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[Review] The Original Wailers @ The Triffid Brisbane, 16/11/2023

What a strange life it must have been for members of Bob Marley’s band The Wailers.  Thrust into international stardom from their humble beginnings in Trench town, Kingston, the reggae royalty are said to have sold in excess of 40 million albums. And whilst few could understand the kind of shadow Bob Marley– legend, prophet and poet -must cast, if the band members touring today feel daunted by that, they certainly don’t show it. Al Anderson, one of the last people to speak with Marley before his passing, brought new members Chet (Lead Vocals / Guitar), Omar (Bass Guitar), Paapa (Drums), and Adrian (keyboard) with him to Australian shores this month and I was fortunate enough to get along to their Brisbane show.

Almost immediately, during their opener, I Shot The Sheriff, The Wailers let punters know that they’re not out to duplicate those old times, nor to try to replace Bob. Wise choice. The sound is fuller than one might expect of a reggae set, and though later in the night Chet allows himself to channel some of Bob’s canonical tone and articulation, in the first few songs he sings purposefully with a higher pitch, again letting us know this is about respect, not replication.  His use of ululation early on though also signals that he’s here for a good time. Stir it up comes next and dreadlocked Chet is heartened by the near capacity crowd echoing every lyric. He tells us “the singalong continues”. I was so glad to see Brisbane come out actually – it had been a scorcher of a day. 34 degrees at some point  and I, like many I suspect, couldn’t remember if Triffid’s old airline hangar was airconditioned.  It is … but the warmth of the night emanated regardless. A warmth that comes from Bob’s enduring message of peace and love, one love in fact; a message the world feels like it needs right now. Indeed, at one point Chet stresses that they’re all about love – still , not just romantic love, but brotherly love, neighbourly love, love for your family and friends.  He asks us to come together and share that love “grab the person next to you and tell them you love them” he implores.  We do. 

Could You Be Loved conveniently follows. Here, each of the guitarists is let stray a little and I start to really notice their uncharacteristic use of overdrive pedals. Though the echoey effect – a near constant throughout the set- is quite different to Marley’s own guitar tone that was fatter, chunky even, it somehow works. During Three Little Birds the band again suggests the crowd “sounds wonderful”.  My girlfriend laughs and says she’s not sure but… at a gig like this, it’s hard not to believe at least that, every little thing is gonna be alright.  In some ways, I wish Adrian’s keyboard was foregrounded more in this and some later tunes and the absence of some reggae staples like the single strumming and stripped back tone are noticeable.  But when Is this Love starts, any at all doubts and fears fall by the wayside and the message of the music is tangible in the room; smellable even.  Like many songs, this one is extended to allow individual members, this time American born Al Anderson, to showcase their skills.  It’s easy to see why Bob Marley, and later Peter Tosh, picked Al so many years ago. His skill as a lead guitarist are unquestionable and he uses the spotlight in this song to veer off track, taking us on a mind-altering journey, more psychedelic rock than reggae. Though next year, Al tells us, will mark 50 years of playing with or for Bob, he is far from a ‘has been’.  The lead guitarist, has also worked with the likes of Ben Harper and Lauren Hill and has received multiple Grammy nominations, including one in 2013. 

At this point, I am not sure if the daze in the room has gotten to me or if the trancey echo of the hangar has simply been misplaced.  Everything seems slower- a relaxed Jamaican pace takes over.  During Legalize It, a track recorded with Peter Tosh, it is Paapa Nyarkoh’s turn to take centre stage.  He does so with ease, reminding us, oddly that drums are utterly pivotal to reggae music, its heartbeat if it were.  The ultra relaxed Hypocrites off the Songs of Freedom album is next and helps to highlight Bob’s undeniable lyricism and genius for word play.  Anyone who knows the original track will also appreciate that this was the sound of the night – a more dub sound with amp-reliant guitar.  During No Woman, No Cry, the original Wailer himself, Al, extends the song with another brilliant guitar solo.  It’s starting to feel like they are wrapping up – they have played for an hour and certainly no one would leave disappointed. The reggae royalty leave the stage. 

