It was on! Lights, smoke, giant flames, fireworks…the larger-than-life band members dropping from the ceiling on giant robotic platforms…THIS is why KISS is synonymous with over-the-top rock n roll theatrics! Within the first thirty seconds of the show, you’re bombarded with everything you could expect from a big rock concert and more. 

To be honest, despite being a big KISS fan, before the gig I wasn’t 100% excited knowing what their set list would likely look like. KISS tend to stick to a fairly similar set of their best known hits, songs which I often skip when listening to Kiss as I’ve heard them all a million times over the years.

However, as soon as that curtain dropped and the opening to Detroit Rock City kicked off the show, all thoughts of issues with the set were instantly forgotten. Right after the big opening it was full steam ahead with the massive KISS anthem Shout it Out Loud. This one seemed to have everyone singing along at the top of their voice. From here it was early KISS with Deuce from their first album. During this song, the big screens were showing vintage footage of the band from the early 70s which got me thinking about the beauty of KISS being in full make-up and costumes again. Even though the core band members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are in their 70s now, being in character, they still look exactly the same as they did when I worshipped them as a kid! With the face paint on, they are still the star child and the demon, the rock gods they were to me back then! War Machine from the Creatures of the Night album was next, which has become a KISS live staple and fan favourite, despite this coming from a turbulent period in the band’s early 80s history. After this was the first song from the band’s non-make up days, Heaven’s on Fire which has always slotted perfectly into the set as though it was an early year’s classic.

Another song from the Creatures of the Night album that has become a KISS classic was next. I Love it Loud is one of the best rock crowd singalongs ever and did not disappoint, this one had the whole arena joining the call-and-response war-cry in unison, even those who weren’t familiar with this era of KISS seemed to be singing along loudly.

The one song that I was surprised was in the set was next. From the 2009 album Sonic Boom, came Say Yeah. This would have easily been the least known song from the KISS catalogue on the night but once again, being a typical Kiss anthem, it had everyone singing along by the end of the song. After this, it was back to classic KISS with Cold Gin, followed by an impressive guitar solo by guitarist Tommy Thayer, complete with fireworks shooting from his guitar!

The set continued on with popular songs from the band’s history, featuring all the KISS trademark moves, including bassist Gene Simmons breathing fire and then spitting blood while rising up on a platform to sing God of Thunder while  looking down from the top of the arena, a drum solo from Eric Singer while his drum riser lifted him up above the stage with smoke billowing from below, and then front-man Paul Stanley being carried from the front of the stage on a zip-line where he performed Love Gun up close and personal to those in the back of the room. From here, the band then launched into I was Made for Lovin’ You while Paul flew back over everyone’s heads to the main stage again.

The last song of the main set was Black Diamond, featuring drummer Eric Singer on vocals, with the band then vacating the stage behind a huge display of smoke and fireworks.

Within just a few minutes, the encore began with Eric once again on vocals, this time sitting behind a glittery grand piano for a rendition of Beth, the ballad originally sang by KISS’ original drummer. Peter Criss

As the show drew to a close, it was time for a song that was a huge hit in Australia for KISS but nowhere else in the world, Shandi, from the Unmasked album. As the opening chords rang out, dozens of huge KISS balloons dropped from the ceiling and it became a fun spectacle to watch as they were thrown around the Entertainment Centre, seemingly in time with the music.

Finally, it was time for the show-closing anthem that has ended many KISS shows over the years, and would likely be the last song the band would ever play in Adelaide…Rock and Roll All Nite. With this, the band certainly went out with a bang! As soon as the band said their goodbyes and launched into the opening chords of the song, they threw everything they had at the crowd. There was confetti pumped out into the air, smoke, fireworks, flames…all of the theatrics they had left in the bank were pumped out onto the stage for their final farewell and it was a spectacular finale for sure!

I seriously doubt that anybody who was in attendance for this gig had a bad time. KISS had lived up to the hype that they put on the best rock n’ roll show in the world and this seemed like a very fitting way to say goodbye to Adelaide on this final tour. To me, this gig more than reminded me of what got me into rock music in the first place, and I suspect it may have even inspired some younger audience members to discover it for the first time!

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