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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] Fatboy Slim @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 28/04/2023

Review By Nikki Eenink

Somehow, everyone knows Fatboy Slim. He’s a household name for 12-year old footy kids, classic-rock listening Dads and mums in sparkly pants. Are we all born knowing him? Where do we find him? I have so many questions, and even more after his absolute smash-hit sold out show at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl. There is no one more deserving of the term; cultural icon.

Despite the heavy rain which left Melbourne covered in mud and dew (just for something different), the team organising the absolute sensory extravaganza waiting for us at Sidney Myer Music Bowl were not perturbed. Everything went on exactly at their start time, with maybe 10 minutes max in between each act. This was one well-oiled machine.

I find electronica hard to write about in general, it’s not a

They played (song) and then (song).

It has such a vibe to it. So let me paint you a picture.

First up was Anna Lunoe, originally born in Sydney, she now lives in Los Angeles doing DJ stints at major festivals like, Coachella and Lollapalooza. As I waited in the rain for my friend, her music started washing over us – courtesy of the venue’s incredible speakers. It was slow, reverby, almost boozy. It was so understated, but she controls sound so magically each song bled into the next and the next until you were in a trance. Completely under a spell. Whether you were out the front scanning tickets, inside eating tacos (they were A++) or dancing, you were taken to Lunoe’s world. It’s a place I imagine is a lot like a club in some movie. Orange light and heavy shadows, as you walk towards the dancefloor behind a waiter with a drinks tray. Listen to Cotton Candy Lemonade and tell me you don’t see it? Unbelievably good vibes. She was the perfect opener, she didn’t leave us drained, she left us soothed – suddenly unbothered by the rain and the cold. Her stage presence is so gentle and she almost becomes her music, as do we.

Second openers were Confidence Man, a band who I have seen live a few times and always loved, are doing a rare DJ set. Now, even though I love Confidence Man’s normal goofy dancing and chemistry – seeing them DJ, you really get an appreciation of how deep that chemistry runs. Janet Planet (Grace Stephenson) and Sugar Bones (Aidan Moore) have swapped out their shiny 60s space-age dresses and suit, and are now in all black, crouched over the table and pumping out banger after banger. They describe themselves as “a portable party”, and it’s undeniably true. My friend once used Confidence Man to convince a car-full of Frenchmen into giving them a ride to their AirBNB in Paris. No matter how tired, no matter what native language, no matter how sore you are – Planet and Bones will have you on your feet and feeling as good as new in no time. Having collaborated with people like Dj Boring you can expect some super lowkey, vibey tracks which will get into your veins and keep you going all night. The lights start to pick up at the end of their set and the tempo starts to go up. A remix of Does it Make You Feel Good? Leads us into our headliner. We are already on a high.

I was not prepared for the over two-hour long, absolute extravaganza I was about to experience at the hands of Norman Quentin Cook – better known as Fatboy Slim. Most of the crowd there is over the age of 40, but when I tell you I have never smelled so much weed at a concert – I’m not exaggerating. Everyone there, is getting rowdy. Everyone is young again. Let’s. Fucking. Go.

I was a little nervous when I saw the projection screens at either side of the “bowl” turn off and on, the Mac rainbow wheel of death staring us all down. But then all three screens went black, and when they game back on, red velvet curtains started opening up all those screens. Backed by the sounds of electricity and a sharp white light on stage, Fatboy is in the building. And he is wearing khaki pants and a Keith Haring shirt. He looks like someone’s cool dad at a Barbeque. The first track starts with some UK DNB-style techno, the distorted lyrics go;

When they said the music was too loud/ We kept dancing

And the suddenly.

I’m in Melbourne/ Bitch

And the crowd goes nuts. Everywhere I look all I can see is a sea of bobbing heads and thrown-up hands, we are an ocean of 11,000, it’s intensely beautiful.

What surprised me most about Cook’s set, is how visual it is. Everything from celebrity-face morphs, into Slim repeatedly swallowing his own head, to his body changing from fat to slim (Fatboy Slim, get it?), Keith Haring-esque men dancing – you name it, he’s got it going on.

Obviously, Praise You, The Rockerfeller Skank and Right Here, Right Now are his biggest hits. And he is such an absolute pro at this that he manages to play each song 3 or 4 times, each in an entirely new way. He remixes Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) with The Rockerfeller Skank and uses DeepFake technology to have Obama deliver a speech to himself behind the presidential podium, but the speech is the lyrics to Right Here, Right Now.

There were a few highlight moments for me. In one instance of his DeepFakery, we get “Bill Murray” delivering a speech by American Preacher Jack Van Impe – which has been at the front of Sex on the Streets, a highly underrated Slim track. It’s so silly, so unbelievably goofy. At the end of the song, we get a black and white photo of Slim outside a house, facedown, on the ground. Two sentences flash up. The first; Drive Safely. The second, and most important; Don’t be a Racist. Also including the iconic Big Lebowski scene where The Dude is at the Bowling Alley in his dream floating through the legs of sexy women, and then there are some guys in red with scissors (Good thing this isn’t a Big Lebowski review).

