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[Review] Bloc Party / Interpol @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 16/11/2023

In what can only be described as A Y2K indie rockers wet dream, Manhattan force, Interpol, and London legends, Bloc Party team up for an epic amphitheatre takedown. Both groups soundtracked the early noughties with masterful debut albums and their sets on this cool November evening were showcases of their longstanding double decade careers.

Having just returned from a two-week European and UK tour,  Awabakal Land / Newcastle post-punk five-piece, dust settled the crowd with playful power-hits Joy (Guilt) and Ward 52

“We’re dust from Newcastle. This is a lifetime experience.”

As tight and energetic as these young guns were, notably, the rolling green hill of the Bowl was met by ill panning and compression issues on the sound, an unfortunate error that slid into the first half of Interpol’s set and reappeared throughout Bloc Party’s set, seeing the larger-than-life stylings of both indie greatest fractured. Muffled and muddied, the guitars stuck together like chewing gum and vocals were drowned. Gut-punches from the heavy set drumming celebrated throughout both artists’ discographies were non-existent in this fader faux pas but both bands made up for the production problems with intense delivery and enthusiasm.  

Paul Banks strides to the stage mic, his look coming straight out of Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’ – “that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on baby”. He is joined on-stage by Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino, and touring members Brandon Curtis and Brad Truax all donning head to toe black ensembles and a New York coolness. 

They launch into the mammoth opener of‘Untitled with the first half of the set topped with classic cannonballs including C’mere, My Desire, Roland, and crowd favourite Obstacle 1

The lighting techs excelled in elevating the show. Interpol lived in red lighting states throughout majority of their set with pops of blinding whites and reflections from the low-hanging mirror-ball behind Fogarino, echoing their 2002 debut Turn On The Bright Lights album title and cover art, and a palette that has been threaded through their entire discography of artwork. 

The screen relay was set to black and white, making use of delays, fading transitions and slow mo effects for a real rock and roll vibe.

To a shifting blue light, Rest My Chemistry from the 2007 Our Love To Admire was a Pixies delight at the time of release. Live, the drifting melody of Kesslers guitar with Banks’ prosaic vocals is transportative.  

Sitting largely in their first three albums, Interpol catered to their mostly middle-aged audience, offering only two recent tracks from last year’s The Other Side of Make-Believe, Into The Night and Toni. They closed out with a chorus of “Rosemary”’s for the highlight Evil, rounding out a quality set with The New and Slow Hands.

The impact of this monumental co-headline tour was not lost on either Banks or Bloc Party’s energetic frontman, Kele Okereke

“It’s amazing being back in Australia. It’s been a while so it’s nice to be back with you after so long and sharing the stage with Bloc Party,” Banks acknowledged.

“Good evening Melbournia. We are Bloc Party from London and we are heaps excited to be here tonight. That’s the true,” Okereke quipped as a lead into You Should Know The Truth after slamming in with last year’s Alpha Games hit In Situ. Later in the set, the euphoric This Modern Love was also dedicated to their co-headliners; “They took us on our first ever tour so this song is for them.” 

Kele Okereke’s vibrant green and black cardi, paired with a cream headband, only lasted three songs before being discarded. Bloc Party were here for one reason only. 

“Let’s get this party started,” Okereke exclaimed as the eerie descending notes of Hunting For Witches launched.

Okereke kept the set lively with his contagious stage presence and general hype-attitude. From some cheeky quips to the stage crew “Thank you John that’s enough. He wants his own spin-off show. Now get out of here”, to pumping up the crowd with lines like “Let’s keep it rolling”, his infectious energy rolled into the crowd. 

Offering epileptic strobing, Kettling from the 2013 FOUR brought some pop punk power whilst Song For Clay (Disappear Here) was prefaced by Paul Kelly classic Dumb Things

The middle aged crowd of indie rock ‘n’ rollers were blessed back in 2018 with hearing the game changing debut Silent Album in full on Bloc Party’s last tour and it shows that the album is still as beloved. While only four songs made the bill this time around they were all met with explosive sing-alongs. Banquet was the first in the set with drummer Louise Bartle elevating the track with a smashing tempo building to a huge “I’m on fire” screaming match.

Okereke’s energy did not dwindle, incorporating fancy footwork into Different Drugs and playing with the vocal pedals on the ground. He also never missed a beat with the banter.

Ahead of the latest track from The High Life EP, Blue was introduced with a dig at our weather, “If I wanted a cold summer evening I may as well have stayed in London”.

The final leg of the set was one of epic proportions, not just for the song choices but for the audience’s liveliness, which had thus far ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, spiking for nostalgic songs. The brooding So Here We Are saw Bartle back on the fire, a hard task considering Matt Tong’s original drumming was intense and dynamic. Guitarist Russell Lissack came to the party in this section. Whilst a bit of an enigma on stage, he makes the guitar sing the heavenly builds, catapulting the revelatory, “I figured it out”.  

Swapping to cutting guitar lines, Lissack led in a crowd chorus for Helicopter. There is nothing quite like 13,000 people singing the line “As if to say he doesn’t like chocolate”. Flux followed for a dance floor epic. Okereke hugs his guitar to his chest during the second verse before leading a clapping army from front to the back of the hill, leading perfectly into The Prayer.

