Blog

  • Happy Ryan

    Fev 7 2009, 1h42

    Thu 29 Jan – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

    Last time Ryan Adams came to town with his incredible band, The Cardinals, he really had his cranky hat on. Appearing on a sumptuously designed stage set, under subdued purple lighting, he refused to engage in any kind of discourse with the audience. Eventually the repeated yells of “Turn the light on!” were too much, and he stormed off stage: “Maybe while we’re gone you can have a think about how to be a proper audience”. Hmmm, not exactly a warm and fuzzy experience. Then again, the musical performance was exceptional.

    So what kind of a mood was the boy going to be in this time around? Well, pretty much the opposite, actually.

    In fact, this evening’s tone couldn’t be described as anything other than laid back. Seeming completely at ease in their surroundings, Ryan and the band methodically jammed their way through a diverse set of songs, mainly from the new album Cardinology but with a healthy sprinkling of tracks from Easy Tiger, Heartbreaker and Gold. If anything, they may have been a little bit too relaxed: at times it felt as though their hearts weren’t really in it. It was a bit like sitting in for a band rehearsal – charming in its own way, certainly enjoyable given the quality of the music, but somehow leaving you with the impression that the experience could be so much better on the night. When the Enmore Theatre lights abruptly came on shortly after the band left the stage, ruling out the possibility of an encore, this impression was only strengthened.

    That said though, even coasting like this, the Cardinals are a damned gifted set of musicians, and Ryan Adams can match it with them all the way. Given the enormous size of his back catalogue, it’s kind of fun to see how much they shake up the set list with each performance – not unlike setting your iPod playlist to shuffle and just seeing what comes up. Whatever happens, you’re assured a pretty nice collection of tunes.

    Setting off with a subdued version of When the Stars Go Blue, the mood was kept there for a few songs before kicking it up a gear for a rocking performance of Magick. Even Cardinals lead guitarist Neil Casals was given a chance to showcase his fuller talents, with a beautiful rendition of Freeway to the Canyon from his solo album, No Wish to Reminisce. Highlights of the set were some towering performances of Come Pick Me Up, Oh My Sweet Carolina and Peaceful Valley. Although ending the set with a slightly puzzling choice, Cardinology’s gentle ballad, Cobwebs, the band kept up a set of sustained quality for around two hours.

    He may not always deliver what you’d expect, but there’s always something wonderful about seeing Ryan Adams live. I wonder what personality he’ll wear next time he comes down here? Or was this really the last hurrah....?

    Setlist:

    When the Stars Go Blue (Gold)
    Two (Easy Tiger)
    Let It Ride (Cold Roses)
    Fix It (Cardinology)
    Everybody Knows (Easy Tiger)
    Magick (Cardinology)
    Wonderwall (Love Is Hell)
    Come Pick Me Up (Heartbreaker)
    New York, New York (Gold)
    La Cienega Just Smiled (Gold)
    Freeway to the Canyon (No Wish to Reminisce, Neil Casal album)
    The Sun Also Sets (Easy Tiger)
    Evergreen (Cardinology)
    Rescue Blues (Gold)
    Let Us Down Easy (Cardinology)
    Born Into a Light (Cardinology)
    Oh My Sweet Carolina (Heartbreaker)
    Shakedown on 9th Street (Heartbreaker)
    Peaceful Valley (Jacksonville City Nights)
    Goodnight Rose (Easy Tiger)
    Cobwebs (Cardinology)

    the yowie
  • Heavenly buskers

    Fev 7 2009, 1h33

    Wed 28 Jan – Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

    The great appeal of John Carney’s 2006 low-budget film, Once, was the power and beauty of the music created from such humble and unassuming beginnings. I wonder if Glen Hansard or Marketa Irglova would ever have expected that little film’s subsequent success, and the boost to their musical careers it provided. Joined by Hansard’s regular band, The Frames, they managed to fill the Sydney Opera House concert hall for three straight nights as part of the Festival of Sydney.

    Hansard and Irglova are obviously having the time of their lives. It’s clear that they find their fans' passionate response to their music somewhat overwhelming. They both display a charmingly down-to-earth attitude throughout - really giving the impression of street buskers suddenly transported into a packed concert hall. “I heard people lined up since 1.30 in the morning to get tickets for this. Is that right?” asks Irglova before one song. “Jesus, I hope we’re worth it!” Hansard continues the tone with a story about wandering depressed through the Sydney Botanical Gardens during a Frames tour years ago, when he attempted to lift his spirits by looking over at the Opera House and swearing that he would one day play there.