But the crowd’s roar, spurred all the more by keyboardist, Adrian, coming out to psyche us up, entice the 5 piece crew to grace the stage again. Jamming begins the list of encores and ends with bassist and drummer, brothers in arms and in real life, joining for an impromptu jam themselves. Their improvisation turns jazz-like at one stage and the Brisbane crowd were certainly enjoying it, screaming their support. At this point, original Wailer Anderson reflects with us. He describes Australia and New Zealand as having always supported the band. The U.S and U.K were slower to appreciate us he explains. “We were too slow.. and they were hesitant to give up their disco”. Anderson also takes the opportunity to encourage the crowd to show their support on social media, where they’re looking forward to giving away lots of merch, Stratocasters even. Speaking of merch, we’re reminded too that fans can grab albums, t-shirt and more outside. “It’s not a hustle” he stresses, but can help them continue touring. Though he toured more during Bob’s time, a love for the stage is still visible. Anderson tells us he loves Australia and prays for our first nations people, for all people in fact. Song of the divine, released in 2022, comes next. This is a very spiritual song, Anderson has said, its laid back floating sound cannot help but relax the crowd further. The set ends with Buffalo Soldier. Though only posthumously released in 1983 after Marley’s death, it has become one of his most revered tracks. It is perhaps no coincidence that this was the only really political song of the night. With war and famine, hate and division persisting today, The Original Wailers chose instead, at least primarily, to remind us of love and light. The entire hangar shakes when the crowd join in to Buffalo Soldier’s chanted hook “woe yoy yoy, woe yoy yoy yoy”.  What a treat to have our voices rise with- at least one of- the legends Bob Marley created with. This ska, come Rastafarian reggae tribe have undoubtedly changed the music world forever.  Let us hope it is not too late for their message of love to change the world too. 

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[Review] Winston Surfshirt @ The Princess Theatre, Brisbane 02/06/2023

Review By Renee Morrison

It’s a pity Friday night’s Brisbane show was the last for Winston Surfshirt’s Panna Cotta tour – if it hadn’t been I would have told your brother, mother, sister, sister’s friends and, basically, anyone who would listen to go see this flawless performance. The night started later than advertised, but all three sets were well worth the wait.  It began on point with electronic funk emanating from Perth-based collective, Supathick.  Each of the five-piece act unquestionably hold their own and get the early crowd moving… and moving forward.  Frontwoman and vocalist Grace is a standout though with an enviable vocal range and power beyond her years. Since Supathick’s EP, In the thick of it, which was released 3 years ago,  the act have relocated to Brisbane but continued to tour Australia and receive many an accolade.  The sometimes disco, sometimes pop, but always groovy set includes tracks like Time, Backseat driving and slower one, Can’t keep waiting. Like Das Druid who come on next, Supathick don’t feel like just another support act. Let us hope they are not yet tired of touring, despite a very busy three years.

I’ll admit -embarrassingly- that I was pretty unaware of Das Druid before the night. Their commendable presence put the growing crowd in a psychedelic haze I will remember for a long time though.  Unsurprisingly, the band identify The Stone Roses as highly influential to their sound and while such a claim might make other acts nervous, Das Druid are worthy of the self-proclaimed comparison. Their set takes Brisbanites on a magic carpet ride weaving Manchester brit pop with, ravy, trance and even jungle sounds.  Despite the otherwise echo-filled set, the trio cleverly start with a focus on percussion really highlighting their attention to detail and phenomenal sound.  Motion control, Anxious oxygen and Euphoria, all from their first album Das Album are just some of the tracks we’re treated to. The synth-heavy sounds put us in a pleasant daze. 

Between sets the capacity-crowd flocks to the beer garden attached to the venue- Queensland’s oldest standing theatre, the Princess. This 133-year old venue has been meticulously restored but I’ve never seen the seated mezzanine been used before, let alone fill out.  Fortunately I was on the floor, but my space for grooving was decreasing by the minute. Once Winston Surfshirt hit the stage there is standing room only, and just! The Sydney-based six piece start the night with Nobody Like you, leaving no question that they’re here to party. Next up, their collab with Cosmo’s Midnight, Get to know you.   It’s here that punters first experience the magic brought by trombonist, The Bone – magic reminiscent of Andy Cato from Groove Armada.  Slower track, Need you, from their 2019 album Apple Crumble is up next and it’s obvious this crowd are long-time Winston addicts. They sing along passionately.  Crowd pleaser Complicated follows – just try not to dance to this dirty beat. The only thing funkier is the track’s videoclip – be sure to check it out. 