Revealed as a song about a boy from St Kilda, the Interpol dedicated This Modern Love started off on a high note. A favourite all round, the build in the recorded version is monumental but live it fell flat in the crescendo. The pummelling “This modern love, breaks me” repetitive bridge lacked guts with Okereke singing down an octave. Not quite the euphoric moment experience of their last Australian tour but still the ultimate Bloc Party belter.

Ending on a high note was what Okereke referred to as a certified banger. “We have one more rocket in our pocket. Back home we call this one a banger but I don’t know what you call it in these parts. Do you like a banger Melbourne?”, he questioned, going out with the rambunctious Ratchet.

Whilst both Interpol and Bloc Party sets suffered sound-wise, both 2000’s giants both put on a show set to invigorate the indie dream and the crowd lapped it up.

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[Review] Steve Vai @Hindley St Music Hall, Adelaide 8/11/2023

As a serious music fan, I became obsessed with rock music as a kid, thanks to the likes of Kiss and Alice Cooper and their theatrical brand of rock and roll. This, in turn led to my love of Van Halen and the ‘hair bands’ that followed, so, of course I first discovered Steve Vai through his work with David Lee Roth. The way Steve’s guitar ‘talked’ in DLR’s Yankee Rose to open 1986’s Eat ‘em and Smile album, his flamboyant style and moves, his triple-necked heart shaped guitar in DLR’s Just Like Paradise video…clearly my tastes were more about the entertainment factor rather than the technical wizardry of a guitar virtuoso.

Despite me never seeking out instrumental technical music to add to my music collection, one of the first CDs I owned was Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. After attending an information session at a high-end hi-fi store in Adelaide many years ago, to promote the latest trend in audio (the CD), I got to choose a bonus CD with the purchase of my first player. I randomly chose that particular CD. It’s the only instrumental rock album I’ve ever owned, and I loved the way the guitar was able to take care of the melodies you would usually expect from the vocals.

Heading to Adelaide’s Hindley Street Music Hall, I had no idea what to expect from this gig and I suspected it could be challenging to write a review for such a show without being overly well-versed in all things technical. If you’re here to read a report on Steve Vai’s techniques and musical hardware, you have come to the wrong place!

As there was no support act, I arrived shortly before the headliner’s two-and-a-half-hour set began. Straight away, I noticed that the crowd was predominantly male and seemed to be lacking the usual drunken rowdiness before a typical rock show. I suspected many were here to see a master at work and wanted to focus, rather than to stage-dive and sing along.  

The set started with Avalancha from Steve’s latest album Inviolate. This was a great groove-driven tune that showed off the famous Steve Vai signature sound perfectly. Joining Steve on stage was his new side-guitarist Dante Frisiello. Initially Dante appeared to be here to simply lay down some basic rhythm guitar behind Steve’s dynamic leads, but as the night went on, Dante was given more space and time to showcase his own incredible lead playing (‘Dante Unchained’ as Steve put it). On bass was Philip Bynoe. Like Dante, Philip was a solid backing for Steve’s leadwork but was also given plenty of opportunity to showcase his own incredible bass skills with solo stage time later in the set. Completing the rhythm section, and the band, was drummer Jeremy Colson, proving that every member of Steve Vai’s band is a top shelf musician. Jeremy’s double-kick drum solo during the set was as incredible as the guitar work shown throughout the show by the other members of the band.

I did notice when the band started the set that there were no mic stands to be seen. There were obviously no singing vocals to be heard tonight but I hoped to hear some interaction between Steve and the crowd. Thankfully, after a few songs Steve was handed a microphone and was able to converse with the crowd. This continued every now and again. He mentioned how long the tour had been and told everyone that when they played the Brisbane show before this one, Steve had been mixed up and greeted the Queensland crowd by saying ‘Hello Adelaide!’ (at the end of this set Steve finished the show by jokingly saying, ‘Goodnight Melbourne!’).

Following the opening number was the heavier Giant Balls of Gold which really brought the whole band in to create a bigger sound and get the crowd moving. Having said that, for most of the night I noticed a difference between this gig and a regular rock show with vocals. The crowd watched the stage intently and nodded their heads along in appreciation rather than really moving in time to the music. Nobody seemed to want to miss their view of Steve Vai’s fingers on his fretboard.

The set went on with a mix of tunes from Steve’s solo albums, all with accompanying visuals on the big screen behind the band, to compliment the audio. There were psychedelic images, dramatic images…whatever suited the song at the time. My personal favourite was the very detailed and mesmerising video of the conception of a child from the wiggling sperm, to the growing foetus, to childbirth, ending hilariously with the close-up image of a very young Steve Vai’s face. Another highlight of the use of the screen was when some of the film Crossroads was shown before Steve launched into some of his music from his appearance in the film.

Later in the set, Steve revealed his 3 neck Ibanez guitar on which he played his track Teeth of the Hydra from his latest album. This involved Steve playing twelve-string, six-string AND bass guitar, all in the one song! This is just one of the reasons to see Steve Vai live!

