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  • Black Sabbath @ Brisbane Entertainment Centre

    26 Abr 2013, 4:14

    Thu 25 Apr – Black Sabbath, Shihad

    Black Sabbath
    Brisbane Entertainment Centre
    Thursday, 25 April 2013

    There are surprisingly few frills to tonight’s stage production. At the back, a giant video screen is intercut by what might be intended to be spiderwebs. A smaller video screen sits beneath the tall drum riser. There's coloured lights and strobes. No pyrotechnics. Two men perched up in the rafters ensure that twin spotlights remain on the singer at all times. A handful of cameramen track the players for the big screen, alongside occasional file footage of atom bombs exploding and some sort of cheesy-looking undead. There's no shortage of religious iconography: crosses etched into the guitarist’s fretboard, a big gold bastard hanging from his neck. One of his guitar straps bears his surname in bold font. As if everyone in this room doesn't already know it.

    To think that an industrial accident nearly robbed us of one of the finest and most original guitarists of all time. Tony Iommi doesn't do much more on stage than eke out riff after evil riff, custom thimbles fitted snugly over the tips of his stumpy middle fingers, occasionally peering over his blue specs and throwing up the horns to his disciples in the front row. I'm seated on his side of the stage, so I've got nearly two hours to watch closely. He gives off an avuncular air of quiet confidence, and wears his smart leather jacket throughout. I've seen a few guitarists in my time, but this man is in a class of his own. The singer occasionally prostrates himself before Black Sabbath’s sole continual member; he refers to him as “the real ‘Iron Man’”, and waves his arms in that classic we-are-not-worthy pose. Indeed.

    Ozzy Osbourne is as enthusiastic as any 64 year-old on the planet. The close-up camera shots show him reading from a teleprompter, straining to recall which syllables to place the emphasis on. Who gives a good goddamn shit, though? That he's still living and breathing without the help of machines is commendable, especially since he was back on the sauce and blow as recently as last February. This crowd loves him for the caricature he has long been. How many musicians can throw their lives open to the fickle, vain world of reality television and still command respect like this man? Which other 64-year old singer’s rider includes a bucket of water – regularly used to dunk one’s head into, and/or throw onto the front rows – black nail polish, and waterproof eyeliner?

    Geezer Butler is an unassuming bassist if ever there was one, yet he’s stacked every song so full of clever, tricky phrasing that he rarely has time to look up and acknowledge that he’s playing to a full room of 13,000. Tom Larkin – drummer of touring support act Shihad – was spot-on when he described Butler’s dextrous playing as “wrestling his bass like it’s a live eel”. (Worth noting: Shihad were strong earlier, their set a half-hour of power consisting of songs spanning 1993 –'Factory', 'Screwtop' – to 2002’s 'Comfort Me'.)
    Behind the kit is not founding stickman Bill Ward but a skinny workhorse named Tommy Clufetos. He's a flashy player, too – arms raised high at every opportunity, emphasising each cymbal crash – probably owing more to the occasion of playing with these three legends than musical necessity. He's smooth, though, no doubt. His drum solo is backed by the most intense multi-colour strobe light display I've ever experienced. Epileptics beware.

    The song selection and set structure is immaculate, though the two tracks from their forthcoming album 13 go down like the proverbial zeppelin. Hardcore fans will find it tough to bitch about the breadth of material covered, all performed with verve and precision. If a weak link must be nominated, it’s Osbourne's wavering octaves and drill-sergeant demeanour. Students of their 1998 live album Reunion have already heard every bit of stage banter in his repertoire. (The setlist isn’t dissimilar, either.) I would've thought that there’s only so many times a crowd could be asked to SHOW ME YOUR FUCKIN' HANDS! before the novelty wore off, but this lot are a dedicated and willing bunch. 39 years between Australian tours speaks for itself, I suppose. And if there's one man in metal worth showing your hands to, it's Mr Osbourne.