It would have been very easy – and forgivable- for Winston Surfshirt to have designed a set around the songs that have made them near-household names in Australia, songs like Smile, Be about you and All of the little things. While they do play these of course,  the ARIA award winners instead utilise the whole set, and nothing but the whole set, to showcase their huge range of genre bending talents.  All of the little things starts abruptly, and we find ourselves almost mid-song – this works well though and keeps the pace of the night flowing. The undulating beat and vocals are comforting and highlight just why this act attract such a diverse array of followers.  Despite describing themselves as a hip-hop act, and despite being a hip-hop fanatic myself, I think to label them as such is limiting.  Some of their work would feel just as relevant in a (funky) elevator as it would in a Brooklyn club.  Winston’s skills as an emcee are impeccable for sure though and his deep flow could easily be mistaken for none other than ATCQ’s Q-tip. 

A return to some tracks off their first studio album, Sponge Cake, come next.  For real, and When you’re ready are wrapped around newcomer 0421, the latter of which allows the one-man brass section to again take centre stage.  Speaking of the stage, it seems the Princess’ elevated pulpit could simply not contain all that talent – Winston jumping down and getting amongst the crowd at one point.  Loungey, reggae-inspired,  On a lock slows down the pace just a little but if the crowd are disappointed, they sure don’t show it.  In this one, guitarists Bik Julio and Mi-K, and Dool on keyboards keep us bouncing.  It’s obvious that once solo-artist, now front man Winston relishes every moment of their version of Doja Cat’s Kiss me More. The song also makes it clear that Winston has a gorgeous voice, one capable of holding a complex tune, as well as rhyming and rapping at pace. Jazzy Of another kind follows, foregrounding Dool’s magic on the keys. This was one of three singles released prior to their most recent, third studio album along with Maybe I’m in love with you.  No doubt hip-hop royalty, Talib Kweli, who features on the track recognised it was so much more than a love song.  It perfectly encapsulates that aforementioned genre-bending that Winston Surfshirt make look easy. 

There’s only one and For the record are not too far away, the former sounds a bit like Jamiroquai at his best and raises the party vibe in the room once again.  For the record is just as tasty as Apple Crumble, the name of the 2019 album from which it came. Honestly, the production of this track- that translates well to stage- is far more mature than one might expect from a relatively new outfit.  Ali D off the Sponge Cake album is up next – it was the first song of Winston Surfshirt’s I’d ever heard and still reminds me of Glamorous by Fergie for some reason. I can’t help it.  Fortunately, cheeky track Smile and then their cover of Crystal Waters’ Gypsy Woman get the Fergie out of my head.  In a fitting end to their set, well in terms of originals anyway, Surfshirt finish with the song that Winston explains really started it all, Be about you.  With over a million views on YouTube, the track has come a long way since existing as a chorus alone being played to the local pub flies in Sydney.

Winston Surfshirt, while there is no question that you now have a diehard fan in me, I “don’t know how I feel about” the Montel Jordan and then Wu Tang covers as encores.  You pull them both off, naturally, but with a back catalogue as delicious as yours, I suggest instead letting your talent shine right till the last second.  World domination for this six-piece Aussie act is so close you can taste it.  While this tour may be done and dusted, if by some miracle Winston Surfshirt were playing again tonight, I would already have my tickets.  Have a listen, seriously – happiness is just a song away. 