As the set drew to an end, there were a couple of tracks from Passion and Warfare covered. For the Love of God covered more laid back and soulful territory, while Liberty was more Epic in vibe. As Steve launched into these closing tracks, he said, ‘If you know the melodies, sing along!’ Despite this show being instrumental in nature, it was this comment that sums up Steve Vai for me. He plays the guitar as though he is singing through his instrument. Not only is it possible to sing along to his guitar melodies as though they were vocals, but watching Steve’s face and his mouth move, as he plays guitar, it’s clear that his very expressive playing is his way of singing. 

 Despite playing for over two hours, when the band left the stage they were recalled loudly for an encore, which they quickly returned for before the house lights came on and everybody filed out of the venue onto Hindley Street again.

I’m certain a lot of the crowd at this gig were aspiring guitar heroes who wanted to see one of the world’s best rock guitarists in action but even for those who weren’t, Steve Vai and his band certainly had enough charisma and talent to keep the entire room entertained for the duration of this show.

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[Review] Earl Sweatshirt @ Northcote Theatre 17/10/2023

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has been in the rap game since 2007. At only 29 years old, he’s a veteran, and his show at Northcote Theatre proves just how much he’s a master of his craft. Kgositsile, or as he is better known, Earl Sweatshirt, rose to prominence as the prodigé of fellow rapper, Tyler, The Creator. Sweatshirt’s early days were spent as part of powerhouse rap collective, Odd Future, under the sculpting gaze of his contemporaries, including both Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean. It’s easy to see the lasting impact on his live work, bur dare I say that the student has become the master? Or, at the very least, the student has become a wicked good-time and unrivalled craftsman.

Despite his support cancelling due to illness, Sweatshirt is determined to give us our money’s worth. He comes on early, energised and with a drive I’ve never seen in another artist. I’ve seen Sweatshirt perform before, but it was outside at a large festival. Here, in such an intimate venue, you can really see that hunger in his eyes up-close. These are the venues he was born to play.

The projector screen behind him scrolls through everything from abstract, pulsating shapes, to Keith Haring style animations to old films, in a sketchbook style. Every song is a different visual track, each of them more beautiful and more alive than the last. The lights at the front of the stage face outwards, shades of orange, purple, blue and white, wash over us. It’s visually stunning, and borderline genre-bending, rivalling bands like Slowdive for visual prowess.

For hardcore fans and casual listeners alike, this current tour boasts some delicious treats from the LA-native. Within the first half an hour, Sweatshirt spits out two unreleased tracks. But you wouldn’t know that. His crowd is eating every crumb out of his hand, and whether or not they know the words is irrelevant. He’s filled the room with so much energy that no matter what, we’re going to be loving it.

But it’s not just the unreleased. I’m at the back of the room, groups of guys with cross-body bags and girls in tall platform sneakers crash into each other and cheer louder and louder for each song Sweatshirt pulls out. And, he pulls out a lot. His setlist for the night is nearly 30-songs long, and never does he let the energy drop. It’s an unbelievable display of musicianship, showmanship and self-discipline – I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  But no two songs go harder than the back-to-back combo that is Geb into Sirius Blac. The crowd is already going nuts after Geb, with cheering and applause so loud I feel it in my feet. But Sirius Blac is next level. All I can see are hands, heads and drinks held up above the crush of people. It’s a tidal wave of energy, clinging onto every word.

Tabula Rasa is beautiful, the sound mixing bringing out the soulful vocals in a way that’s so sublime. A very different vibe comes over the room, it’s a crackling, electric stillness. Time stops passing as we focus on nothing except Sweatshirt. As it comes to an end, he addresses us directly. “Put your hands up if you’re having a good time!” We put our hands up. “Y’all up the top, looking like John Wilkes Booth, put those motherfucking hands up so I know you aren’t about to shoot me like y’all shot Abe Lincoln.” The mezzanine puts their hands up. “There you go.” And then he throws us into EAST. Our hands start moving in unplanned synchronous harmony, and it’s magical.

We follow him on a winding journey through his discography, and when we hit 2010 he takes to the mic; “If I don’t play this, everyone’s like Play it! So you all better keep the same energy.” We don’t even need to think about it, and yet again come crashing back together. We are a ferocious wave of energy, and Sweatshirt smiles as he raps – he’s loving it just as much as we are.

By the tail-end of his set, he’s clearly letting his guard down. He’s shown us what he can do, so he eases up and talks to us again. The way he addresses the crowd, it feels like we’re old-friends hanging out in someone’s garage after the party’s ended. “Do you remember when that one girl (Katy Perry) was like

Do you ever feel? / Like a plastic bag?

We start singing the rest of the cultural icon that is, Fireworks.

“No don’t keep singing! Just process that. Like that’s crazy. That’s a lot. Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? We’re gonna talk about that in a second.”

He’s so funny, in this casual, laid-back, deprecating way. And before we get time to talk about it more, “Y’all would open up a pit for anything, so open up.” And I have to quell my laughter as I prepare to wrestle for my patch of ground again.

NOWHERE2GO is an absolute crowd favourite. And honestly, we kind of look like plastic bags, drifting through the wind. Erratically moving, making waving patterns with our bodies. I didn’t think such a left-field gag would be so fitting for this crowd of rowdy misfits, but it was.