    The Vine
  • Midnight Juggernauts @ The Zoo

    22 Abr 2013, 3:22

    Fri 19 Apr – Midnight Juggernauts, YesYou, Young Men Dead

    Midnight Juggernauts
    The Zoo, Brisbane
    Friday 19 April 2013

    All they need is one good show.

    It’s been three years since Melbourne trio Midnight Juggernauts last performed a headline tour. Then it was off the back of their second album, 2010’s The Crystal Axis. Time is not kind to bands of certain genres, electro-pop especially. That the band have amassed enough punters with medium-long memories to half-fill The Zoo tonight is respectable enough. But even though this three-city run of shows is ostensibly a chance to play new single ‘Ballad Of The War Machine’ live, I suspect that it's more of a chance to fine-tune their set ahead of supporting Tame Impala in front of thousands of people throughout the next couple of weeks. The pressure’s off, essentially. The stakes might never have been lower.

    The Juggernauts play an hour of power that draws on material from their eight-year career. The main set concludes with a reading of 2005’s ‘Raised By Wolves’, a track that’s little more than a two-word chorus and a guitar riff, yet still potent. They air four new songs, including ‘War Machine’, which works well; the others – ‘HCL’, ‘Memorium’, and ‘T.N.T’, according to the setlist at the sound desk – aren’t especially memorable on first listen. Which is odd, as this band has never much trouble writing hooks.

    It’s unfair to read too much into new material, though, particularly given that this is the first time they’ve ever played these tracks live. (As keyboardist/vocalist Vince Vendetta continually reminds us between songs.) Tonight’s as much a test for their sound engineer and lighting technician as it is for the band, and to their credit, the show looks and sounds great.

    ‘Shadows’ is second – an early crowd-pleaser – and late in the set, ‘Into The Galaxy’ connects with the audience unlike anything else in their arsenal. (I think half the reason people love it is the chance to sound out ‘G-L-O-R-I-A!’ in the context of an electro-pop song.) A mystery fourth member appears for ‘Vital Signs’ and ‘Memorium’; he’s not introduced, and is barely visible beside Andy Szekeres’ bass cab. The encore break is a minute, tops, and consists of a pair from Dystopia, their 2007 debut: ‘Road To Recovery’, and ‘So Many Frequencies’. The former remains their most original song, a real marvel: uniquely tweaked synth sounds, porn-soundtrack guitar chords, and Daniel Stricker drum-filling like a maniac at every opportunity.

    All they needed was one good show to return to the scene, quietly and unassumingly. A chance to play these songs before a crowd, to avoid mistakes, and to boost their confidence heading into those big Tame Impala shows. Mission accomplished.

    The Vine
  • The Drones @ The Tivoli

    15 Abr 2013, 7:29

    Fri 12 Apr – The Drones, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

    The Drones
    The Tivoli, Brisbane
    Friday, 12 April 2013

    There’s an anecdote told by my editor when reviewing this band at the (initial) closure of the Tote three years ago. “I've heard of bands questioning in the rehearsal room if they could go on stage and ‘play this song after The Drones’, as shorthand for whether it's any good or not,” he wrote. “I don't think it's out of line to say that The Drones are the benchmark for bands of all stripes at the moment. That they're the band, years hence, people will ask if you saw.”

    Watching this band tonight, I can’t shake from my mind how fitting that sentiment is. And the strangest thing? It’s only becoming more apt.

    It’s been five years since The Drones had a new album to tour. Their 2011 shows in support of a DVD release was a welcome change in terms of song selection — there, they favoured slower tunes, rarities buried deep on the five albums they’d released up until that point. The majority of the shows they’ve played in the last five years have seen them treading water, musically speaking. A dozen or so songs that they knew inside and out, which were inevitably played note-perfect. The training wheels had long since been removed. They were potent, always, but getting predictable.

