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[Review] Teddy Swims @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, 13/07/2024

The Melbourne weather let us down tonight, we almost had to swim to Margaret Court Arena, but the soggy trip was well worth it. Teddy Swims was amazing. The crowd were a mixture of mainly 20’s to well in their 60’s, all waiting patiently as the night opened with Meg Mac.

For those not in the know Meg Mac (Megan Sullivan McInerney) is an Australian singer/songwriter who tonight is backed by her sister Hannah and guitarist/keyboard player Pete. Meg appears on stage all dressed in goth black and shining silver space boots. She started to sing and I was surprised by her vocals. She has a clear and smokey sounding voice with a touch of country twang. Meg prowls up and down the stage while singing with her obviously well trained voice, but she is not afraid to share her spotlight with her sister Hannah who also processes a quality voice. The blend of the sisters’ voices is a joy to listen to. Meg needs no gimmicks in her stage performance as the quality of the lyrics and music are more than enough.

The crowd though here to see Teddy were very attentive and appreciative of the talented support act. Meg performed 8 songs and my favourite was a Bill Withers song Grandma’s Hands. It had a haunting vocal and was sung to a clapping beat with no guitar. Meg sang mainly originals that showed her strong songwriting talent. Hannah and Pete moved from one instrument to another and for a 3pce band they had a full Indi pop sound. Meg Mac was a great warm up for the main act. Jaten Collin Dimsdale AKA Teddy Swims is an American singer/songwriter. The Swims stands for Someone Who Isn’t Me Sometimes, which reportedly he doesn’t like anymore, but it’s too late to change.

The smoke-filled arena had the crowd singing to pre-recorded songs in anticipation for Teddy Swims and Freek Freely. Lights dim, stage is smokey and blue lit. Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool starts playing, red pulsating lights, jump, jump, jump and then they appear, Teddy Swims and his 5 piece band. Before the first note is played Teddy kicks off his shoes and they start playing Good Bye’s Been Good To You to raputous applause.

Teddy is all dressed in black complete with hat, sunglasses, big silver belt buckle and covered in tattoos. Teddy’s style does not give you any hint of the voice that lives inside. His background of heavy metal and influences of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Al Green have given him a voice which is full of power. Teddy has a cool tone and a voice full of emotion and soul, add in a touch of country and you have this amazing talent. He is a Southerner with swagger, but sounds like a raspy angel who’s powerful voice is capable of hitting the high notes.

He has a soft Southern drawl when he talks between songs, he is humorous, sweet and genuine. His love of Australia and his fans is evident when he speaks, and you feel like if he could, he would give every punter a big bear hug. Teddy’s band Freek Freely are filled with talented musicians, with Addy Maxwell and Jesse Hampton on guitar, Christian Griswald on bass, DeAndre Hemby on drums and Jaruis Hardge on keys and to quote Teddy “His best friends”. Each member is top class and we were treated to awesome solos on the drums, guitars and keys. Freek Freely is worth the ticket price and Teddy is the icing on the cake.

Teddy played an 18 song set, including 3 encore songs. In his 4th song of the night 911 he thanked the crowd for the reception he had received in Melbourne saying “no one at home loves me like you do”. Hands were in the air clapping and I have to mention two little girls (approximately 10 years old) in the seats on the side, they did not sit down, dancing with hands in the air all concert. Teddy even noticed and kept sending them love. Way too cute and great taste in music. All That Really Matters had huge cannon explosions which cover the standing crowd with streamers. Devil In A Dress has massive flame explosions and following song Simple Things, Teddy left stage for a beer, got a shoe from the crowd and did a shoey to chants of delight. “If I can’t sing tomorrow because of your foot fungus, it’s your fault” he joked with the crowd. Some Things I’ll Never Know were just Teddy on a stool and the keyboardist. Stripped back, his vulnerability and rawness gave me goosebumps. It was hauntingly beautiful. You’re Still The One by Shania Twain had the crowd in full voice and was dedicated to all mothers.

Teddy closed with his hits Lose Control and The Door with confetti explosions and a very satisfied crowd. Melbourne definitely gave Teddy Swims lots of love and a bear hug right back at him. Tonight was so much more than I was expecting, and I could have stayed all night listening to Teddy Swims and the Freek Freely.

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Cancer Bats @ Stay Gold, Melbourne 19/06/2024

It’s a cold night in Melbourne, there is a chill in the air, but that is soon to disappear because tonight Cancer Bats are heating things up at Stay Gold, a relatively small venue, which means things will be up close and personal, hot and sweaty, chaotic… fun!

I love a good underground punk/hardcore gig, no bands hiding, everyone interacting, everyone setting up, how often are you seeing the headlining bands out and hanging at the merch desk just chatting away and watching the openers? How often are you seeing that international headliner setting up and sound checking their own gear? Straight off the bat tonight had a great feeling to it, just from these simple sightings.