We’re out of breath, sweat running down our faces, but Sweatshirt doesn’t look any different, he’s not even out of breath. “Honestly, bars! Like, do you ever feel like a plastic bag? Bars, man. I could never write something that good.” And, to prove how very tongue-in-cheek that point is, we get treated to, Shattered Dreams. God, this song is delightful. It showcases Sweatshirt’s past as a poet, shows he’s his father’s son, show’s he’s everything to us.

The rest of the set is a blur. Finishing with his encore, a Mac Miller cover, an emotional tribute to the late rapper. New Faces V2, isn’t what I expected, but it’s an amazing finish. It’s vibey, it’s got this driving beat live. Immaculate.

Grinning, sweaty, with aching feet, I am desperate for the cold night air. But already, I’m aching for more Earl Sweatshirt.

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[Review] The DMA’s @ The Enmore Theatre 14/10/2023

Australian rock trio DMA’s brought their unique blend of aussie soft rock and alt-pop to the stage at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Saturday night.

Formed in 2012, the band is composed of lead vocalist Tommy O’Dell, lead guitarist Matt Mason and rhythm guitarist Johnny Took. 11 years on, they are touring around Australia, stopping in for 2 hometown shows at the historic Enmore Theatre.

The night was opened by Fazerdaze, a Kiwi singer, songwriter and producer who was formerly part of Fremantle’s Indie-Rock band Spacey Jane, whose creative combination of alternative pop-grunge was just the warm up the crowd needed.

Before the band even steps out on stage, you feel the energy begin to mount. The feeling in the room is so unique to Enmore Theatre. With the high ceilings, the space is intimate without the claustrophobic feeling other venues can sometimes have, giving the room space for palpable excitement.

Finally, the boys appear on stage in their usual laid back attire, t-shirts, flannel shirts, jeans and sneakers. Something you would expect your brother to wear. And the crowd loves it.

The band opens the set with How Many Dreams, the second track of their latest album of the same name. Just like the song, the tension builds from the start and by the end of the song you can tell it’s going to be a special night.

The third song on the setlist, Silver, is one of the stand out performances of the night. The song begins softly and gently, by the end completely devolving into beautiful disarray. The opening guitar strum accompanied by the lyrics, ‘Did you feel like heaven’ puts the crowd on their toes. As the beat kicks in, it’s easy to see how listeners have drawn comparisons between 3 boys from Sydney and internationally renowned band Oasis.
The performance put into the music by the band is one that can sometimes be lacking in this genre of music. It feels like O’Dell takes the crowd under his wing, leading them into the chorus, inviting them to sing with him. This track seems to visibly connect each band member, while empty cans fly through the air and the whole crowd jumps in unison, singing ‘How do I redefine all my love for you?’.

Songs from their latest album are littered through the set, including Olympia, Something We Are Overcoming and Fading Like A Picture. But of course another huge moment of the night is when fellow Sydney boy, now international sensation Ruel, joins the stage to test out a work in progress unreleased track. Delighting fans was the way O’Dell’s vocals melted seamlessly with Ruel’s silky falsetto.

Not to be overshadowed by a night of big moments, was the band’s infamous cover of Cher’s Believe. Appearing first on Triple J’s Like A Version in 2017, the track has 12 million views on Youtube and couldn’t possibly be left out of the setlist. While the crowd sways and sings along, it’s clear that the live version is just as capable of giving goosebumps.

The band finishes their set with Feels like 37, a track from their 2014 self-titled EP, only to be cheered back on for an encore. The set of 3 tracks starts slow with In The Air, a song from their album For Now, and finds its faster tempo with their popular track Lay Down from their 2016 album Hills End. The band closes out the show with Everybody’s Saying Thursday’s The Weekend, a track from their latest album. The crowd sings ‘Everybody’s saying Thursday’s the weekend, Cold calamities from over-speaking’ while they dance to the catchy beat, seemingly aware that this song will sadly be the show’s last.

For some reason this concert made me consider just how important live music still is, even just on a human level. With the progression of social media and the internet, communication between musicians and fans has never been so open and available. A musician’s popularity isn’t as focused on music sales, and is based more heavily on Instagram followers. We now have visible markers to see their popularity go up or down. But what feeling could ever be as wonderful, or as validating as a musician, as seeing a crowd of 1600 people jumping to the beat of your music and screaming your own lyrics back at you. By nature, live music, especially that of the caliber displayed by DMA’s, will never lose its magic.

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[Review] The Chicks @ Rod Laver Arena 16/10/2023

It has been six long years since country music royalty, The Chicks, last graced Australian shores. Returning in the light of their 2020 studio album, Gaslighter; The Chicks once again echoed their routine sell-out of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena. Coupled with Ohio’s country-pop royalty Elle King, this Monday night hoedown played out as a dream come true for eagerly awaiting country music enthusiasts.

From the first beat, Elle King had transformed Melbourne’s inner-city arena into an all-American bluegrass festival. Carrying such strong Midwest influence in both her musical performance and stage persona, Elle’s presencewas intoxicating. Not only do her classic americana vocals bring an authenticity to the set, but so do her incredible four-piece band – who played a rhythmically flawless catalogue of upbeat hits.