    So it’s a joy to watch them work through the material from I See Seaweed tonight. Their sixth album was released last month. It features their most complex material and, I’d argue, their best. The only...Seaweed track they omit is ‘The Grey Leader’; seven of the twelve songs aired are new. It’d be a ballsy move, playing so much new shit, if they weren’t bucking the trend set by most bands and getting better with age.

    The stage is bathed in gentle blue lights in the moments before they arrive. Earlier, Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscombe had soundchecked their guitars to what sounded like ‘Ramada Inn’ by Neil Young and Crazy Horse; a respectful nod to their touring partners of last month, or perhaps just a pleasing chord progression to set the levels against. The five members file onto stage, and four of them observe silence while Liddiard leads ‘I See Seaweed’ solo for a couple of minutes. The tension is palpable. The band eventually explodes into the chorus with a crash of Mike Noga’s cymbals and the downstrum of Fiona Kitschin’s bass notes. It’s a visceral relief.

    For most of their set I’m standing at the edge of The Tivoli’s balcony, on Kitschin’s side, so close that it feels like she’s within reach. An unimpeded view; a stark change from the dozen-plus times I’ve seen them elsewhere, usually from in the middle of a mob or craning my neck to look up at them. This angle provides an intimate window onto their operation. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am: it’s obscenely simple, with very little trickery.

    Liddiard has a range of pedals spread before him, one of which he regularly favours by rolling his left Converse around the dial to skew the tone. Luscombe has fewer pedals. Neither of them change guitar, or even seem to check their tuning, throughout the main set. Keyboardist Steve Hesketh sits behind Luscombe, sharing smiles and an eyeline with Noga. Kitschin grinds out the low notes, her bare feet tapping out the beat of Noga’s skins against a standard rock’n’roll stage rug while facing the drummer. She’s the only one with a rug underfoot. And that’s it. That’s the sum of the stage plot demanded by the best band in Australia.

    There’s a sustained moment at the end of ‘Laika’, the fifth song they play, that’s hard for me to comprehend at the time, let alone explain in retrospect. I’ll try. Liddiard is singing about “a little doggie”, as he puts it: the first canine in space. The narrative is sympathetic toward that doggie. Liddiard mourns for her, describing her sad, lonely, inevitable fate way out there among the stars. His metaphor for this locale is simple and unforgettable: “half a pound of sugar on an old blackboard”. This phrase is repeated over and over, while Noga thumps his toms with venom. This meter is later replicated with a cruel admonishment from the narrator: “One day all you children will be white dwarves, too / You’ll cave under yourselves and become cruel, cruel, cruel”.

    Liddiard spits out this lyric repeatedly, while Luscombe and Kitschin sing it sweetly, off-time. Played live, it has a powerful effect that had otherwise eluded me on the record. The band sits within this phrase for what seems like minutes on end, hammering home the point: what happened to that fucking doggie was terrible. It had no choice. Its demise was the result of human curiosity; human nature. There is no limit to the cruelty of man. My eyes fill with tears — it’s one of the strangest emotional responses I’ve ever had at a concert. I feel despairing and yet uplifted. Still The Drones dwell on this thought. Noga thumps toms. Liddiard chants: “Cruel, cruel, cruel”. Kitschin’s bass bounces back and forth between high and low notes. Hesketh’s keys spiral toward oblivion. And then the song ends. And then, after little more than a moment to gather themselves, or to allow us to recover, Noga counts into ‘A Moat You Can Stand In’.

    I leave this show elated, but a little bummed out, too. It kind of sucks that they’re so great, because lauding The Drones has been something of a sport for this country's music critics for years now. It's boring. It's played-out. Every possible adjective to describe their music has already been used; at least twice. In the eyes of many, they can do no wrong. Myself included. Which is a stupid cliché, but it's absolutely true.

    The Drones never get a free pass. If anything, they’re scrutinised more closely because of their pedigree. But on a night like tonight, they simply do what they need to. They show up, and they dominate for 90 minutes straight. Classic songs from years past, like the dual encore of ‘Shark Fin Blues’ and ‘I Don’t Ever Want To Change’ sound quaint, almost cute, in comparison to the songs from I See Seaweed. They set the bar very, very high. What more can be asked of a band?

