Thursday, September 30, 2010

"I've been waiting... I've been waiting for this moment, all my life" - Silversun Pickups, Corner Hotel, 28/09/10

It was the show that wasn't really supposed to happen, but thank FUCK it did. Los Angeles' highly acclaimed dreamy noisemakers Silversun Pickups were announced as part of the bill for the Coaster Festival in Gosford, NSW, but I think there was a very large amount of people who couldn't really make it there who were PRAYING they'd be putting in a few capital city appearances. However, in a miscalculated move to say the least, the promoter decided that the ideal way to tour them across this country would be to have them warming up the stage before a headlining performance from Birds of Tokyo. Now, with no disrespect to Birds intended because I'm sure it wasn't their fault (I'm actually a massive fan), but seriously, it's a bit of an insult to a TOURING BAND FROM AMERICA, who have only been here once and on that tour only played TINY venues, to have them playing a pathetic eight-song set before some band from Perth that everyone's probably seen before come onstage and play for almost two hours. There's just some logic missing there. To say nothing of the fact that musically, the two bands are worlds apart. Thankfully, Frontier Touring did a bit of damage control, at least for the Melbournians, and booked Silversun Pickups into the Corner Hotel, for an amazing headline set that sold out in, I believe, about 20 minutes. Papa vs Pretty opened the night; because I got there a bit late and only caught about 3-4 of their songs I'm not going to give them their own paragraph, but they were very good and I'd like to check them out again.

Maybe it was because it was a very un-rock and roll Tuesday night, maybe it was because they wanted to make up for lost time, but whatever the reason was, we only had to wait until 9:30 before the curtain pulled back and Brian Aubert (vocals/guitar), Nikki Monninger (bass/vocals), Joe Lester (keys/effects) and Christopher Guanlao (drums) kicked into a beautiful rendition of Growing Old is Getting Old from last year's brilliant Swoon album. Even from this opening song it was clear that we were going to be in for a good night - and when that "heavy" section in the middle kicked in, the crowd responded accordingly! After that song was done, Monninger hit a very familiar few bars, introducing my personal favourite SSPU song Well Thought Out Twinkles. This favourite from their first album Carnavas had the effect of really getting the crowd going, not that they needed encouragement. Everyone was really excited for this very special opportunity that the other states were not getting. I was surprised at how energetic the band are onstage too - not that their songs are dull, but they aren't exactly ultra-high intensity either. Still, that didn't stop Monninger from bouncing around the stage with a huge grin on her face, while Aubert made the most of the non-singing bits in the songs by leaning out over the barrier and thrashing the hell out of his guitar. Up the back of the stage, Guanlao was absolutely belting that kit; he even had a cymbal towering way above the rest of the kit, John Stanier-style.

After about five songs, the band finally took a break to allow Aubert to speak. He was pretty quiet earlier on in the set, but gradually got more and more chatty as the night wore on. Punters weren't afraid to voice their disapproval of the tour's mismanagement either, with one yelling out, "Where's your headline shows, what's wrong with your promoter?" Aubert grinned and replied, "This is the headline show motherfucker. The tour starts and ends tonight!" Later on, someone chimed in with "Fuck Birds of Tokyo!" to which Aubert responded "If you want me to, it's your town!" Birds-bashing aside, the crowd and band alike showed their appreciation of the other being present. Not letting it go to his head, Aubert showed his genuine modesty when recalling that on their last tour, the band played in the relatively tiny Ding Dong Lounge. He said that when they had been asked to play the Corner this time around, upon hearing that the venue had a capacity of 800, he'd replied "Good luck selling that shit out!" Aubert also played up the typical city-to-city interstate rivalry card, but had to backpedal when he realised that some hardcore fans had made their way from other cities to witness this special show.

