Thursday, July 7, 2011

"It's nice to know you're with us today..." - Karnivool, Corner Hotel, 06-07-2011

Even though the Ian Kenny-related focus has shifted noticeably toward Birds of Tokyo after the release of their very pop-friendly third album, his other (and much more talented, let's just put it out there straight away because it's a FACT) band Karnivool are still doing their thing. However, they have taken the foot off the touring pedal a bit since the end of 2009, the year in which their mammoth Sound Awake was released, in order to get back to writing mode for their third album (which we will hopefully not have to wait five years for!). Despite this, the Perth fivesome knows that the fans love their live shows, and therefore announced another round of dates for the middle of 2011, with the promise of showcasing some of the new material the quintet have been working on for their upcoming third album. Naturally, fans responded in earnest to this news, with most shows on the tour selling out quite quickly and more shows being added - which also sold out. Kenny, Goddard, Hosking, Stockman and Judd had already booked two consecutive nights in June at the Corner Hotel (as well as a few regional shows in Victoria), but with Melbournians being arguably their biggest fanbase outside of their native Perth, it was clear that they needed to do another, and returned to the Victorian capital in July to entertain for one last time! Along for the ride for the entire duration of the tour was fellow Perth-ian, dubstep/drum n bass DJ Shockone, and Over-reactor, a unique self-proclaimed "death hop" duo that call Melbourne home.

Two-piece Over-reactor had the unenviable task of getting an initially sluggish Wednesday night crowd to do something other than just stand around drinking and treating them as "the support act" - but when the frontman of the support act is Ezekiel Ox, it's a task that they are more than capable of tackling. Starting off with a slower number Control of This, the pace soon picked up with the thrashy Nu Metal Motherfuckers, and so did the energy, as Zeke leapt over the barrier and into the crowd, stalking around the circle that had formed in front of him and doing a great job of steadily gaining crowd interest - meanwhile, you had to feel sorry for drummer/sample cue-er Cory Blight, who despite being quite a talented and very precise musician, was basically ignored as the punters fixed their attention on the very energetic Ox. After a couple of songs, he decided a makeshift stage/podium was required, so he bounded over to the venue's sidestage, grabbed a gear case presumably belonging to Shockone, and took it to the middle of the room, standing atop it for most of the remainder of the set - although he did still roam around the room plenty. After a few songs, the crowd was quickly warming up to the massive riffs and vicious vocals emanating from the venue's speakers, although many were a little confused at exactly where those riffs were coming from. "I know what you're thinking!" Ox exclaimed, followed by a slight chuckle as he realised the self-reference he'd just inadvertently made. "Where's the guitarist!?" For those not in the know, the guitars on Over-reactor's two-volume album Lose Your Delusion were recorded entirely by Blight, and they've decided to simply use a laptop to play them back live, rather than drag along another guitarist. It's a strange thing to get used to, but as I mentioned, most people in the room were genuinely getting into the spirit of things, save for a section of people up the back which Ox noticed, singling them out and calling them his "pocket of disappointment". The set concluded with standout track Something More, although unfortunately it did not feature a live appearance from Chris Cheney as the previous two shows at the Corner had. Nevertheless, it's safe to say Over-reactor had a few new fans by the end of the night, and definitely would have gained plenty on this tour.
SETLIST (actually from first night, but as far as I recall, they played similar sets each night)
Control of This
Nu Metal Motherfuckers
Call in the Bombers
Free Music
Naked Words
The Gangbangers
Best of Worst
Point to Push
The Chemical Sound
Something More (
featured Chris Cheney on guitar at first two shows!)

Up next was the inclusion to the tour that got quite a lot of people talking, and when you throw a dubstep DJ onto a bill with one of Australia's most loved prog/hard rock bands, there's going to be a few raised eyebrows. Shockone is probably not without some talent in his field, but his style of music just doesn't do it for me, and it didn't for a lot of other people either - the room emptied considerably when he played, with me and the group of people I was with heading to the rooftop to escape his horribly generic DJ set. Well, I'm assuming it was - at the first 'Vool show which I attended, we stayed for his whole set and the only time I could actually tell when a different song was playing was when different vocals came in - the beats and synth patterns were EXACTLY the same, for about half an hour, before it sped up and began to sound exactly like a friggin' Pendulum song. I know that Karnivool were trying to do something a bit different here and I'm assuming because they're all from the Perth music scene they might've known this guy for quite a while, but really, there should have been a point where someone said, "Perhaps this isn't the best sort of music for our general audience." It would have been a lot more entertaining to have another band or actual performing act on the bill - even Over-reactor, with one vocalist, one drummer and the ever-present laptop are far more engaging to watch than one guy spinning discs or whatever he was doing.