Starting off with a “Thanks for coming out early, we have an anxious start cause of a gear muck up before the show, but the guitarist got back in here in 20mins!” Melbourne’s opening band Sidesplitter said they started with angst, but you can’t tell there aren’t any nerves at all with their tight, upbeat punked outset. Stay Gold starts off slow, but luckily in a venue like this it doesn’t take many people to make it look full. These guys smash through their set, which only goes for about 20 – 25 mins but it’s completely stacked full of songs, I guess that’s the perks of being a punk band. Sidesplitter pack plenty of melody and killer riffs played by one hell of a guitarist, most riffs and I’m talking like 95% of them were played all down picking, now any guitarist having a read of this will and should be impressed, especially for single note up-tempo punk riffs!  That’s a fair effort by any standard! They have great stage banter, ending their set with a bit of a laugh with a crowd member with the last line of conversation being “The sound guy said one, maybe he doesn’t like us Gaz, I don’t know”. These guys were a great opener for tonight and would go out of my way to see them play again.

Threats, straight outta Frankston. These guys looked and sounded exactly as the name suggests, threatening. Their brand of hardcore was a hell of lot rougher around the edges than Sidesplitter before them, straight from the streets. These guys had a mid-2000’s two step sound to them and they played it well, even covering an old 50 Lions track, that’s a name I haven’t heard of in a very long time! They kept the energy of the room high and getting people to come up closer to the stage with each song. They utilized their full band well, bringing out tons of gang vocals and guitar riff trade-offs, it had a great effect! Yet again, 25 – 30 min set but goddamn! These guys jammed a lot of tightly played chugging two stepping in. This was their singers first show with them and he put in 110% effort! He nailed it! If you’re into that style of Aussie hardcore, go and check them out!

Next up was Sydney’s Fangz, I didn’t know what to think when they were setting up, each band has looked and played different so far, the only thing I did know was that these guys had to bring the same energy that the 2 bands before them had. Queue the intro music, which sounded like some 80’s style rock riff and the band walk on stage in black overalls waving and the singers wearing this hot pink bucket hat, yeah ok, I think we are gonna be fine here. Fangz absolutely smashed their set! They had the energy, they had the banter, their frontman was part Canadian, it was probably criteria for getting main support, they had it all! Straight off the bat, the frontman had the crowd charmed, he scored some sunnies off a punter and was sporting those whilst jumping straight into the pit and joining the mosh. Fangz had the banter to match their energy, they were funny, witty and entertaining as hell. The singer sounded a little like a Wednesday 13 kind of style at times and the music was catchy riff after catchy riff, it was melodic, they kept the gang vocals going, their drummer was unreal, such a good snare sound, it would cut straight thru the mix every time. They had all the right things in all the right places.

All the supports tonight were exactly what was needed for tonight, all energy, all 0 – 10 attitude and all about having a good time.

As I said at the start of the review, how often do you see an international headlining act out and about? Especially doing their own set up and sound check? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it, or doing it during a show? Like a support band? Like the rest of us!? It’s mad! It’s incredibly humble to see, that’s what it is! Cancer Bats are there on stage setting up their gear, they shake a few hands along the way of people up the front then they go to the side for their pre-show huddle and chuck on Metallica’s Whom the Bell Tolls, what a killer track! They stand there, headbang, sing, stretch and get ready to come out.

Cancer Bats kick straight into Gatekeeper and the entire venue erupts, all the energy built up from the last 3 bands just explodes into a mass of bodies jumping and moshing. I was standing at the side of the venue, with a great view of the stage and of the crowd and I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire gig, it was an incredible sight! Somehow the drummer has the sunnies from the Fangz singer and he is grinning ear to ear while smashing the kit, 1 minute into their set and they are already having a blast. Liam gives the safety speech and then looks to the camera guys to the side of stage “I’m sorry, I was meant to catch up with you guys before the show, we won’t be having professional shoots tonight, just phone footage with terrible voiceovers please. Everyone have fun. I WANT CHAOS!” Then they kick into Lucifer’s Rocking Chair, well he got what he asked for, it was chaos! I have been waiting to see these guys play for some time now and they did not disappoint! They were tight, they were all energy and they were down to earth. Liam stopped for a chat and said that they have been coming to Australia for 17 years now and that they had Deez Nuts support way back when, he then thanked the supports but not only just saying thank you “Insert Band Name” like every usual headline act on these shows, he brought up things that they did and said during their sets, showing that he actually watched and took notice! That to me says a lot! I would be so stoked to support a band where they actually watched your set. They smash out some killer tracks throughout the night, Radiate, Lonely Bong and Trust No One, to name a couple. We get to Bricks and Mortar, and not that the energy was lacking at any point, it steps up another notch, people know what’s coming up next, Cancer Bats killer cover of Sabotage, it’s absolutely unreal! Getting to hear this live the crowd goes nuts, and the singer from Sidesplitter jumps up on stage and screams along with them, how he must have been feeling to get up and do that! And then I finally get to hear their set closer, Hail Destroyer! My night was complete, screaming this along with them and everyone else in the venue! What a time! Ever since first coming across that album, I have been hanging to catch these guys live!