    The Vine
  • Bloc Party @ Brisbane Riverstage

    6 Mar 2013, 4:41

    Tue 5 Mar – Bloc Party

    Bloc Party
    Brisbane Riverstage
    Tuesday, 5 March 2013

    “The real work is the complete activity, the accumulated practice, the total summing up of tradition and ideas,” wrote Adam Gopnik in 2008. “The real work is what makes a magic effect magical.” Gopnik’s compelling feature for The New Yorker studied the tight-knit community of career magicians, but since reading the story last year, I’ve come to find parallels between that field and other creative pursuits.

    Watching Bloc Party tonight, I'm impressed by how they handle the real work of live rock music. Their performance is at once workmanlike and energising. Studying these four men while in the midst of a thousands-strong crowd stood on a grassy hill on a Tuesday evening, I realise that they're professionals, in the truest sense of the word, and that's okay. It's not a turn-off to see a band so clearly atop their material, their skills, their ethos; quite the opposite. (The same was certainly true for Metallica two weekends ago). Rock music has historically adored rough edges, but there's practically no trace of these tonight. Yet despite the clinical delivery and invariably note-perfect readings of songs from all four of Bloc Party’s albums, the cumulative effect is exhilarating, not soporific.

    The real work of being in an internationally touring rock band is making the routine seem effortless and fresh, while betraying all hint of the concentration and time that it took these four individuals to achieve mastery of their respective instruments. Also: how to keep yourselves interested in the task at hand, of performing the same songs over and over, before audiences of varying size, enthusiasm and nationality. Playing songs like ‘Banquet’ and ‘Helicopter’ for the 400th time, or more, and pretending that those words and sounds still mean something to you. Accepting that live music is a transaction, and not just in a business sense: both band and audience must give and receive in order for a show to satisfy both parties.

    This is what they do, Bloc Party. They satisfy. Tonight they sound as good as their records, if not better. Their recent setlists have been fairly locked-in; a dozen or so standards that must be played, with wiggle room to interchange eight or so, depending on their mood. This is a polished act. Swift guitar changes; a constant stream of commentary from the affable frontman; never more than a few moments between the drummer counting in the next song; an involving light show that features laser beams and the coloured-circle motif that appears on the cover of Four. The airing of an unrecorded song, ‘Montreal’, played live for perhaps the first time. Two encores, the first being a red herring; a standard rock trope, no doubt – “you teased it out of us! One more?” asks Kele Okereke of the baying thousands, before they play three more – but never any hint that the band are giving less than their best.

    “What they call ‘the real work’ isn’t the method, which anyone can learn from a book (and, anyway, all decent magicians know roughly how most tricks are done), but the whole of the handling and timing and theatrics of the effect,” wrote Gopnik of the magic world, and so it seems just to apply this concept to Bloc Party tonight. They weren’t magical, exactly, but they were as close to it as most bands will ever get.

    The Vine
  • The Stone Roses @ Brisbane Riverstage

    3 Mar 2013, 23:46

    Fri 1 Mar – The Stone Roses

    The Stone Roses
    Brisbane Riverstage
    Friday, 1 March 2013

    The first half hour of this show is one of the most disappointing and frustrating brackets of live music I've seen in a long time. A hugely anticipated band playing their first Australian show since reforming after fifteen years of silence, and somehow, the sound is utter trash. I can always forgive the first song at any show, as the team behind the desk twiddle knobs, adjust levels and react to the intricacies of live sound dynamics. But half an hour—seven songs’ worth—of the front-of-house mix being quieter than the volume at which I comfortably listen to music at home? Of Mani’s bass being largely inaudible, even though I’m standing directly in line with the desk? Unforgivable.