I Just Came For The Music has some great wisdom; “I ain’t here to fuck girls/ I ain’t here to take drugs/ I ain’t here to start fights/ I just came for the music”

Unfortunately, at the beat drop, when confetti, strobe and fucking fire come out of the stage. Literal flames. My caveman brain can’t handle it. This is absolutely bananas. The crowd is going to take absolutely none of this advice. But it’s true, we are all here for the music. It is so hard to keep the attention of a crowd fighting to stay upright on the mud (some people lost), but he manages to do it. We are literally eating out of his hand, we can’t get enough. And he loves it.

I’ve never seen a man who loves what he is doing as much as I did watching Fatboy Slim. Running into the crowd, demanding high-fives, old-man dancing on stage, swinging around his headphones around – he is soaking it all in, and he is just clearly genuinely thrilled to be up there doing this. Not a shred of narcissism in it, he looks genuinely so happy when people will bounce with him when he tells us to and he just wants to boogie with us all. His energy and zest for life have stayed with me since the concert.

Not only is he insanely fun, the skill on this man. His set is like a winding tour through 90s, through to 2010s electronic subgenres. The precise timing of his visuals to his set, is insane. We are talking he has to be beat perfect, every time. And every time, he is. I was so lucky to be able to see Fatboy Slim the night after this as well, and my friend with me just kept whispering “he’s so good. Nikki, he’s so fucking good you weren’t kidding.” I’d never joke about that. I feel insanely blessed to have seen this man’s talent in the flesh. Do yourself a favour, add Fatboy Slim to your bucket list, because his set is something that is going to live with me forever. He perfectly balances having fun, goofing around and not taking yourself too seriously, while also taking his craft incredibly seriously, and he is a master.

I could (and will) go on and on and on about this until the day I die. And when that day comes, you better play Fatboy Slim at my funeral.

I could not have named a single Fatboy Slim “fan” (someone who rides and dies by the Slim). I couldn’t have told you anyone I know who would have fought for those last-minute Tixel tickets and fought through the mud to see him. But as all 11,000 of us poured out from the venue, it hit me. How can you not be a Fatboy Slim fan. Consider me fanned. A mega-fan. An obsessive follower to his cult of 90s DNB, insane visuals and Regular Joe Charm. Imagine not loving Fatboy Slim? It’s actually not possible.

Weren’t you listening to Slim?

Eat! Sleep! Rave! Repeat!

Let’s go people, the night is young!

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[Review] Lorde @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 10/03/2023

Heading back up the hill yet again to Sidney Myer Music Bowl for another emotionally charged evening was not what I expected to be doing just less than a week after Bon Iver’s amazing set, but there I was. Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, the Aotearoa/New Zealand born musician known to the world as Lorde, was here finally for her rescheduled half decade return to Naarm/Melbourne. I was lucky enough to catch her last time she was in town too, at the same venue, and I can happily say that she’s taking her live performance to the next level.

Opening for Lorde was MUNA, an LA-based indie pop three piece, known for their collaborations with the likes of The Knocks and Phoebe Bridgers. They delivered fun summer-pop, a perfect addition to Lorde’s Solar Power Tour. A fiery stage presence was led by lead singer/songwriter Katie Gavin, dancing across the stage and wooing the audience with sing-along moments. Favourite songs included Silk Chiffon, What I Want and Home By Now.

After our supports left the stage, the crowd was in a frenzy, having already exploded into waves of cheers every time anything remotely like Lorde moved around behind the curtain. The audience was full of old and new fans, young and not-so-young. Fans all three eras of Lorde’s career were clearly on display: the old Pure Heroine fans, the millennials and Tumblr kids, the Melodrama girlies, with their love of bisexual lighting and coming of age energy, and the Solar Power groovers, ready to ride the wave of an endless summer.

Opening with Leader of a New Regime, the dynamic slow burner deep cut from the most recent record, 2021’s Solar Power, Lorde introduced us to The Solar Power Tour. But of course, she wasn’t here to divide her fans, so immediately after this we were blessed with the back-to-back cuts of Homemade Dynamite, and Buzzcut Season. Dynamite was a true banger and crowd pleaser, but Buzzcut Season reminded me of days long ago, listening to Lorde’s debut on a road trip with my family, pondering what future laid in store for me when I finally grew up. These themes of aging, self-exploration and heartbreak became clearer than ever, hearing her full repertoire on display.