If you get a chance to catch them, go do it, you will not regret that choice. If you haven’t listened to their music yet, go and have a listen, it is heavy, groovy, it’s catchy as hell and just wait till you get to see them live!

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[Review] Cancer Bats @ Crowbar, Sydney 16/06/2024

Last night, Cancer Bats tore up Crowbar Sydney with their epic Bat Sabbath set, blasting Black Sabbath covers that had the whole place partying. They didn’t stop there, they kept the vibe alive with a DJ set afterward, keeping everyone hyped. Tonight, they’re back to deliver their original Cancer Bats tunes, promising another night of hardcore mayhem. Kicking off the evening are local legends Irken Armada, Bare Bones, and FANGZ.

The air outside may be crisp, but Irken Armada didn’t take long to heat things up inside, setting the stage with their hungry energy, this reviewer will be checking much more of their material thanks to tonight’s show. Following them, Bare Bones, a band with twelve years under their belt, brought their homegrown metalcore to life. Their set, filled with metal riffs and a tight-knit camaraderie, had the crowd buzzing, even catching the attention of Liam from Cancer Bats who was seen headbanging at the sound booth. So far the calibre of supports is seriously impressive.

As FANGZ took the stage in matching dungarees, the rooms energy stepped up a notch. Tracks like Self Medicate and chants of “F*ck What You Say” had the crowd singing along, and the band’s infectious enthusiasm made it feel like a wild Friday night. Bass player Jameel chugged on the Cancer Bats cold brew coffee, (available at all shows in collaboration with Aussie brewsters, Bellmott). All four members on stage joining in on backup vocals added to the unified sound as they were all smiles throughout their set.

With the stage bathed in red lighting and Metallica’s for Whom The Bell Tolls seeping through the speakers, Cancer Bats stormed in, opening with Gatekeeper, and wasting no time jumping into fan favourites like Trust No One and Lonely Bong, the latter featuring a guest appearance by Drew Gardner from local madmen Totally Unicorn. The setlist was a relentless barrage of hits, with Pneumonia Hawk, and The Hoof, Lucifer’s Rocking Chair, which was no doubt a crowd favourite. Each of the four band members never standing still all had their own personality, the energy on stage was contagious! Liam took a moment to thank the crowd and the venue for the last two nights, reminiscing about their 17 years of touring Australia. He mentioned that the last time they played here five years ago, they were joined by the same supporting acts, Bare Bones and FANGZ, making this reunion feel even more special.

Midway through the set, the crowd was treated to the anthemic R.A.T.S followed by the killer riffs of Hammering On, touching on the doom/stoner/sludge style of Cancer Bats. The intensity never wavered as the band launched into Harem of Scorpions and Sorceress, each track delivered with more energy and gusto than the last. True Zero’s powerful lyrics “May I remind myself who I really am” resonated deeply as Liam pointed and sung along with many members of the crowd.

As the night drew to a close, the batty Canadians didn’t let up. They tore through the heavy bass intro of Winterpeg, masterfully led by master of the low end, bassist Jaye Schwarzer, followed by Bricks & Mortar, and an intense cover of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage before closing with the fan-favorite Hail Destroyer. I was devastated when their sound was cut at Download Festival UK last year during Hail Destroyer, now my thirst finally quenched.

Cancer Bats left the stage, leaving the crowd sweaty, exhilarated, and eagerly anticipating their next visit already. Drummer Mike Peters jumped down to the barrier to shake hands and exchange sweaty hugs to top off an already amazing night. Tonight’s show was a testament to the band’s enduring appeal and their ability to deliver an energetic, unforgettable live show.
The tour stops into Canberra, then Melbourne for two shows, before wrapping up on Adelaide on June 21st. Do not miss this tour!

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[Album Review] Munitions – Remote Death

Melbourne Death Metallers, Munitions are back to take heads with their second EP, Remote Death, bringing back their neck breaking riffs and showing us that they have what it takes to back up a solid first EP, Black Winds.

In the two years since Black Winds was released, Munitions have been busy getting in some incredible milestones, already nailing their first international support slots, tearing up the local metal scene, then somehow also finding the time to get a brand-new EP written and recorded.

Second releases can be a tricky thing, you need to be able to back up, improve or at the very least, keep the same level of creativity/intensity as your first. Some bands can’t pull it off but goddamn, Munitions improve on all aspects that Black Wind originally gave us. Building off those already solid foundations, the sound of this EP is probably the biggest change that hits your ears first. Once again using their local recording studio, Dangertones, in Melbourne, they have captured everything perfectly and its incredibly well mixed. Anyone who follows the local Melbourne scene would have heard some of Dangertones previous album works and should investigate working with them.

These new songs are like sharpening a blade, they already have the weapon, the skills to wield it, now they are just making it a more efficient killer and that’s what these songs are, killer! This time around with the release they have filmed a video clip for the song Trapped, check it out on YouTube. The standout track for me was Manufactured Demise, I had it on repeat, I couldn’t stop. This song has dynamics, well written guitar solos, an excellent tremolo riff that then drops into the slower chunk version of the riff and you just get that headbanging feeling with a stank face, you know that face you get when you hear a riff and you just know that you’ve heard something incredible, yeah, THAT face.