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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] Jack Johnson @ Brisbane Rivestage, Brisbane 3/12/2022

“It seems to me that maybe”….. I should start calling myself a Jack Johnson fan.  I’m embarrassed to say that prior to Saturday’s Brisbane show, I’d never seen the American singer-songwriter before. I’m embarrassed to say that, had someone asked me to name five of his songs, I would probably have struggled.  And yet, during Jack’s near two-hour long set, it was odd to realise that there were few songs I didn’t know the words to. This perhaps best speaks to the power of this artistic juggernaut.  While Jack could boast (unlikely) of his multiple Grammy nominations, his worldwide fandom or of his millions upon millions of views on the socials, to experience that kind of reach – where your songs actually become part of common, even unconscious, vernacular, is hard to imagine.  Fortunately for us, Jack’s lyrics typically preach life and love, including a love for our environment. For more than a decade now his record label (Brushfire Records) and touring crew have worked towards ‘greening’ the music industry by expanding eco-friendly touring practices and promoting sustainable food and plastic free initiatives.  To celebrate his eighth studio album, Meet the Moonlight, the surfer-turned musician played five Australian shows: all outdoors and under said moonlight. On the Brisbane leg Jack was supported by none other than Ziggy Alberts and Indigenous newcomer Emily Wurramara, both of whom returned to the stage later to join the headliner.

To suggest that there was ‘standing room only’ by the time Jack came on is a huge understatement.  It was obvious people had gotten there early, laid down their picnic blankets and settled in to watch the sunset. Brisbane had put on quite the sunny summer afternoon for us too which meant punters were very happy to wait.  We didn’t have to wait long though – Jack came on right on time despite his warning us that he may not. Surf was up on the Goldy and an earlier post on his socials suggested Jack was having a hard time tearing himself away from the beach.  The band is certainly no stranger to Australia, having toured at least six times before and while I have seen countless shows in Brisbane over the years, I can honestly say I have never heard a crowd roar like they did for Jack Johnson on Saturday night.

One doesn’t become a multi-platinum selling musician, nor have a career that spans decades without truly understanding their audience and making a connection.  Johnson’s care and attention to detail in this regard was once again obvious on tour with Saturday night’s setlist sure to please even the ‘oldest’ of fans. Yes, there were songs played from the latest album (Costume Party, One Step Ahead, & Don’t look Now) but these were carefully weaved between twenty or more beloved tracks from the entire array of Jack’s back catalogue.  Those who’ve followed the artist for more than two decades would have no doubt approved of Jack’s heavy drawing from debut album Brushfire Fairytales and from his 2005 In between dreams. Taylor from the latter started the show and allowed the crowd to quickly warm up their vocal cords before the real singalong began during Sitting, Waiting, Wishing, up next.  By the time the familiar riff to Flake began, there was no stopping the capacity Brisbane crowd – Jack now had 9500 backup singers and you know what, they did alright! Next came one of many mashups – a combo of Upside down / Time is the master/ Badfish and John Holt cover You can’t control it

In Inaudible Melodies, drummer Adam Topal gets the first chance to show off his numerous talents. Actually Jack takes the time to introduce and pay tribute to all long-term band members during the set (bassist: Merlo Podlewski; and pianist but also singer/songwriter/ ALO member: Zach Gill).  When Emily Wurramara returns to the stage to sing Lady Blue as a duet, it is easy to see why Johnson chose the up-and-comer to support him. The song’s calming melody and hypnotic ukulele  immediately transport us to the water, like so many of the headliner’s tunes. This was followed by crowd pleaser Bubble Toes – you know the one – la-da-da-da-da-da – just try not to join in.  Next, it’s Zach Gill’s time to sing along, offering the last verse of the undulating and understated Wasting Time.

In between new tracks, Costume Party and Don’t Look Now, Ziggy Alberts returns to the stage. Here we are treated to Heaven, the first single of Ziggy’s second album ‘Laps around the Sun’ and the first of his tracks to ever reach ARIA chart status.  Ziggy clearly has a good fanbase here too – and why not; he tells us ‘you sound beautiful Brisbane’ before heading backstage again.  Ultra-fun Banana Pancakes follows before the rhythmic Rodeo Clowns. It seems like an odd note to finish on in some ways as the band leaves the stage.  Fortunately, we are not done yet! Jack returns amid thunderous applause, the likes of which I have not heard in Australia before.  I also can’t recall seeing an artist give us seven, yes seven, encores.  How blessed Brisbane feels at this point. Most of these see Jack on stage solo doing acoustic versions of classics like Do you remember and Breakdown while the crowd whistle along to I got you.  The full band returns for final track, unsurprisingly, the infamous Better Together. This, like so many of Jack Johnson’s songs, has undeniably entered the realm of cultural artefact. Like so many of his songs, the track just vibrates in a way like it was always going to be written and always going to be so special to so many. Will I be signing up to see Jack and band again? Absolutely. But how to end this review? “There is no combination of words I could say. But I will still tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together”.  So get there Australia.