Elle comes across to audiences as a multi-dimensional performer. At once being a bright, pastel Barbie sweetheart, before seamlessly tapping into a raw and unapologetic female powerhouse persona. Although, after spending the better part of an hour with her, it is likely Elle’s ‘persona’ is less of a façade, and more an upscaled display of her gorgeous, bubbly personality. The most anticipated moment of the set was experiencing the chart-topping hit Ex’s & Oh’s live. Perfectly positioned as an audience vocal warm-up, the single also acted as a way of signalling an obvious post-virality change of pace in the songwriter’sdiscography. Since 2014, Elle has retained her angsty lyrical undertones, whilst leaning into a more authentic bluegrass, country-rock sound.

Showcasing her latest LP, Come Get Your Wife, bluesy keys and guitars played out the set. Bouncing around the stage, the performer boasted about the joys of being a mother, eventually bringing her gorgeous two-year old son to the stage – the inspiration behind her 2023 single Lucky. The warm, homely energy mustered on stage acted as an easy sell for fans of The Chicks, who at their roots are a fanbase built upon female strength and empowerment.

Counting thirteen GRAMMY Awards, six Billboard Music Awards, and four American Music Awards is only the tip of the iceberg when considering the huge success The Chicks (formally Dixie Chicks), have amounted over their more than three-decade long career. Returning to Australia for the fifth time, Melbourne fans were more than ready to experience The Chicks once more, but this time with a fresh name, and an even fresher sound. Gaslighter is a ground-breaking album for country listeners – pairing the best of bluegrass instrumentalism with country-pop lyricism, and bound by bold, feminist undertones and branding. This new era of The Chicks has broadened the scope for the band’s fanbase, reinforcing them as a household name year after year. 

Sparkling cowboy boots and wide-brimmed hats filled the arena floor, as the night’s main act took to the stage. Anticipation filled the air, and was completely devoured by a trippy, television-static visuals on stage. Disorientating the crowd with the hums of instrumental tuning, radio segments, and distorted snippets of their discography; we were in for not only a musical concert, but a high-production spectacle. Hypnotic imaging and artistically skewed feminist propaganda of the past joined the iconic opening harmonies of title track, Gaslighter. Suddenly dropping the halfway curtain on stage to reveal a multi-level six-piece band, along with three freestanding mics for the leading ladies. Dressedto the nines, founding bandmembers Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire made their way downstage, maintaining the pace of the upbeat, country heartbreak anthem. Soon after being met by lead vocalist Natalie Maines; the band had once again been reunited, ready to treat fans to a two-hour ‘best of’ special.

Sin Wagon was a major change of pace, fulfilling the crowd’s need for some classic country dance music. Accompanied by fast-paced banjo and fiddle, the musical talents of The Chicks is beyond belief. Playing with such versatility and effortlessness, it was impossible to take your eyes off the trio dressed in gorgeous, classy black and bejewelled leather. Performing their new album in close to its entirety, Texas Man and Julianna Calm Down continued to serve bad bitch, cowgirl energy, whilst showing-off Natalie’s incredible vocal range. A standout element giving continuity to the show was the ethereal feeling violin accompaniment, played beautifully by Martie throughout. Even in the darkest of lyrics, the upbeat and hopeful fiddler gives the tracks a signature ‘Chicks’ sound.

Diving deeper into their impressive and extensive music catalogue, the band gave us all there was to be desired. ‘We are The Chicks, and we are going to attempt to entertain you this evening’ and entertain they did. Filling the first half of the set with hit after hit including The Long Way Around, Ready to Run, and Wide Open Spaces.

A change of pace came as the band moved downstage, breaking the fourth wall in a more intimate, campfire-jam style. A standout for fans was the ladies’ several covers from their early archives including Beyonce’s Daddy Lessons, Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide, and Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton’s Rainbowland. The clever meme-style humour of The Chicks was not lost on audiences either, as the screens behind introduced the band members using videos tapes of them as small children, and displaying song lyrics using a bouncing unicorn teleprompter.

The singalong came to a jarring end as seemingly random numbers flashed on stage – which became apparent were signifying numbers of mass-shooting fatalities, which mainly resided across the US. March March, For Her, and Everybody Loves You created a striking, politically driven segment of the show – displaying images of early LGBT and women’s movements, as well as recent riots and protests. There was no one issue which stood out as more significant than another, yet these demonstrations through music signal a need for global change, for peace and equality. Everybody Loves You is another painful, gory truth. A heart-breaking, personal insight into the mind of a survivor of sexual assault, battling with wanting to overcome their oppressor, but struggling for forgiveness; ‘It’s my body and I’m trying to forgive you, I don’t want to… Why does everybody love you?’

‘It’s time to get serious’, exclaimed Natalie, before the band ironically breaks out into a banjo-led, high energy, square-dancing track, White Trash Wedding. After such emotional ups and downs, it was refreshing to end the show with strong feminist-led narratives; Goodbye Earl, being the bookend. With the entire arena on their feet – the superstar trio played out the night with electric guitars and a rockstar personas. Leaving the stage with a standing ovation, there was no hesitation in the room when Natalie shouted, ‘We hope you’ll have us back Melbourne!’