And what a show it was. Despite assurances actually coming from Adam Spark himself (see the Fasterlouder thread), as openers for Birds, the SSPU set was criminally trimmed down to 45 minutes - tonight, despite the Corner website advertising that the show was to finish at 10:45, it stretched past 11pm! The crowd enjoyed all that the band had to give, but were particularly responsive to Carnavas tracks getting an airing - Little Lover's So Polite and Future Foe Scenarios were particular highlights, and for the diehards in the room there was even Kissing Families from the band's pre-Carnavas EP Pikul. It wouldn't be right of me not to extend my highest compliments to the sound guy on the night - as we know from listening to their albums, Silversun Pickups do enjoy their feedback-drenched pedal-driven noisefests, but this comes across so much better in their live show, although I was extremely thankful I'd brought earplugs! This was particularly evident during an epic version of Lazy Eye which closed the main set. After it, an encore seemed a bit redundant, but the curtain remained opened and those roadies onstage just seemed to be tuning instruments, so we knew there was something more coming. It was two slightly more chilled-out numbers, Substitution from Swoon and from Three Seed from Carnavas - before Christopher Guanlao amazed once more with an extended version of that intense beat that begins Common Reactor. As the song drew to a close, Monninger and Guanlao made their way offstage, leaving Aubert and Lester to conclude by deafening us all with blasts of feedback and effects, until finally it was over. Melbourne's Silversun Pickups fans knew they were extremely lucky to get this show, and the band rewarded us many times over.

Growing Old is Getting Old
Well Thought Out Twinkles
Sort Of
There's No Secrets This Year
The Royal We
Little Lover's So Polite
It's Nice to Know You Work Alone
Future Foe Scenarios
Kissing Families
Catch and Release
Panic Switch
Three Seed
Common Reactor

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It has come to my attention...

...That all bar two of these posts is a live music review - and one of those two is simply my top ten gigs of 2009. When I started this blog, I initially aimed to write about lots of musical-related topics, but it seems to have been dominated by that thing I love so much - going to gigs. I aim to address this in the next week or so, probably with a short review of an album I've been particularly enjoying in recent (or maybe not-so-recent) times. It could be one of the following which I've been listening to quite a lot lately...
Sydonia - Given to Destroyers (listening to it right now). Came out in 2006, but I only got my hands on it after the DLC album launch gig in May this year. I've seen these guys numerous times live and they're absolutely brilliant. Melbourne music represent.
Birds of Tokyo - Birds of Tokyo. I think it says something about this album that these Perth rockers decided to self-title it - it really is a perfect summation of their career so far, definitely their most cohesive. They've really put a lot of effort into this and it shows. It may even be my album of the year...
Dead Letter Circus - This is the Warning. ...But then again, so might this...
PVT - Church With No Magic. ...Or this. Shame their gig was a little dull.

Anyway. Expect a review of one of these very soon. Or maybe something else altogether :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The sun sets on a brilliant career - Powderfinger, Rod Laver Arena, 11-09-2010 - Sunsets Farewell Tour

On April 9 of this year came the announcement that one of Australia's most loved bands of the past 20 years, Brisbane's Powderfinger, would be calling it quits after one final tour around the country - aptly named after their beloved Sunsets track. The tour will visit all the major cities and even stop off in quite a few regional centres, making sure that nobody misses their chance to say goodbye. Pick You Up, The Day You Come, Passenger, My Happiness, On My Mind... need I go on? On a reasonable spring Saturday night, Melbournians turned out in droves to bid farewell to these true Australian music legends.

I didn't quite get there in time to see The Vasco Era, so by the time I made my way into Rod Laver Arena, it was time for a set from Jet. Oh, what can I say? Even ignoring the fact that I haven't really cared for their music in quite some time, I just don't think these guys are engaging as a live band - they just lack energy and enthusiasm for what they're doing. But I guess it's a two-way street - several times they did try and get the crowd going with the usual handclaps and singalongs, but there were plenty of people standing around indifferently. As for the songs, I guess they performed a good mixed bag of tunes from their three studio albums, including the favourites such as Cold Hard Bitch and of course, Are You Gonna Be My Girl. Still, exactly why they're still around escapes me - you can't make a career out of one album that was really only successful because it was released at the right time for that sort of music, when the whole garage rock revival thing was going on. Sorry for the negativity, I just don't like this band much. As me and my mate headed out at the end of their set to grab a beer, I mused out loud that I wasn't sure why I was feeling tired all of a sudden. Mate replied, "You've just seen Jet".