    This fuck-up means that, despite our enthusiasm for the sight of these four British gentlemen playing in Brisbane for the first time since 1995, it's a decidedly subdued crowd response. At least until 'Fools Gold', wherein the tech team awake from their collective coma and begin pushing up the volume to something resembling passable. I know, it's usually a cheap shot to bitch about sound quality at a gig; there are so many complicating factors at play that impact on this, no doubt far beyond my knowledge. But tonight’s errors are so egregious, so mood-killing that they can't be excused.

    'Fools Gold', though, is the first hint that this might yet become a memorable concert; the commendable return to form that the thousands in attendance were hoping for when they each stumped up $100+ for a ticket. Tonight's version of this famous non-album single approaches 15 minutes, and contains several distinct suites, wherein the three musicians truly react to one another with heart and intent, as they once did as teenagers. John Squire’s skill with six strings is fearsome once he gets going, though I’m shocked when they open with ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ and it sounds appallingly thin when compared to the dense, layered tone heard on their 1989 debut. It’s during ‘Fools Gold’, too, that the huge LCD screen behind the band is finally used to worthwhile effect, rather than just overlaying live footage of the band with questionable colour schemes.

    From this point on, the 90 minute set continues to shift from shit to sugar. Just two songs from the band’s bloated Second Coming are aired, in ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ and the heavily Zeppelin-influenced ‘Love Spreads’; they play nearly every song from The Stone Roses, including a few b-sides. An excellent-sounding ‘Waterfall’ segues nicely into ‘Don’t Stop’, just like on the record; singer Ian Brown reaches over Reni’s drumkit and shakes hands at song’s end, congratulating him on a job well done. Mani’s bass is punchy during ‘Made Of Stone’, which features the best crowd singalong moment yet; the man isn’t infallible, though, as he loses his place for a few bars during ‘This Is The One’ and gestures to his bandmates that he can’t hear himself in the mix. They have a laugh together afterwards, thankfully. No prima donnas here, despite the bad blood that existed between them for years.

    Brown’s famously patchy singing isn’t a problem tonight. He’s a genial frontman, habitually pulling focus with his peculiar dancing and shaking a pair of tambourines above his head at every chance. He does order the band to restart ‘(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ early in the set, citing a problem with the mix; if he could hear how bad it sounded to us, he’d be livid. An impressive final pair ensures that the show ends on a high: first, a killer reading of ‘She Bangs The Drums’, featuring John Squire’s sublime mid-song lead break. (It only lasts a few bars, but it’s the tidiest section he’s ever written. I’m thrilled to see it played live, note-perfect.)

    Then, a conclusion that mirrors their debut album’s tracklisting: Reni begins tapping out the distinctive drum pattern to ‘I Am The Resurrection’, which starts a little flat before reaching a majestic end some ten minutes later. Brown exits the stage early, seemingly unimpressed by the show in whole; he briefly returns – wearing a change of clothes – to thank us while his bandmates are still playing. When the song ends, Mani sticks around the longest, arms held aloft and grinning widely. They can certainly still play, these four, and many of these songs are timeless, but fuck – talk about a victory wrested from the jaws of defeat.

    TheVine
  • Soundwave Festival 2013 @ RNA Showgrounds

    2 Mar 2013, 3:53

    Sat 23 Feb – Soundwave 2013

    ]url=http://www.thevine.com.au/music/live-reviews/report-soundwave-brisbane-2013/]Full review and photos at TheVine.com.au
  • Puscifer @ The Tivoli

    2 Mar 2013, 3:53

    Fri 22 Feb – Puscifer

    Puscifer
    The Tivoli, Brisbane
    Friday 22 February 2013


    Metal-detecting wands are a rare sight at a rock show, especially outside of an entertainment centre. Everyone’s given a once-over by the wand before they walk through the theatre’s doors. It's because the man behind this band isn’t fond of cameras. Of any description.

    A FasterLouder photographer arrives at the head of the long queue and is turned away, despite his protestations that he’d been accredited to shoot the show. A woman at the door bellows the same statement every 30 seconds: no photos or recording, or you’ll be kicked out. Strange behaviour for a rock show, yet strangely admirable in its totality. This is an extreme way to stamp out YouTube bootleggers, and it appears to work: I don’t see a single smartphone held aloft all night.