I doubt there would be a soul who would not be back for another round of The Chicks. Though it may be years into the future, the trio have truly stood the test of time, and are guaranteed to pack out venues across Aussie shores for decades to come.

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[Review] Archspire @ Corner Hotel 14/10/2023

It’s been a fair while since I’ve been to a gig at The Corner Hotel, I think the last time was Bel’akor in 2022. Tonight is sold out and this place is a hell of a lot smaller than I remember but the one thing I do remember is that damn pole in the middle of the pit, anyone that’s been there knows exactly what I’m talking about. As the doors open and people flood the room, the merch line goes across the entire venue floor to the back-end bar, the bar line is then crossing over through the merch line, there are people everywhere and no one knows what line they are in, its chaos, but the sure fire thing is that everyone is keen for the line up tonight and it’s great to see a packed venue from start to finish.

Local Black/Death Metal trio Werewolves walk out on stage to a full crowd, who clearly have the local following behind them, being greeted with a whole room screaming for you as an opener must be an incredible feeling. I’ve now caught these guys 3 times and they are yet to disappoint; they are always tight and I’m sure everyone knows how freaking good Dave Haley is at drumming, the guys is a machine! They run through their set, smashing out track after track trying to fit in as much as possible with the like of Crushgasm, I Don’t Like You and Under The Ground. They get the crowd all riled up and energetic stating they are filming a clip for No More Heroes, to which they get a lot more movement going. Definitely a local band to check out if you haven’t seen them already.

Next up is probably the most talked about band tonight, Ingested. This UK based Death Metal band have come over here for their first time and are clearly loving the trip. I’ve never heard of these guys before tonight, but I walked away a fan. Right from the get-go, the singer had the crowd moving and screaming, there would have been some sore necks the next morning. Ingesteds sound reminded me of Thy Art Is Murder but with a heavier vocal style, it was unreal. They performed a tight and energetic set with the only issues being that some vocals were missing either from a mixing issue or even a vocal style mix. I noticed that some of his highs weren’t coming through and then also some of his faster phrasing work but goddamn, when it came through, it came through! What a scream on the guy! And the other issue being that the low end was a bit lost, but I think that may have been where I was standing, I was moved about a fair bit by just general crowd flow. About three quarters of the way through the set, the singer gets the entire venue floor to cut in half for a wall of death, to which, everyone happily obliged, and I saw some old hardcore moves I have seen in a long time, clearly there are some older style fans here tonight. The announcement of “This is our last song” is met with a chorus of BOOOO’s to which the singer smiles and thanks the crowd for making their trip one to remember.

Archspire, tech death from USA, I have listened to these guys a little bit since the announcement of the tour and I was keen as hell to witness the guitar work and singer live in action, the did not disappoint. Straight off the bat, wicked guitar solos and melodies are being played with the bassist following suit with some incredible handiwork, I wish I had a better view because it sounded incredible! The next thing that hit me was the drummer! This guy just didn’t make sense to me audially, and I wish I could have seen him, he just constantly blasted but the sound of his snare hits was amazing and crisp, cut straight through the mix. The vocalist had me in awe at how quick he was phrasing, it was just rapping but with a death growl style voice, I can’t imagine how hard that is to actually do and I would love to know HOW he actually does it. The whole band are incredibly skilled at what they do, and they are just as funny. In between songs was band banter of crazy introductions of members, an “I love you” snuck in at the end of a song, “First one to kiss the disco ball gets a free shirt!” and damn! I’ve never seen a guy climb up on top of people fast enough to kiss a disco ball. The ultimate thing of the night was watching people play “Twister in the middle of a moshpit! “Right hand Red!” I can’t say I’ve ever seen that in a show.

It’s these kinds of things that make a night great, unexpected, fun, incredible musicianship, packed rooms and a game of twister! It’s also what I love about the metal scene, people just want to come out to have fun and see some incredibly well played and performed music.

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[Review] The Les Darcy Show @ The MC Showroom, Melbourne 11/10/2023

Review By Kynan Arden

The MC Showroom at the first breath of Melbourne’s Fringe Festival invited me to a rather fresh spectacle differing from the usual with The Les Darcy Show, a short but gut punching (pun intended?) theatre picture telling the story of the titular Australian hero,  a triumphant middleweight champion boxer who only just took Australia and America by storm before his untimely demise at the age of 21, brought to you by original writings by Jack Hibbered in 1974 and presented Brandon Armstrong, making his directorial debut.

 

Throughout the story among some fictionalised elements, we look at summary of Darcy’s life from his relatively peaceful yet at times troubling life with a cautious, protective mother and a supportive yet barbarous father, to his triumphs in the boxing world that led him to his travels to America with a slimy promoter. As well as David Doig’s fierce portrayal of the legendary boxer, our ensemble of actors with beautiful ranges bring the characters surrounding Darcy to life, with Yvonne Martin as Margaret Darcy, Sebastian as Ned Darcy/Hawkins, Luke Slade as Tex/Kearns, and Ella Le Fournour as Winnie O’Sullivan/Father Coady. Each performance allowed us as audience to be fully immersed in the rough Australian-Irish pre/mid-war era, and the direction as a whole made what is in hindsight such a linear straight forward story an emotional, fun, and somber experience.