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Flume @ Riverstage, Brisbane 16/11/2022

It’s always easy to get excited about a gig at Brisbane’s Riverstage. The grassed, natural amphitheatre means even shorties like me don’t have to worry too much about staking out a good vantage spot, and let’s face it, it’s basically hallowed ground.  The stage has previously played host to everyone from Midnight Oils to Florence + the Machine, from Beastie Boys and The Chemical Brothers to The Prodigy. Such company should not intimidate Harley Streten, aka Flume, though. The insanely popular Australian artist has previously toured festivals the world-over including Coachella and Lollapalooza, and has amassed countless awards both here and abroad.  For the all-ages Brisbane leg of his Palaces tour, Flume brings with him  Channel Tres, Toro y Moi and MAY-A.  Such a great line-up sees Brisbanites flock to the city as the sun goes down in what feels like a return to post COVID attendance figures.

When we arrive the roadies are busy moving an ‘arc-de-Triomphe’ frame of sorts, part of Flume’s otherwise minimalist stage set from the far left to the centre, then back again. Is it broken we wonder? Why is it not staying centre stage behind Flume’s two stations? Later we learn it is indeed working and even pulls apart and lights up, all with a little help from the roadies (don’t forget our all-important roadies btw. See SupportAct). Suddenly the crowd goes insane with a sound that would make any think Flume himself had come on early, but nope. It’s Channel Tres looking extra, complete with sequined tank, elbow length gloves, sneakers and shades. The artist clearly has a very healthy following here in Brisbane, perhaps a testament not only to his talent but to Triple J’s major radio play starting in 2018.  If the crowd needed any other reason to boogie – they didn’t – Channel Tres is accompanied by three energetic street dancers. Their choreographed moves complement the deep vocals and otherwise understated fat beats well. We’re treated to tracks including Top Down, Sexy Black Timberlake, 6am and Jet Black while something about the beats in Controller take me back to Beverly Hill Cop soundtrack days and Axel-F – ha ha weird! There is standing room only at the base of the Riverstage now and people are clearly ready to party. Further up the hill you can see that Flume maintains a varied fanbase with punters aged everywhere from their teens (well 6 months really- there was a baby with BIG earphones next to us) to their 50s. 

Perhaps Flume was as excited as his fans. He comes on a little early wearing full Motocross gear, the jacket of which comes off just one song in. If any of his decade-long fans were worried about Flume only playing new works, their fears were abased immediately by first choice Holdin on. It’s hard to believe this track IS ten years old now; it stands the test of time very well. Other historical tracks we’re treated to include Never be like you, Insane, Hyperreal and Smoke & Retribution among others. Special guest, Kučka, joins Flume for the last two in this list plus some more. Her pig tails and all black attire are understated but fortunately, her voice is anything but. Despite an enviable back catalogue, Flume continues to respectfully sample others too on the night including Disclosure and WILDKATS! Meanwhile, his backing visuals continue to titillate the audience. Displays include everything from his (now infamous) fox-glove flowers from the Skin album cover to a psychedelic morphing motorcycle tire and down-right scary, if not hypnotic, satanic looking dog. During Insane, the ‘arc-de-Triomphe’ frame lights up and divides, making me wonder how on earth they travel with that thing. Flume’s equipment is divided between two benches on either side of him, making for some terrific scenes and demanding that he switch frequently between the two.  