    This show is sold out because it’s the first time that Maynard James Keenan, singer of Tool and A Perfect Circle, has toured his ‘multimedia project’ Puscifer outside of America. Spirits are high. The merch desk is doing swift business. Signs blue-tacked to nearly every wall in the venue instruct patrons that all drinks must be poured into plastic cups. (“Please be patient!”) Another sign lists ‘restricted items & actions’: cameras, audio/video recorders, laser lights, flash lights, knives, tasers, mace etc. No moshing or crowd surfing. Audio/video materials confiscated will not be returned. So many rules and regulations. Serious (protecting of) business.

    The queue is still hundreds-strong when the show begins at 8.30pm sharp; we’re subject to a half-hour video with a loose plot – featuring Keenan playing a range of characters, each with Texan accents – and some short musical interludes filmed at another venue, all displayed on two large projector screens at the back of stage. It effectively works as a highlight reel for a past Puscifer tour, which evidently relied heavily on hillbilly sketches. It’s more tedious than funny. The crowd cheers when any of Keenan’s characters drink heavily. Which is often.

    The reel ends, then another clip draws into focus: Keenan dressed as an Army officer, complete with uniform, aviators and moustache, stood before an American flag and reminding the crowd: no fucking cameras or recording devices. No fucking flash cameras! It’s rude! It works because he’s long been annoyed by this type of behaviour when performing with his other bands—it’s part of the reason why he sings from behind the drum kit with Tool, for example—yet he’s never quite had the power (or the balls, perhaps) to stamp it out. He’s finally got his way, and I bet he’s happy about it. Good for him. That sense of humour is a trait all too rare at Tool shows.

    With two albums to their name, plus a handful of EPs—including the eloquently named Donkey Punch The Night, released a few days before this show—there’s plenty of material to draw upon. The four-piece through the songs in a competent, if workmanlike fashion. The rhythmic beds are elementary when compared to the singer’s heavy metal history, but this music is more about simplicity, atmosphere and feeling than showy musicianship. Keenan and so-singer Carina Round stand at the back, before large screens that amplify their faces on-the-fly while they perform, and it's amusing to watch the pair regularly dance in-sync, Round imitating Keenan’s trademark squat gyrations.

    The band are on stage for 90 minutes, including a couple of intermissions wherein Keenan lives out his character-acting fantasies on the screens. Four lounge chairs are positioned at front of stage, and the singer regularly tops up his bandmates’ glasses with wine. (His own creation, no doubt, since Keenan owns vineyards in Arizona.) In the middle of the set, James Iha and Billy Howerdel—the two guitarists from A Perfect Circle, with whom Keenan is performing as part of Soundwave Festival tomorrow—stride across the stage and lounge around for a few songs, sipping wine and taking it all in. “Fuckin’ party crashers,” says Keenan, after the pair are welcomed by the band and comfortably seated. It’s a nice touch for a room full of hardcore fans, yet their arrival coincides with the dullest bracket of songs aired tonight: the live premiere of ‘Dear Brother’, ‘Breathe’, and their cover of Accept’s ‘Balls To The Wall’, all from Donkey Punch The Night. (They don’t attempt their cover of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from the same release, which is odd, because it would have brought the house down.)

    Round is a class act: fantastic voice and sporting a great nun’s habit costume, cut to knee-length. She performs ‘Rev 22:20’ solo, while Keenan raises his glass from the lounge. There’s real chemistry between these two, and their vocal interactions are the highlight of the show. The closing bracket of four songs are performed with such verve that they make up for the so-so midsection: ‘Conditions Of My Parole’, ‘Man Overboard’, ‘Telling Ghosts’ and ‘The Undertaker’ are some of the heaviest tracks in the band’s catalogue, and end the show strongly.

    There’s no encore.