If you’re into film clips and visuals, Trapped is the first track here with a film clip of the gents blasting it out. Great track to pick for a film clip and seeing the guys do what they do best. The second single released here before the rest drop is …And This Is How You Die, this is everything you want in an introduction of the band, heavy, groovy, tasty and well played. If you haven’t listened to Munitions before, go and put this track on, listen, then get excited for Remote Death’s release!

This is another incredible effort from a band that has not been around the scene for very long, mind you, if you look at the line up from this band, they are all scene veterans. They know what they are doing and there is no stopping them now that they are on a roll. This is definitely a band to watch out for!

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Missy Higgins @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 3/05/2024

Never in my young life could I imagine getting to a point where I would start a story with “20 years ago…” and actually have a living adult memory from that time, rather than it just being a blurred childhood recollection. So, when some of your favourite bands and artists start embarking on their ‘20th Anniversary Tours’ for albums you could swear to god were only released a year ago, the reality check hits you like a tonne of bricks. The latest artist to embark on such a tour is our very own and incredibly talented, Missy Higgins. Her debut album The Sound of White turns the big 2-0 this year, and she is currently touring the country far and wide to commemorate the hit album and its success.

Friday night my friend and I headed toward the ocean and landed in St Kilda at one of its most iconic landmarks, the historic and beautiful Palais theatre. This night she was lit up tastefully in a purple and red glow and commanded the attention of every passerby with her dominant presence on the St Kilda foreshore. As my friend and I approached, the crowd were gathering outside the doors and the icy sea breeze cut straight through us as we stood out the front finishing our traveller cans like a pair of naughty 16 year olds. With no support act and an early start time, there was just enough time to rehydrate at the bar and head in to settle into our seats ready for the night to begin.

We didn’t need to wait long until the lights went down, and Missy Higgins entered the stage to sit at her grand piano, to cheers and a huge round of applause from a very excited 2000-strong crowd. To start the set, she kicked off with one of her early songs Falling, and went on to explain that she’d put out a message on her socials asking fans to request songs for this set. The first half of the show was to be a mixed bag of old and new songs, before we revisited The Sound of White album. Halfway through singing The Battle, Missy had a temporary mind blank and hilariously said “Fuck, what are the words? This is what happens when I’m asked to play songs that are 20 years old”. We were then treated to a new song, Story for the Ages, which is on her new album due to be released later this year. Missy explained she wrote the song about coming to terms with her separation from her husband, and having to rewrite her story because it didn’t go the way she had originally planned. Despite her cheery demeanor and her reassurance that she is moving forward with her life, the raw emotion and grief is still clearly evident when Missy discusses this particular phase of her life. Being privy to that open emotion feels like a privilege and makes someone’s story and their music dive deeper into your soul.

The Broken Ones is another new release, and the relatable and emotionally charged lyrics really hit me for six. Throughout this entire set, Missy was alone on stage(bar a couple of numbers that included her backing vocalists), and she seamlessly floated between her piano and guitar, so the acoustic nature of each song gave it an additional layer of depth and feel. The Cactus That Found the Beat was a fun, upbeat jazz-inspired song that Missy wrote for her Year 12 end of year performance and had the crowd grooving and clapping along to the funky beat and her nifty scatting. We then got a huge surprise when Aussie singer Angie McMahon joined Missy on stage, and together they sang Where I Stood. The combination of Missy’s heavenly smooth tones and Angie’s ethereal vocals made this song other worldly, and the collective goosebumps in the theatre were palpable. This was a truly incredible moment, and one that I feel lucky to have witnessed first-hand. Missy made a joke about selling tissues at the merch stand, given the sad content of a lot of her songs, and I found this comment quite appropriate as she sang another new release in which there’s a line she sings about crying in the kitchen once the kids have gone to bed. It’s easy to forget that artists in the public eye are just as human as anyone else, and this particular lyric was really quite poignant and a stark reminder of this.

It was time for an interval so the crowd could grab a drink and emotionally reset, in anticipation of ‘The Second Act’. All For Believing opened the second set with a haunting arrangement with just keys and a cello, before the 6-piece band entered the stage appropriately dressed in white, to perform Katie. Missy flaunted her custom-made short suit for the tour with an accompanying white tasselled jacket, with different meaningful symbols embroidered on it to represent different lyrics from her debut album. The River prompted Missy to recall how she used to freak out her teachers at school with her fucked up stories, but it’s fair to say it seems to have worked out pretty well for her career-wise.