Powderfinger made their way onstage to little fanfare just after 9, and opened their set with a stirring rendition of Love Your Way. As the fans cheered right before that massive chorus kicked in for the first time, the band paused briefly and the curtain opened - and then the lighting guy went nuts! Following that, another curtain fell to reveal a very stylish semi-circular screen and lighting rig at the back of the stage, as the Brisvegas boys kicked into Lost and Running. Even from the early stages of their performance, it was clear that Powderfinger were bringing their A game to the stage tonight, after all, it is their farewell tour, and they preferred to go out with a bang, rather than just sticking to the same old monotonous performance. The setlist on the night would prove to be a great mixed bag, something that must’ve been a challenge considering the band has seven studio albums to choose from and a set falling just short of two hours. But fans were not left disappointed, with the band busting out all the classics such as On My Mind, Passenger and My Happiness, and even treating us to a few numbers that we perhaps hadn’t heard in a while – Capoicity, JC and Rockin’ Rocks were particularly unexpected. Unfortunately, tonight we wouldn’t get to witness anything from the band’s debut “Parables for Wooden Ears” – I suspect they may be saving a few of those for the series of “FINAL” shows taking place in October. As always, Bernard Fanning was particularly engaging with the crowd, talking about the AFL finals, and touching on the band’s long history of playing gigs in Melbourne. “I remember one night at the Pelly Bar in Frankston...” he began, and the crowd laughed, anticipating what might be coming. “We saw some pretty crazy fights that night... and some pretty decent ones involving guys as well”. Another typically witty moment occurred after a solo performance of Nobody Sees, when he commented that “...Because the lights are still off, as the guys come back on, I get a nice little pat on the arse”. As I’ve already touched on, production-wise the show was excellent – they went all-out on the lighting and visual front, even throwing in some beautiful laser displays to “Thrilloilogy” and “These Days”. A real highlight of the show came right after The Metre – the band disappeared offstage, but at only about 9:40, it seemed even too early for an encore. The video screen played some old historical footage, and then slowly the crowd started turning around – it quickly became apparent that the band had made their way to the back of the crowd, to play a small “intimate” set on a B stage – lucky people sitting in the front row at that point! From this stage, they busted out storming renditions of Like a Dog and Rockin’ Rocks, before drummer Cogsy and bassist JC performed an awesome impromptu jam, allowing Fanning to get back to the main stage for Nobody Sees. But the surprises didn’t stop there – Fanning informing the crowd that the next song, JC, would be sung entirely by Darren Middleton, and he left the stage completely. Of course, he would return soon enough, to complete a particularly epic conclusion of the main set – My Happiness and Passenger. Demands for the encore were satisfied quickly, with the band opting for “Internationalist” oddity Capoicity, then bringing it home with more sure-fire crowd favourites in Pick You Up and On My Mind. But there was one more card to play, and finally, the five members returned to the stage one last time and the night ended with a beautiful rendition of These Days – recently voted as Brisbane’s favourite Powderfinger song. Something quite a lot of people in the country would agree with no doubt, and it was a fitting way to end the night – for many, the very last time they’d see these guys on a live stage.

Love Your Way
Lost and Running
Burn Your Name
Sail the Widest Stretch
Thrilloilogy (always nice to see this one, particularly awesome jams from Darren Middleton and Ian Haug)
Already Gone
The Metre
----Video plays while band makes their way to B-stage at back of stadium----
Like a Dog
Rockin' Rocks
Cogsy and JC solo
----Return to main stage----
Nobody Sees (Bernard Fanning solo)
JC (with Darren Middleton on lead vox)
My Happiness
Encore 1----
Pick You Up
(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind
Encore 2----
These Days