    The Vine
  • Big Day Out 2013 @ Gold Coast Parklands

    22 Ene 2013, 0:01

  • Parkway Drive @ Brisbane Riverstage

    17 Dic 2012, 6:17

    Fri 14 Dec – Parkway Drive, I Killed the Prom Queen, Survival, Northlane

    Parkway Drive
    Riverstage, Brisbane
    Friday 14 December 2012

    Some nights, even a powerhouse musical performance leaves you a little cold. This is one of those nights. As good as Parkway Drive are tonight, playing to a near-full hill of heavy music fans, I leave with a lingering feeling that something’s missing. I’ve cherished this band’s music for eight years, and seen them live half a dozen times since 2005, but this might be the show where we part ways. After 70 minutes of being blasted with some of the finest metalcore songs you’ll hear anywhere in the world, the overall effect is a little numbing. As a unit, the Byron Bay-born five-piece has improved in seemingly every measurable way across their four albums – songwriting, musicianship, showmanship, popularity – yet I can’t shake the feeling that I might have finally outgrown this music.

    Personal grievances aside, there is very little to fault on the second night of the band’s first Australian tour following the release of Atlas in late October. (The previous night, they played at their old high school in Byron.) Parkway Drive played this same venue two years ago, touring third album Deep Blue; surprisingly, they’ve dialled back the scale of production a little. In 2010, we saw them tossing a football into the crowd (to be cashed in for $100 in band merch at the top of the hill), and enlisting their friends to navigate inflatable rafts atop the moshpit, casting fishing lines into the crowd, taunting rabid fans with the temptation of free Parkway shirts. None of these antics are present tonight: five performers and the enormous lighting rig aside, there’s little else to look at. The projector and screen in use is largely ineffective: it displays a few variations on the band’s logo throughout the set, as well as some film clips, but these are barely visible behind the bright lights.

    This lack of gimmicks means that the songs are the stars, required to stand alone – and they do. Five from Atlas, including the album opening combo of ‘Sparks’—played over the PA, while the band walk out to a hero’s welcome—followed by a scintillating rendition of ‘Old Ghosts/New Regrets’, while hundreds of eager fans jostle for position down in the pit. An excellent spectacle, no doubt; an early highlight that’s not quite matched by the ensuing songs, including old favourites like ‘Romance Is Dead’ and ‘Gimme A D’. The Atlas tracks sit comfortably between Deep Blue fare like ‘Sleepwalker’ and ‘Karma’, as well as Horizons cuts ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ and final encore ‘Carrion’. The en masse singalong moments—‘Home Is For The Heartless’, ‘Idols and Anchors’ and ‘Wild Eyes’—call for thousands of voices to sing the harmonies, and thousand comply. This is one of the band’s most interesting songwriting decisions since their 2005 debut Killing With A Smile: by introducing stadium-rock tropes to metalcore aesthetics, they encourage a fairly inscrutable audience—mostly young males—to indulge in what would likely be labelled uncool at a U2 or Coldplay gig. Parkway are cool, though, so the fans don’t question it for a moment tonight.

    Special mention belongs to ‘Dark Days’, the first single from Atlas and frontman Winston McCall’s most remarkable achievement thus far: writing a song about our planet’s most serious matter—human-induced climate change—and making the audience care. It’s aired mid-set tonight, and it’s a fantastic moment. McCall sidesteps his familiar lyrical obsessions of dysfunctional relationships and maritime imagery (?) in favour of lines like “What will you tell your children when they ask you ‘what went wrong’?” and “The clock is ticking / can’t you feel our days are numbered?”. While the band marches to a typically aggressive beat backed by metallic guitars, McCall raises his fist aloft and yells “I can’t watch it burn!” during the breakdown, while thousands of fans mimic his gesture. Whether or not the song causes much true introspection among the carbon-consumers in attendance remains to be seen. But full marks to McCall for writing about a hard-headed topic in such a compelling and engaging manner.