Nightminds brought a solid lump to my throat and had the nostalgia flooding right back into my bones, before Ten Days had me reminiscing about all the boys I wasted hours crying over in my younger years. Missy Higgins and her tunes of heartache were on high rotation on my broken heart playlist and despite the time that has apparently passed, she has the power to evoke all those feelings again making them bubble to the surface. This is How It Goes had Missy showcasing her incredible vocal ability where in one instance in the bridge her voice was doing things I didn’t think humanly possible, and the crowd agreed with their enthusiastic response. We kept moving through the album (not in track order) before landing on The Special Two. You could feel the physical energy of everyone in the room during this iconic track, and the audience couldn’t help but sing along (at a respectful level). Missy thanked her fans for riding this journey with her and for sticking around for the last 20 years, before leading into her first huge hit Scar that had the room singing along to every word and up dancing in the aisles. The Sound of White appropriately finished off the show, and the room completely erupted at its conclusion with raucous cheers and a well-deserved standing ovation.

Missy Higgins is one of our greatest talents in this country, and her songwriting and musical ability is second to none. Her incredible voice is a soothing salve for the soul, that has the extraordinary ability to heal even the most broken of hearts. This was a truly magical night of emotion inducing nostalgia, and I’m so thrilled that I got to experience it in the flesh for myself. Those that have been to this show will know exactly what I’m talking about, and will understand that sometimes there just aren’t enough words that will do this night and the whole entire tour justice.

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[Review] Nothing But Thieves @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 30/04/2024

Conor Mason, Joe Langridge-Brown, Dominic Craik, Philip Blake, and James Price, collectively known as Nothing But Thieves, blew the roof off The Hordern Pavilion, kicking off their tour in a rainy Sydney with a performance that was nothing short of spectacular. As the first show of their Welcome to The DCC Pt2 tour and with the entire Dead Club City album under their belt, anticipation ran high, the band delivered an unforgettable evening.

A prerecorded call on the speakers to “Give it up for Nothing but Thieves” set the tone for the night – one of unbridled passion and raw talent. Despite it being less than 12 months since the Essex lads sold out an Aussie run, the atmosphere crackled with energy from the moment the band took the stage, opening with the anthemic Welcome to the DCC that immediately had the crowd on their feet.

The setlist was a carefully curated blend of fan favorites and tracks from Dead Club City, showcasing the band’s evolution over the years. Songs like Is Everybody Going Crazy? and Sorry resonated deeply with the audience, their infectious melodies and powerful lyrics stirring emotions.

One of the highlights of the evening was the performance of Lover Please Stay, a ballad that hadn’t been played live in quite some time. The intimate moment, with Langridge-Brown seated on the drum riser and Mason bathed in spotlight, was a poignant reminder of the band’s versatility and emotional depth.

As the night progressed, the energy only intensified, with tracks like Trip Switch and Futureproof sending the crowd into a frenzy of limbs. The unexpected appearance of a rogue balloon floating above the pit, only to conjure Pop the Balloon added to the excitement, with Blake’s bass reverberating through our chests.

For the encore, Nothing But Thieves treated us to a raucous rendition of Oh No :: He Said What?, exuding Michael Jackson Thriller vibes that had everyone dancing. Mason giggled on the microphone saying “if we enjoyed that, you’ll LOVE the next” as they kicked into gear with crowd favourite Amsterdam.

Throughout the night, Nothing But Thieves demonstrated why they are one of the most captivating live acts in the industry and why Aussies flood to their shows. Their musicianship was impeccable, their stage presence magnetic, and their connection with the audience palpable. Many times throughout the performance I found myself blown away with Mason’s vocal technique and talent.

During the final song, Overcome, I couldn’t help but notice the heartwarming sight of friends, lovers, siblings, and even newfound companions grabbing each other to dance together. In that moment, the music united us all, transcending barriers and differences. It was a fleeting yet profound instance where everything in the world felt perfect, and nothing could dim the brilliance of that moment. Overcome served as a powerful shot of positivity, reminding us all of the transformative power of music and its ability to bring people together in harmony.

With their Dead Club City tour in full swing, Nothing But Thieves have once again proven why they are a force to be reckoned with in the world of alternative rock. Brisbane and Auckland are already sold out! If you have the chance to catch them live, don’t hesitate – it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

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[Review] James Taylor @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 16/04/2024

It’s a cold and rainy winter night. You’re lounging on the living room floor with a glass of wine in front of the heater, turntable crackling in the background, and the sweet, mellow smoothness of James Taylor is absorbing your ear drums as well as your soul. Life is content. This is the exact vibe that washes over me whenever I hear his voice…

Tuesday night in the city and it was baby boomer central at Margaret Court Arena, as a few thousand punters ventured in to see legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor. Taylor is currently touring the country on what has been dubbed as his last Australian tour. 

As my friend and I were standing in line waiting to stuff our faces with Mr Miyagi’s pork baos, I could’ve sworn I saw James Taylor walking through the crowd. In fact, there were about 30 James Taylor’s strolling by me on their way to the bar. At first I thought my hunger was making me hallucinate, I soon realised that in actual fact there were just a lot of men sporting their flat caps, paying homage to the man of the hour who is known to have one as permanent fixture to his head. For those spring chickens less acquainted with the style, think Peaky Blinders hat. 