While Sydney is once again home to the DJ / record-producer having returned from a stint in Los Angeles, he makes the Brisbane crowd feel special explaining that all his family are locals, many of them joining us here tonight. Flume is indeed multi-talented, as are his sound crew who have to navigate the journey with him between crisp soprano piano notes (think Sleepless) and gritty distortion (think Get U off the latest album). Indeed, his set is quite the contradiction in some ways. Whilst no one could ever accuse the Grammy Award winning musician of failing to evolve, the moods embodied by some of his new experimental tracks are a bit confronting and a far cry from up-beat bangers like his remix of Hermitude’s HyperParadise. Just try not to dance during that one team! The crowd don’t disperse though, irrespective of the pace clearly shifting here and then there.  Flume doesn’t talk much during the set but takes the time to share a moment that triggered him only earlier backstage.  He pays tribute to friend, Sophie, who Flume explains was transitioning during the last Brisbane show and is now no longer with us.

Ok, so the one downside about the Riverstage is the strict (and I mean strict) lock down at 10pm. On the plus side, this means I can predict Flume’s plan to play several encores having ‘pretended’ to leave at 9:45pm. He certainly wasn’t interested in short-changing anyone and perhaps that’s why he came on early. Indeed, the set is a really decent length with Flume managing to play close to 25 tracks. This also means he gets to share the stage with other vocalists too including Toro y Moi for The Difference and May-A for Say Nothing and Never be like you. In this last one I feared for May-A actually who clearly stacks it down some stairs, but, in true professional form doesn’t miss a beat and continues to energetically dance around, all the while getting the crowd to sing along too. For a ‘school night’, people are pumped and Flume expresses his gratitude, even mentioning that it’s Wednesday several times. It feels as though he is in part applauding us and in part enticing us to continue in that spirit of revelry. Two of his three encores are courtesy of Streten having recently discovered an old laptop housing several unreleased songs, but he ends the night with Aria-Award winning Rushing Back featuring Vera Blue.  Having now collaborated with everyone from Lorde to Arcade Fire and even Gorillaz front-man Damon Albarn, it is safe to say Flume is not going anywhere anytime soon. Exactly where this journey will take him and his avid fans, however, feels far less certain.

Flume plays Melbourne 24th November, Adelaide 30th and Hobart 2nd December.  Get tickets HERE

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[Review] Hilltop Hoods @ Brisbane Entertainment Center, Brisbane 27/08/2022

Over a ‘Great Expanse’ of 20 plus years, I would have seen the Hilltop Hoods perform live six or seven times now. While, yes, the sets and crowds continue to get bigger, and the pyrotechnics, lighting and venues continue to improve, what hasn’t changed – and what I suspect is the real reason thousands flock year after year to see the Hoods – is the energy the famous trio bring to every city they visit. Enamoured by fans young and old, Suffa, Pressure and DJ Debris blessed a sold out crowd in Brisbane on Saturday night. Here’s just one Brissie girl’s recollection of her time in ‘The Nosebleed Section’.

An X-ecutioners fan from way back, I was disappointed to not quite get to see all of DJ Eclipse’s set. Fortunately, Brisbanites can catch the Brooklyn born turned Aussie local fairly regularly. It’s obvious why Eclipse continues to receive accolades for his blending, scratching, and beat juggling. Having been in the business; the ‘Show Business’; for nearly three decades now, and having even being credited with helping to pioneer turntablism, Eclipse still knows how to hypnotise an audience. Previously, he’s explained the benefits of playing to an Australian crowd: a crowd noticeably more open to showing their excitement than those in the Big Apple. He takes us on a journey. His own journey emanates from every set performed – there’s no mistaking the sounds of the New York scene in the late 90’s, a time referred to as the Golden Era of Hip Hop for a reason. How appropriate then that the revered DJ is now signed to the Hoods label entitled, Golden Era Records. Fortunately for me, this also means Eclipse returns to the stage for A B Original’s set.