But with all that aside, it was time for the final Melbourne show, and the second last show all up of this 2011 tour, and the sold-out room definitely had high expectations for the Perth fivesome. As the ambient intro came on and lights went down, the tension in the room went up a hundredfold, and when the band members made their way onto the stage, they certainly got a warm welcome! The familiar chugging riff of Goliath got the set off to a flying start, and it was clear that the Perth boys were going to deliver another ripper tonight. As the heavy riffs boomed out of the Corner PA, vocalist Ian Kenny wandered around the stage doing his usual space cadet routine, and not missing a single vocal note. The man's talent is rivalled by very few in the Australian music scene. The band followed it up with the familiar vibraphone intro to Simple Boy, and the crowd got even more excited. In fact, throughout the entire night, this pattern persisted - Karnivool are a band that do have some very distinctive intro sections to their music, and the crowd only needs to hear a few seconds to know EXACTLY what's coming and respond accordingly.

Gutiarist Mark Hosking (who I didn't really have much of a view of on the night, being that I was standing on the far left) then did the obligatory thank-you to the crowd, and stated that there were three reasons to celebrate tonight - one being their last show in Melbourne for 2011, another being that it was guitarist Drew Goddard's and drummer Steve Judd's joint birthday, and the third one which he conveniently forgot. The band then moved onto a sure-fire pair of crowd-pleasers from their debut album Themata, C.O.T.E. and of course, the always-popular title track. The remainder of the set intially seemed like pretty standard Karnivool stuff; it was a little bit disappointing they didn't mix it up a little bit more, especially for people like me who had attended all three nights at the Corner (and some friends had even done trips interstate!). The band are an IMMENSELY talented and tight live band, and of course, the songs are amazing, but with this being my eighth Karnivool gig, I was hoping for a bit more of a change (no pun intended) in the setlist. However, it was great to hear the band's new song The Refusal making it in again, as this particular track is really awesome and tells us that album number three from Karnivool is shaping up to be another ripper.

The Drew and Steve birthday celebrations got a few more mentions throughout the night, including the obligatory crowd singing Happy Birthday during a break between songs, and shots of Jager being downed by the band. Later on, the crowd was getting a little bit rowdy and of course decided to yell out the particular song that they would like to hear (from various crowd members: "SLEEPING SATELLITE! BOX! FREE BIRD! WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT!"). The band didn't seem bothered by the extra attention, with Drew laughing and singing "It's my birthday and I'll play what I want to!" It was the end of the set that yielded a pair of excellent surprises - first off, a bit of a forgotten gem on Sound Awake, Illumine, got its first airing in Melbourne since the Sine Waves and Mirrors tour of late 2009, and then, with Kenny leading the charge, it was time for an unexpected airing of Fade. Every band has their "first EP" type of songs, and Karnivool have certaininly come a long way musically since the release of their self-titled EP (which they pretty much disown now) and its follow-up Persona, but every now and again, they bring out this gem and the fans absolutely love it. The singalong in the venue was quite something! Following that, the main set concluded with a typically ripping performance of Roquefort, before the band took a quick breather and returned for two more songs - it's been really great to see them bring back Synops to the set this year. I believe they've only played it on one other tour before, and that was in 2007, so it's definitely been great for some of the younger fans of the band to get an opportunity to experience it, as it is a great track. By this point, they had already played a considerably longer set than advertised, which is probably why they opted to close the show with New Day as opposed to the epic Change. But nobody was complaining, and at the end of the night, Karnivool had delivered another beauty, and I think all in the room left very satisfied. They've only played two new songs live (and one of those has only been played once, the elusive Sky Machine getting its only airing in Frankston) on this tour, so I expect that they still have quite a bit of work ahead of them, but with shows like this, the anticipation for album number three continues to grow!
Simple Boy
All I Know
The Refusal
Set Fire to the Hive
Synops (YAY)
New Day

(And for those of you following my "career" on Fan Made Recordings, yes, I did record this show and it turned out a lot better than the previous show (which, apart from the mix not being as good as this show, prominently featured my enthusiastic singing). I will endeavour to post it ASAP.)