Given there were no support acts, it didn’t take long to dive straight into proceedings once we’d taken our seats amongst the hoards. The house lights were killed off, and Mr James Taylor walked out on stage (yes, wearing his iconic hat), under a single spotlight and was met with a huge applause. His hat was removed, and he took a bow before settling into his position for the night. He let us know that he was so glad to FINALLY be back in Australia and that it’s such a long trip to get here. The show was opened with Something in the Way She Moves, in which Taylor revealed that this was the first song that he played for Paul McCartney and George Harrison in 1968. The Beatles had just started Apple Records and after hearing that song, Taylor was the first artist to be signed to their label. There’s nothing I love more than listening to an artist give a backstory on their music and creating this whole bigger picture than what you initially realise. 

Rainy Day Man followed before we were led into That’s Why I’m Here, which was written after the death of his good friend and partner in crime John Belushi, which was then a catalyst towards Taylor’s own recovery. A song about our own beloved Australia, Yellow and Rose played out, until we were a “long way from anywhere” with Anywhere Like Heaven. Throughout the first half of the show I was having a good laugh at the female cohort of the crowd, yelling out that they loved him in which he awkwardly and cheekily reciprocated, however I did think it was going to get all Tom Jones there at one point and I was going to see underwear being thrown at the stage. Before getting into Never Die Young, James told us “That’s actually great life advice and if you’re young enough then don’t die. It’s too late for me but save yourselves!” His dry sense of humour was present throughout the entire show and had everyone laughing along the whole night. 

After Country Road, in which I couldn’t take my eyes off drummer Dean Parks with his killer drum part, there seemed to be an issue with James’ inner ear monitors and he hilariously told us he had the footy game running through them, and it kept cutting out which was annoying him. Sweet Baby James was a huge hit with crowd, until the wacky tune Sun on the Moon rounded out his first set. When Taylor held up a comical-sized board of his set list that looked like a wobble board, he mentioned an intermission and I thought this was his humour coming into play again. 

“Now I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain” … but never in all my years of going to concerts have I been to one with an intermission!

 The house lights went up and for 20 minutes the crowd had a stretch and restocked their snacks and beverages before settling back in for the second half of the show. We were then taken on a bit of a journey around the world, with the beautiful Carolina in My Mind opening up the second set. We then jetted off to Mexico, and with its slight Caribbean undertones which I found interesting, it had the crowd moving along. The crowd went wild as he traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric for the first time that night, and there was a cheeky joke made about how far guitars had come since the old gas and steam guitars, but that horse drawn guitars were still being used in Pennsylvania. This led into the blues tune Steamroller in which I felt my body involuntarily moving to the beat. It also further solidified the fact that I need to learn how to play the harmonica (you’re welcome, neighbours) after a ripping harmonica solo from Taylor. 

The iconic intro to his heartbreaking classic Fire and Rain had the crowd going mad and had them also singing along at a respectable volume throughout the entire song. Up on the Roof – written by the legendary Carole King – got the crowd even more excited, as did Shower the People where James’ wife joined the band onstage on backing vocals. We were then told “I’m gonna sing that other Carole King song for ya” which raised a huge response from the crowd as he led into the absolute classic You’ve Got a Friend. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) seemed to draw the night to a close and attracted a huge reaction with a standing ovation from the crowd. 

After James and the band left the stage, I was contemplating whether we would get an encore given the intermission we had. But I needn’t contemplate for long because James was back in no time, much to the pure delight of his fans and went on to Shed A Little Light on us, which had everyone up and dancing. Smiling Face had that exact affect on the crowd, and they reciprocated with another standing ovation at its conclusion. They still weren’t quite done so to finish off the night completely, it was the mellow You Can Close Your Eyes and the beautifully blended harmonies resonated throughout the arena which was the perfect end to such a relaxed evening. 

James Taylor is one of the original singer-songwriter masters of our time, and his melodious music and soulful lyrics have the power to impact and survive throughout the generations. This was a night that was throughly enjoyed by all, and I know that everyone present are secretly hoping that he’ll change his mind about this being his last Australian tour. Until (hopefully) next time, James!

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[Review] Live and Incubus @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 14/04/2024

When confronted with a lineup featuring Incubus and Live, I definitely thought that Incubus would have the bigger Australian fan base, having been regular visitors to our shores over the last 15 years or so (this is my 4th go round with Incubus).  So I was surprised to see Incubus coming on first and having the slightly shorter set of the two.  There is a lot to be said for a dual headlining show – all thriller, no filler and I was excited to be seeing 2 excellent bands on the one bill.

Incubus appeared just a couple of minutes after the prescribed time and there was no mistaking when charismatic frontman/heart throb Brandon Boyd took the stage as the cheer was a loud one.  Sporting long hair these days and a seriously dodgy 70’s porn star mustache which should be shaved off immediately, he nonetheless cuts a fine figure at the front of the stage.  The VIP setup for this gig was a strange one.  On each side of the stage was a little fenced off area where 20 or so excited die-hards stood awkwardly waiting for the show to start – well I guess you can’t get much closer than that for your money. 