 

The stage setting created as well an immersive yet also symbolic backdrop to the story, as we have only one major set piece needed in Les Darcy’s tale: the boxing ring, as the theme of boxing really is the be all and end all of the tale itself. It not only highlights the wins, losses, fear and vigour of the sport itself, with each major match narrated in detail by both commanding words and stunning choreography, but it also provides a looming shadow over not only the life of Les Darcy, but the loved ones around him, and the ring further implementing itself as a death bed for the protagonist as while no lethal left or right sock took his life, but instead a sickness that ultimately crossed the finish line against his constant pursuit for greatness. 

 

If your weekend plans are lacking, then why not bring yourself to the MC Showroom to witness the legendary tale of Les Darcy constructed by an incredibly talented and passionate team both on and off the stage, and witness an incredible retelling of a true story about forgotten Australian History. 

 

The Les Darcy Show is running at the MC Showroom from 11th October to 15th October

You can get your tickets here

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[Review] Waterparks @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 8/10/2023

Review By Jessie Fitzpatrick

Last Sunday, the line to the Forum snaked all the way into Hosier Lane and beyond, with no end in sight. Passers-by stared at the colourfully-dressed crowd and the endless line, as I saw first-hand the demand that Australian fans have for genre-blending pop/rock trio Waterparks.

The packed crowd was ecstatic, as support-act Lights (Canadian electro-pop/rock artist Valerie Poxleitner) opened in a sweeping, cinematic fashion with rock number Salt and Vinegar. Lights captured the audience immediately, with strong vocals and melodies that managed to feel both nostalgic and fresh (a talent shared with the headliner, Waterparks). Throughout her set, Lights seamlessly moved from electro pop, to rock, to alt pop. The following number, Siberia, was a distinctly early 2010s indie pop songbut her performance felt timeless, as she added in a new line to the lyric “we'll leave Canada for Siberia” – “or Australia”.

Lights excelled at bringing the audience along for a journey. She transitioned from guitar, to keys, and back to singing while dancing non-stop, moving straight into Dead End, which again captured a different side of her vocals. Even when a looped track of her voice played in the background of the song, her live vocals sounded phenomenal. An audience member handed her a flower, and she put it in her pocket, the red petals falling around the stage as she danced. After hyping up the crowd, Lights shifted to a sadder song, Beside Myself. People got out their phone lights and began to sway slowly, but the pace of the song gradually increased – leading Lights to comment that “people here have way better time than North America”. Her set ended in a crescendo of sound, and left the audience on a high, full of anticipation for the headline act.

Waterparks began their set in a flurry of energy, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist Awsten Knight arrived on stage in what appeared to be a Bunnings hat over his bright pink hair (foreshadowing a night of jokes about Australian accents and culture from the Houston-originated band), accompanied by lead guitarist Geoff Wigington, and drummer Otto Wood. Each band member’s energetic stage presence was immediately infectious, as the band launched into Rare, singing “I save my metaphors for rainy days……cause we're not seventeen, but you're my teenage dream”. The cleverness and self-awareness behind these lyrics highlighted a strong knowledge of their pop-punk and pop rock predecessors and influences. Otto paused his steady drumming to highlight a slow guitar riff from Geoff, and I felt the floor move as the crowd jumped in response to Geoff spinning in a circle on stage alongside Awsten, creating an electrifying atmosphere.

Waterparks (or in particular, Awsten) were one of the chattiest acts I had seen in a long time. Awsten reminisced about a previous concert in Australia where the band performed for about 100 people in a tiny attic (“now we get to play in air-conditioned venues!”), before they transitioned into fan-favourite, Stupid for you. Stupid for you is a song of a juvenile love, undercut with adult tones. With lyrics such as “you're a symphony, I'm just a sour note”, I felt like it belonged in an early 2000s high school comedy in the best way, maybe in the prom scene. When Awsten sang the chorus, the sound of the audience harmonising complimented his voice perfectly, and he joked “you guys sound great – have you been practising?”. It had been 6 years since Waterparks’ last visit to Australia (“I’ll take a boo for that…we had a tour planned for 2020, something happened but I forgot what” Awsten joked). The Melbourne show was their 4th show in a row without a day off, and although the band was upfront about being tired, you couldn’t notice – their energy remained unwavering, as Brainwashed showed off Awsten‘s vocal range, combining mellower instrumentals with verses that leaned towards being a rap.

 Waterparks continued to showcase their musical versatility, as they debuted their new song Sneaking Out of Heaven, “before America or Canada have heard it”. This felt particularly special for the adoring Melbourne audience. Sneaking Out of Heaven started strong and packed a punch. The snappy track seamlessly integrated into their discography – this is a new release to watch out for. This was followed by more of the band’s camaraderie on display, as they played Two Best Friends – an autobiographical song about the band’s friendship, as the three bandmates rocked out together to the sound of a steady bass drum.

Their performance of Magnetic took on a more intense turn, with the fast-paced vocals melding with the heaviness of the drums. Awsten’s deliberate movements and stage presence was captivating, as the sci-fi sound effects on the backing track added an eerie ambiance to the song.