The stagecraft on display was captivating, with a long staircase in the centre of the stage, leaning against what appeared to be a glowing sun. This staircase would rotate throughout the show, sometimes having Ella climb up during heavier emotional moments. When the fantastic Liability, off 2017’s Melodrama played, she sat halfway up and told us stories for a few minutes before the song properly began, speaking softly over the repeated piano intro. She told us of how she’d finally fallen in love with our city, how she’d walked the streets and seen the spirit that guides us all. She then reminisced about the importance of the song, and the love she’s felt seeing how connected so many people have felt to it. A true tale of rejection, and coming to terms with one’s own instability, that’s become an anthem to so many people, especially those who feel left behind from the world around them.

During the track Stoned at the Nail Salon one line stood out to me and resonated heavily with the whole show. “Cause all the music you loved at sixteen, you’ll grow out of, and all the times they will change it’ll all come around”. Lorde’s music transcends these rules, as shown by the demographic present. It just keeps coming back again and again, and to be listening to songs, some written when she was just fifteen, and still resonating in new ways, that deserves a legacy.

Rounding out the set with many tracks off the new album, including Hard Feelings, California and Oceanic Feeling, the only new track I missed was Mood Ring, which did leave me a little disappointed, but I was more than happy to have this compensated by the sheer volume of classics from the previous albums. These included Green Light, Perfect Places, Tennis Court, the amazing Ribs and a victorious encore of Royals and Team. Lorde might be “Kinda over being told to throw my hands up in the air” but we were not. The energy and maturity of the performance was a lifetime ahead of my last time catching the superstar, and I’m so excited to see what she has in store for us next time she visits.

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[Review] Bon Iver @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 4/02/2023

Bon Iver, the indie folk band and cultural darling led by Wisconsin native Justin Vernon, is a perfect example of change. Good artists are consistent, but great artists grow. On Saturday night at the Bowl, we were blessed with a career spanning, genre defying setlist full of powerful beauty.

Sidney Myer was full of eager fans by the time I arrived, patiently waiting to experience the serenade of love and pain that is Bon Iver. Many fans packed the grass area, with picnic rugs, chairs and plenty of cuddles. The energy was warm and compassionate, a harmony with the music to come.

Joining Bon Iver was the Sydney singer-songwriter and lush electronica artist Sophie Payten, performing under the name Gordi. A perfect match to the headliners energy, Gordi mixed elements of folk guitar balladry with spacey loops of modular synthesis and delicate self-harmony. Beautiful tracks that highlighted the set included Extraordinary Life and Way I Go. It is truly rare to experience a keenly picked match such as these two artists.

Taking the stage to a packed crowd, the main act begun. Bon Iver opened with Lump Sum, the second track from their 2008 debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. The early fusion of a low pulsing kick under the layered delicate vocals and strained acoustic guitar represents all that was and will be of the project, with the focus on memory, love, pain, beauty and peace. This defining album, which was written and recorded in isolation, puts the key themes on display.

Other highlights of the set included the lovely crowd pleaser of Hey Ma, U (Man Like), Towers and 10 d E A T h b R E a s T  , some of the more modern classics of the discography. The true wonders were the classic tracks, Re: Stacks and Skinny Love. Re: Stacks was a song that reminded me of lost love long ago, and the pain of forgiveness, which took all so long to earn. Skinny Love, being Bon Iver’s best known song, deserved to be played, but was expected to be breezed over as the hit that must be played so the artist can focus on the deep cuts. Instead, this rendition of the classic track was so deeply, deeply affecting, that I could feel the pure passion of the full bowl with every breath. The outro and coda of “My, my my” was a fantastic sing-along moment for a crowd of romantics.

The band of course was all multi-instrumentalists. Seven members, featuring switches between acoustic and electric guitars, bass and keys, along with saxophone, and two drummers filled in the sound of future folk that Bon Iver so well defined within the early 2010s. The powerful backing of the drums added a weight to the softer songs that somehow didn’t overpower the minimalism but instead reinforced the simplicity where needed. Moments in my favourite track Holocene were true masters of sound mixing, with one drummer playing soft off beat rimshots while the other balances sixteenth-note shakers and kick patterns. True musicianship at work.

Ending the set after Holocene, the band returned for a tight four-song encore of a few deep cuts and a new single recorded during the pandemic, PDLIF, to link the timeline of the set from then to now. Truly a gently masterful performance, I cannot recommend catching Bon Iver live enough. The records do not do this band justice.

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[Gallery] Synthony 3.0 @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne 17/02/2023

Synthony 3.0

Mobin Master – Super Disco Club

Feat. Perth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sarah-Grace Williams
Tickets available from www.ticketek.com.au 
Feat. Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Sarah-Grace Williams 
Tickets available from www.ticketmaster.com.au 
Feat. The Metropolitan Orchestra, conducted by Sarah-Grace Williams
Tickets available from www.ticketek.com.au
Duco Events is one of Asia Pacific’s leading live touring, events management, and entertainment promotion companies. SYNTHONY is proudly presented by Duco Events. 

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