After a short instrumental introduction, the familiar scratchy scratchy intro to Nice to Know You began with Brandon adding his breathy beat box over the top.  I love this song and from the enthusiastic singing of the assembled, I am not alone – Goodbye, nice to know you.  Following along on the all thriller, no filler theme, next up was the incomprehensible Anna Molly.  I swear I have only just discovered as I write this, that this was the song title.  For years, I thought it was Indubitably.  En-unc-iat-ion, please.

Sick Sad Little World was next featuring a long instrumental interlude which gave Brandon a chance to shake his skinny booty and brought Chris Kilmore out from behind his decks to spin what must be 30+ years of dreads in a circle headbang.   Speaking of Circles, this song from the wonderful Morning View album of 2002 was up next and gave new girl, bassist Nicole Row a chance to show her chops.

Is it my imagination or did it suddenly get very hot in here?  To the strains of The Beatles’ Come Together, Brandon shed his t-shirt and I had to remind myself that I was here for the music.  Come Together was not the only cover of this set.  Are You In morphed midway and seamlessly into Riders on the Storm from the Doors, and back again without skipping a beat.  They also did a short, sexy cover of Glory Box by Portishead, and one of my faves, Let’s Dance by David Bowie.

After a hit packed, but all too short set, Incubus finished on a definite high with the singalong favourite – Drive.  This brought Brandon and guitarist Mike Einziger down to the front of the stage for an acoustic intro.  The audience singing could be heard clearly over the music – Would you choose water over wine, hold the wheel and drive.  It was a given that the set would end with Wish You Were Here.

I Googled Live yesterday and a live version of all the music my husband and I watch on Youtube on a Saturday night over the pool table came up, but no Live the band.  I had to delve way deeper down the Google wormhole to find Live the band.  Probably a poor choice of a band name in this digital age but as they have been going in one form or another since the early 80’s when the world wide web was just a concept in an English computer lab, you can’t blame them. 

My experience with Live begins and ends with the hits.  I love me some post grunge, alternative rock (as Wikipedia describes their style) but some Live songs skirt just a wee bit close to country for my liking.  And tonight, Ed Kowalczyk explained why that is.  Hailing from York, a town in Southern Pennsylvania, an area that is known as Pennsyltucky as it shares a border with West Virginia and there to the Southern states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama and explains why “I talk funny” says Ed.  And yes, there is a definite southern twang in his voice.  “I hope all y’all are having a good time.” 

If anything, the floor of MCA is more tightly packed for Live than it was for Incubus.  Their set started with the radio friendly Hold Me Up, followed by the very recognizable All Over You which brought a massive singalong from the packed house which continued for Selling the Drama whose lyrics read like a passage from the bible.  Although not known as a Christian band, Christian themes seem to appear regularly in Ed’s lyrics. 

The Dolphin’s Cry was up next and has there ever been a more melodramatic song title in all of rock?!  I think not.  The mullet in a flanny sitting in front of me was in raptures and much fist pumping and finger pointing accompanied this song. 

The next song Ed says was a new one, Leave the Radio On.  It began innocently enough but after a few bars, I heard a sound that made my heart drop and my jaw clench – slide guitar.  You’ve just crossed the line.  The hits of Live with a grungy feel had always made me think that Ed Kowalczyk was more Billy Corgan than Billy Ray Cyrus but I may have been mistaken. 

The main set finished with the wonderful Lakini’s Juice.  A constant on the Triple M playlist and a masterpiece of post grunge angst.  Ed was winning me back and the 2 song encore featuring I Alone and Lightning Crashes had the mullet in a flanny, AND me leaving MCA with a smile on our faces (not together….EEEEWWW).

So my takeaways from this gig is that co-headlining tours are awesome.  Great value for money (and let’s face it, concert tickets in Australia are getting RIDICULOUSLY expensive) and shorter sets are guaranteed to be packed to the gunnels with hits and the songs the fans want to hear.  Promoters of Aus – More Please!

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[Review] Simple Plan @ John Cain Arena, Melbourne 11/04/2024

The year is 2013. You’ve just started at a new school in some satellite city, and you’re waiting at the bus stop. The bus is 15 minutes late. Before you can grumble about being late on the first day, your headphones light up with Simple Plan. The heavy pop-punk guitar rips through your teenage angst and you tap your foot slightly. Suddenly, time has passed and you’re on the bus. We The Kings serenade you as you step onto school ground and run for class. Boys Like Girls give you the speed and agility you need to step around the two other students and make it to the top of the stairs in time.

Thursday night was just like that. Except instead of being me in year 8, it was me at 24 outside Melbourne’s John Cain Arena, waiting with a sea of others with that same experience for our tickets. This was maybe the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at the iconic Melbourne venue. The vocals of American Idol winner, Jax, keep us bouncing and excitedly calling over friends while we wait for entry.