Until then though, crowds are treated to an all-too short set by young Kenyan powerhouse Elsy Wameyo. Like the Hoods, this talented vocalist grew up in Adelaide and though relatively new to the scene, it’s obvious she won’t be an ‘Outcast’ for long. Her flow is flawless, fast paced and frenetic. Her professionalism and range allow seamless switches between soulful ballads like Daily and festival-bound bangers like the River Nile. Come the third song, Promise, Elsy entices the Brisbane audience, initially hesitant to get involved, to sing along. Though just four of her usual 7-piece band join her this time, they too are exceptional. If you are yet to listen to Elsy, make it a priority. I genuinely can’t help but move when her beats drop.

When aptly named A B Original (say that quickly now) hit the stage, the energy continues. Unapologetically political, Briggs and Trials continue their mission of presenting young Indigenous Australians with a vision and a sound of what’s possible. Previously they’ve reflected on not having local Indigenous rappers to look up to as children. Like Elsy before them, they are initially – and visibly – disappointed with the audience replies, but soon get us joining into their passionate set which includes King Billy CokeBottle, 2 Black 2 strong, Black Balls and their version of Paul Kelly’s Dumb Things among others. Joined by a pianist, DJ Eclipse, guest vocalist for January 26 and the equally powerful and multi-talented Mo’Ju, A B perform passionately. They suitably warm the audience up for what is sure to be a killa night ahead.

At about this time, my friend and I start taking bets on whether the floor-to-ceiling maroon velvet curtain hiding the ‘real’ stage will drop or rise when the Hoods come on. It drops…revealing a 5 metre-high, platform for Debris constructed upon a massive HTH fluro-illuminated emblem. Perhaps the Hoods need to get better at keeping secrets though – ha ha – fans like me had already seen the set when they’d posted it on social media earlier that day. Hey, it’s understandable – as was Debris’ obvious excitement during footage of him first seeing his coveted office-space for the night. Who says working from home is the best?!?

And so, the stage alights – literally with fire -and Suffa and Pressure start their marathon performance with Leave me Lonely, running to and fro, jumping non-stop and leaving no doubt that these veterans can still cut it. In May I had the privilege of sitting down with Suffa Mc (see that whole interview here). During our chat he was telling me how earlier that day his personal trainer had nearly broken him – you can see why that’s necessary – neither him nor Pressure stop to take a breath for most of the 90plus minute set, a set they’re next taking to Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide. Though an older fan like me would have liked more from the first two albums, their inclusion of Chase that Feeling made me very happy, and reminiscent. It’s also during this song that I first realise just how far out into the crowd the rappers can come.. and they do so often. Indeed, making their crowds feel welcome and involved is clearly a mission of the trios. Favourites Nosebleed Section and 1955 come next, the latter of which sees guest vocalist, Nyassa, join the stage. She wears what has come to be her signature look including headband, and a boxy jumpsuit with shoulder pads that would impress even the 1980’s. Her mic seems quite quiet at first but this is later rectified. Like time travellers we’re suddenly thrown back to the present, with not one but two new songs busted out: first Show Business – normally featuring Eamon and the song that gave the tour its title and then Whole Nights Day, the tune that got ‘the 1955 band back together’.

By now I’m predicting a few slower tracks – surely these two are going to pass out at any minute…. but I’m wrong. They pick up the pace once again and get everyone back on their feet for I Love It. This track is hot, and not just because the flame throwers have come alive again. Suffa and Pressure alike are sweating. So are we but in the best way possible. Ok, so I was one song off. The pace does slow briefly for Let You Down. Clark Griswald follows – but where are those grey wigs, plaid vests and Chinos fellas? Nearly didn’t recognise ya!