“Do you want to hear a song I used to practise in the mirror at my parent’s house in Houston?”, Awsten asked the audience, as he launched into Royal. In another pivot from some of Waterparks’ more light hearted pop-punk tracks, this song commanded a focused energy. Awsten then conspiratorially told the crowd that “the percussion layer in the song is us [the bandmates] kissing Otto’s stomach – you can hear it if you listen to the song with headphones”.

Awsten seemed chuffed as he told the audience about the band's song Telephone being featured in an episode of the TV series, Heartstopper, as he coyly sang the hopeful lyrics. The set then pivoted to a short burst of acoustic numbers – 21 Questions showcased a different genre and mood , and called attention to Awsten’s guitar expertise. In Dizzy, Awsten haunted the stage alone, as he sang the lyrics “I don’t hear from my friends anymore”. Lucky People saw the crowd illuminating the venue with their phone lights. These solo performances were a poignant interlude amid many fast-paced numbers. Then, Geoff and Otto returned to the stage with cheers from the crowd, and the band jumped into the self-referential REAL SUPER DARK. Awsten pretended to stumble around the stage, as the lighting became dream-like. Waterparks certainly knew how to capture a mood.

The crowd had been waiting for the band to play their highest-streamed song, I Miss Having Sex But at Least I Don't Wanna Die Anymore, and Waterparks delivered. They sounded even better live, with the band in perfect alignment. The concert concluded on a high note, leaving the audience elated and relishing in the humour and musical magic of Waterparks.

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[Review] Ghost @ John Cain Arena 04/10/2023

Whether you’re a Christian, Satanist, Pagan, or devote your life to any spiritual realm, it has always been clear to me the Ghost has always reached diverse audiences around the world. The satanic aesthetic created by Papa Emeritus IV and his cult of Nameless Ghouls has always drawn my wandering eyes to fix on them, whilst also seducing my ears to their incredible sound. Seeing this group live amongst the face-painted and costume clad fans was a sight to worship.

After a slightly delayed wait with a holy voices of a cathedral choir echoing from behind the white drapes that concealed the stage, the opening acoustic licks of Imperium were almost drowned out by the screaming of the packed John Cain Arena, all before the silhouette of a certain axe-shredding ghoul appeared colossal on the white curtain as he jammed the upbeat opening riff to Kaisarion. The curtains dropped whilst the ghouls brought on an anthem for Papa himself to grace the stage, blessing us with iconic vocals that you could identify in a second.

A quintessential Ghost performance is always nothing short of a jaw-dropping spectacle, from the set design of a cathedral depicting at first holy imagery on stained class to later depict hellish imagery towards the climax of the show, all the way down to the light-work that perfectly complimented the backdrop of each individual track, an example being the appropriate deep red as the opening of Year One chanted the many names of our favourite horned red man: 

“BELIAL. BEHEMOTH. BEELZEBUB. ASMODEUS. SATANAS. LUCIFER”

But despite each nameless ghoul getting moments to shine throughout the show, it’s obvious who the prominent character was, as Papa Emeritus had all of our eyes completely glued to him from start to finish. As highlighted previously, his vocal style and genius lyricism has cultivated its own powerful authenticity and has been become iconic within the music community let alone the rock/metal genres, reaching its height especially in the slower yet still hard tracks like Cirice and Call Me Little Sunshine. His swift costume changes were also a sight to behold, as each short interval between each track had him emerging with something new, including a steampunk top-hat, shadow-casting bat wings, his of course iconic elegant and gothic Pope outfit, all the way down to his shining red and blue “after show jackets”.

The humour and banter between the band members never failed to make me chuckle, from Papa’s charismatic humour between songs or the playful scolding of either of the soloing guitarists. We even received a cameo from a longtime Ghost character, Papa Nihil, emerging disorderly from a glass box to performing an earth shattering saxophone solo during Miasma, right before Papa uses this to segway into the next track in which “Nihil sings”, this track being the iconic Mary On A Cross, and it matters not whether you were a ghost fan before this track circled the world, or became a fresh listener of the band after the track’s popularity across TikTok, there’s no doubt every soul in the arena belted every single lyric, myself included. 

As the climax approached, Papa gave a little speech in appreciation of the community and support all before announcing the final song for the night, Respite on the Spitefields, before Ghost departed the stage….all for a short while before Papa re-emerged in response to the call-out of the audience, bantering over being told about us “expecting a classic rock show with an encore”. The charismatic frontman agreed to the crowd’s demand for three more songs (not too fond of a front row “crazy lady’s” suggestion of five songs), before the lights revealed the remaining ghouls in the darkness kicking off the encore with the ever risqué Kiss the Go-Goat. The remaining two songs required our strengthened necks for head banging and dancing shoes, for the lights radiated and glimmered with a colourful disco palate for the upbeat Dance Macabre, transitioning ever so smoothly alongside a final thanks from Papa Emeritus into the enigmatic yet powerful Square Hammer, in which the volume of the opening riff had to compete with the screams of the crowd one final time. 

As Ghost finally departed from the stage and instructing us to “fuck off” as well, I was positively buzzing for the rest of the night, as I had been apart of a mass ritual that I will not forget anytime soon, a ritual which should be experienced at least once in a lifetime…

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