Eventually, I make my way inside, and get the most spectacular seats. I settle down to watch the end of We The Kings’ set. The 6-piece are giving it their absolute all in a disappointingly short setlist. I was aching to see more of them and was so sad to see them go after only about 8 songs. Pounding drums, I can feel in my feet, amazing acoustic and electric guitar work blending together seamlessly to take me back to those earlier days. We The Kings sound just good live as they do on the album, and maybe, better. The audience is screaming and clapping and dancing, and it gives the music such depth, recordings just can’t capture. One thing about the crowd; we love We The Kings. Every song’s conclusion is met with ferocious cheers and begs for more. It was honestly hard for me to take notes because I was so enraptured by the Florida band.

Before I know it, we are at the final number. Check Yes Juliet is more than a hit, it’s iconic. It’s generation defining. It’s brain chemistry changing. Ask anyone born between 1994 and 2000, and we can sing this goddamn song. It really is anthemic. And boy do We The Kings know it. After absolutely shredding their way through it, with incredible bass work, guitar strumming to rival some of The Greats and a beautiful comradery – they turn the mic to us and ask us to sing, completely acapella. And we do. The stadium is full of voices, all screaming the chorus at the top of our lungs. At moments, you can tell Travis Clerk wants to take the microphone back but doesn’t. We are just too lost in the song, in the moment and in nostalgia.

We The Kings leaves the stage, leaving us hungry for more, and telling the world “Now that’s how you open!”

Third cab off the rank was Boys Like Girls, the band I knew the least out of the lineup – or so I thought. As soon as Love Drunk started playing, a part of me woke up and I realised I knew this band. I knew these songs. And so did everyone else. The screen behind the foursome played a mix of music video clips, lyrics and animations which reflected off the guys’ all-leather fits. They were clearly going for a modern-twist on 1980’s glam-rock and it weirdly worked. “The name? Boys Like Girls. The Place? Boston Masechussets, USA, The World, The Milky Way, The Motherfucking Universe!!!” Front man, Martin Johnson yowls into the microphone.

BLOOD AND SUGAR goes down an absolute treat, the boys needing a cigarette after it’s finale. “The secret to rock ‘n’ roll, is to keep smoking cigarettes. It keeps you nice and young!” After a set full of flicked guitar picks, thrown drumsticks and impassioned rants, it starts to come to a close. We wish their touring guitarist a very happy birthday, before being taken into a remix of Love Drunk, yet again, to close us out. And wow, what a fantastically, high-energy set from the boys from Boston. “Ah Australia. The weed. The sunshine. The magpies. We love ya!” and we love you too, Boys Like Girls.

And now, the finale. Simple Plan look like a group of Canadian talk show hosts but play like absolute rock superstars. With six studio albums, a theme song and over 25 years together – they are an absolute musical unit. Given this history, it’s unsurprising this set was impossible to capture in the number of words I have.

“Are you ready to party with Simple Plan? This next song’s called Jump, so what’re you gonna do?” From their second song onwards, it’s a blur for me. Partially because of the intense strobes, but mostly because of the energy in that room. Jumping up and around onstage, soaking it up, and looking like the cool uncles you see once a year – their energy is just perfection.

This set is long, and it’s a mix of new and old originals to keep fans of every era full to the absolute brim. It’s also full of covers, delivered with Simple Plan skill, spunk, and wit. The mashup between All Star / Sk8erBoi and Mr Brightside, changed me a little bit. Let Go, by Avril Lavigne was the first album I bought with my own money, I think I screamed so loud my vocal cords ripped.

But I will never scream as loud at any show the way I screamed at What’s New, Scooby Doo? The theme song that changed me. The ripping guitars, driving drums and rhythmic bass did not disappoint, and I was thrown into a frenzy of voices, claps and elated laughs. The girls behind me were giddily shouting “They played it! They really played it!” after it ended. Needless to say, it brought the sold-out house down. For Iconic, they brought out first-support Jax. Her vocals are just incredible. Vanilla-y and sweet, with an edge that is difficult to capture, but is complimented perfectly by an electric guitar – it was a duet to never be forgotten.

Normally, I hate encores. But I could not wait for Simple Plan’s return. I’m Just A Kid, was, unsurprisingly, a smash hit. I love this fucking song, man. And I’m not alone. This Song Saved My Life made me appreciate these guys as musicians, and what they did for two generations of teenagers. I saw parents with kids swaying and singing together. Young couples. Older people with shaved heads – everyone was completely caught-up in Simple Plan’s simple, breathtaking charisma. Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, genuinely made me cry a little. I’m glad they cut it at verse 2, or I would’ve been a mess. I hope I see Simple Plan’s faces again. Because nothing can quite compare to the Montreal Band’s musicianship, charm and command.

I left the arena feeling warm and golden. My ears were aching for more and I could still feel the claps of happy hands in my feet. Next time they’re down under, get to it. I promise, you won’t be disappointed – and neither will that kid inside you, who’s waiting for a late bus at the bus-stop.

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