Despite being a diehard fan, there are a few songs, typically those with guest vocalists, that I haven’t always appreciated as much as I should have. Songs that just ‘bang’ with so much more ‘buck’ when live. This is true of Exit Sign I think. It’s so much fun. Live and Let Go follows with the crowd singing along in the absence of Maverick Sabre and Brother Ali. It is at this point, during Through the Dark that the Hoods, and Pressure specifically, remind us of just how far they’ve all come, just how versatile they are … and how blessed. Written hospital bedside in 2014 while his son battled Leukaemia, Pressure explains this was one of the hardest songs to ever write. Thankfully, this prayer “to Hip Hop Almighty” was answered and post a full recovery, his son’s battle has inspired a collaboration with CanTeen offering young cancer patients Side of Stage perks. If you’ve never looked at the lyrics for Higher – the set’s next track- go check them out. With almost as many cultural references as an all-time fav of mine, Fifty-in-five, such writing reminds us that the Hoods are indeed dope lyricists, poets even, not just Emcees with flows for days. At this point, Nyassa leaves the stage. Though clearly a talented vocalist, the Hoods ever the professionals, are generous to a fault and gracious, even giving her literal centre stage for the entire time she joins them. Perhaps Suffa and Pressure instead envied Debris birds’ eye view – both joining him at different parts of the set. Counterweight channels eerie Radiohead vibes to start but also lets the drummer and the horns section show off their skills. This is a great example of a tune that should shut down any haters who might dismiss Hip Hop as lacking melody. Indeed, the Hoods don’t just “write rhymes” but have consistently pushed the boundaries of the genre – highlighted best perhaps by their ongoing collaborations with symphony orchestras both on stage and in the studio.

And just like that “they came and they conquered”… well not quite. I sometimes get annoyed at Brisbane crowds – often their demand for encores are not what they should be! But, true to form, the Hoods treat us to not one but two extra songs: Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom and, as predicted, Cosby Sweater. All supports are welcomed back on stage too and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre really lights up. “And it’s all good. And it’s all good. And it’s all good”.

Suffa, Pressure, Debris you continue to amaze. You continue to educate but “it would take a nation of millions to stop” me requesting that you play your millions of fans more of The Calling, The Hard Road and State of The Art next time. Cos, like you, “we’re still standing and we’ll be back again.”

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InterviewsTour Interview

Interview with Suffa (Hilltop Hoods)

Hilltop Hoods are touring THE SHOW BUSINESS TOUR 2022 in a few months and STM interviewer Renee had a killer chat with Suffa recently to find out what they have in store.

HILLTOP HOODS have today announced dates for the ‘THE SHOW BUSINESS TOUR’ 2022 which sees the band playing headline shows across Australia this coming August & September.  Proudly presented by triple j, TEG Live & Blue Max Music tickets will go on sale to the general public at 10.00 am Wednesday 11 May.  
Joining HILLTOP HOODS for the national tour are A.B. ORIGINAL, who will be performing a taste of new music among classic tracks from their iconic debut album ‘Reclaim Australia’. Additional supports will be exciting Kenyan-born Australian singer-songwriter ELSY WAMEYO, and world-renowned turntablist DJ TOTAL ECLIPSE.
This is the band’s first headline tour since the ‘THE GREAT EXPANSE WORLD TOUR’ in 2019 which saw them playing sold-out Arenas to over 100,000 fans in 14 different countries.  This was HILLTOP HOODS biggest and most successful headline tour to date, where they also created history with the largest tour of any Australian act in 2019. 

The tour announcement follows the release of Hilltop Hoods brand-new single ‘Show Business’ which features US soul singer Eamon. The song is the Adelaide Trio’s first offering from a new album since 2018.

Join the multi-platinum selling and award-winning HILLTOP HOODS as they return for their first headline shows in 3 years.  Look forward to hearing classic hits such as ‘Leave Me Lonely’, and ‘Exit Sign’ Feat. Illy & Ecca Vandal, ‘1955’ Feat. Montaigne & Tom Thum, The Nosebleed Section, ‘Cosby Sweater’ and ‘Chase That Feeling’ alongside their latest hit single ‘Show Business’ Feat. Eamon.
The legacy of HILLTOP HOODS is undeniable. Their unparalleled career speaks for itself with Ten ARIA awards; six #1 Albums; #1 most streamed Australian artist on Spotify 2 years running; sold-out arena tours and over 60 x Platinum accreditations and counting.   
Get your tickets to see one of Australia’s most-loved live acts HILLTOP HOODS in the Telstra Plus member Pre-sale from 11 am (local time) on Thursday 5 May 2022 before the general public on sale at 10 am (local time) on Wednesday 11 May.

Stay up-to-date on HILLTOP HOODS by visiting their website https://hilltophoods.com

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