    It’s difficult to picture how the band might continue to build upon the constant momentum that has marked their now decade-old career. Parkway Drive’s ascension to the top of Australian heavy music culture is one of the more remarkable occurrences in recent years. But I wonder how much more ground is to be gained. Will they continue to attract bigger audiences, or have they hit a ceiling? It seems a certainty that youth will always find the pure aggression of their sound attractive; my friends and I certainly did, and there’s no shortage of eager youngsters in the crowd tonight. As fans like myself outgrow the band, though, will we continue to be replaced by the next generation of willing Parkway fanatics? Will the under-agers one day replace the over 18s at all ages shows like this? Questions for another time perhaps -- the five grown men on stage tonight evidently believe in what they do. More power to them.

    The Vine
  • Primal Scream @ The Tivoli

    4 Dic 2012, 0:30

    Mon 3 Dec – Primal Scream

    Primal Scream
    The Tivoli, Brisbane
    Monday 3 December 2012

    In a word: loud. Forgive me for starting at the end, but it’s all I can think about right now.

    The last thing we heard from Primal Scream tonight—the band's first show of a six-date Australian tour that includes this weekend's Meredith Festival—was five minutes of looped instruments and vocals cranked up way beyond anything resembling a sane volume. A wash of unintelligible white noise, essentially, which—combined with incessant strobe lights—has the unique effect of inducing both awe and nausea. Leaving the venue after the loop is finally, mercifully sped up and cut off, it feels like my hearing has been sliced in half. It’d be funny if it weren’t so serious; there’s not much comedy in tinnitus. It’s the deafest I’ve ever been after a show, and that includes witnessing My Bloody Valentine three nights in a row, as well as seeing this band in the same room nearly four years ago. If I’m this damaged even with plugs shoved deep into my ears, I don’t envy those without.

    It says a lot about the quality of the preceding two hours, though, that during that final wash of sound, a handful of people are still dancing to the ‘beat’, such as it is. There’s a strong argument to be made that Primal Scream are the complete package as far as modern rock bands are concerned. With a remarkable back catalogue of quality tracks spanning at least half a dozen genres, there aren’t many acts who can match them on a good night. Fortunately, this evening is one of those -- a masterclass in musicianship and performance; an audio-visual assault that relies on little more than strobe lights and fearsome volume during key moments, yet packs just as much power as Radiohead’s wall of interlocking screens, or maybe—just maybe—U2’s giant, 360° ‘Claw’.

    The intimacy of the Tivoli crowd helps, here. The band probably aren’t stoked to be playing to a half-full room; the 400 or so in attendance would barely fill smaller venue The Zoo. But these concerns disappear quickly once the Scottish six-piece lock into a well-balanced set that contains more than enough classics to satiate the fans, with enough new material peppered throughout to keep the band interested. Sixteen tracks by my count; three of them unreleased, including effective set opener ‘2012’. Their 1991 classic Screamadelica features prominently: they air a fantastic version of ‘Loaded’ during the five-song encore, seamlessly transitioning from ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’. It’s an equal set highlight, alongside ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’ from 2000’s XTRMNTR. Frontman Bobby Gillespie dedicates ‘Accelerator’ to Brisbane punk rock legends The Saints -- it’s the first time that the guitars are pushed high in the mix, where they stay for the remainder.

    The band end with ‘Jailbird’ and ‘Rocks’, two songs that they could surely play in their sleep, yet neither feels rushed or rote. Besides writing compelling new material—something Primal Scream has struggled with in recent years—this is arguably the hardest part of remaining vital after more than 25 years in existence: making old tunes sound fresh. It's not a worry as it happens: their electronica-inspired tunes sitting comfortably amid acid house, pop and straight rock-and-roll. The band’s sheer versatility their best asset.

    Though they haven’t always hit the target with their experiments, tonight Primal Scream’s aim is true. It’s an inspiring performance that’s probably worth the ringing ears and potential hearing loss. Probably.

    The Vine