    This unassuming style of banter was almost disorienting, interspersed as it was between the power and passion of their music. I’m hard pressed to recall witnessing a more pure, pitch-perfect musical performance in my life. This was obviously a meticulously rehearsed show, note by note, and the effect was awe inspiring. The concert hall was a perfect venue for such a virtuoso performance – every note plucked on Hansard’s guitar or caressed from Irglova’s piano was clear and true. But soaring above it all were the vocals: Hansard’s voice is almost primal in its raw power, but tempered with exquisite emotional nuance. Combined with Irglova’s beautiful ethereal vocals, I was genuinely transported. It’s not often that I get goosebumps from music these days, but I was in a constant state of ecstasy throughout this show.

    Divine is not too strong a word to describe it. It was about as close to perfect as live music can possibly be.

    the yowie
  • A Big Day in the Life

    Jan 23 2009, 5h56

    Sun 18 Jan – Big Day Out

    It’s been a while since I’ve taken the plunge into the mass of desperate youth indulgence that is the Big Day Out. As this most iconic of Aussie music festivals has evolved, I’ve increasingly found myself alienated by its tendency to present a bill so broadly appealing as to almost defeat its own intent to service a niche music market. This is certainly a charge that could be levelled at the 2009 incarnation, but for me there were just enough interesting bands dotted thoughout the lineup to induce me to jump back in.

    On immersion into the mayhem surrounding the entrance of the Gold Coast Parklands, I remembered why I had started to give each annual BDO a miss. Letting everyone visit the toilet, finding water refills, organising some drink tickets (attempting desperately to put an accurate forecast on how much we were going to consume), grabbing something to eat, and just getting a grip on the lay of the land took up the better part of an hour and a half. Eventually we had to grab a seat in the stand opposite the main stages just so we could come up with some kind of plan. As the sodapop-punk of The Grates wafted intermittently across to us through the wind, we were thankful for Mikey’s iPhone - with printed programmes apparently rare as hen’s teeth, we had to get online to see who was on where.

    Finally we set our sights on the (distant) Converse stage and headed off to catch Black Kids for a half hour or so before TV on the Radio were due to set up next door. The Kids were everything you would have imagined. I had surprised myself immensely this year by actually enjoying their fine debut, Partie Traumatic, and the band enthusiastically ripped out some very polished-sounding renditions of that album’s excellent pop. It just goes to show, genre aside, quality is quality, and it was with a fair amount of reluctance that we shifted across to the next stage.

    TV on the Radio were a must-see for me, and I was completely pumped as I waited for them to come on stage. But this just served to remind me of another reason why the BDO can be less than optimal: it seemed to me that most folks crammed under the tent were just sort of semi-interested passersby. Hmmm, maybe I should have waited for the sideshow. Although TVOTR showed glimpses of the live intensity that they first built their reputation on, I couldn’t help but feel that they were adversely affected by the lack of energy from the crowd. But, despite this and some pretty crappy sound mix, they put a brave face on it and churned out some still wrenchingly powerful stuff, with Wolf Like Me and Staring at the Sun real highlights.

    As we wandered away from the Green Stage, we found ourselves at a bit of a loose end so just kind of moseyed over to the main stage with no real aim. Sitting down at a distance from the stage, I found myself somewhat repelled by the febrile neediness of Pendulum’s lead singer (”Come on, let’s hear some fucking noise!!!”). We decided it would be best to find a comfy spot back near the Green and Converse Stages.

    I wasn’t really interested in My Morning Jacket but from my seat on the hill next to their stage, I have to say their set sounded damn impressive. They have an incredibly clear sound and an obvious mastery over their instruments that made me want to hear more. I was planning on seeing The Drones next door, but as MMJ’s long set kept going, I found myself disinclined to leave them. The Drones will have to wait for St Jerome’s next month. Note to self: check out some of MMJ’s back catalog - somehow I’ve remained ignorant of it up till now.

    Heading for the bar to get a drink before Cut Copy started, I suddenly found myself in a scrum. The bar was absolute chaos (here’s a suggestion for your box, BDO organisers: Put up more bars!!!). Finally emerging triumphant with my unsurprisingly overpriced Johnny Walker cans, my jaw dropped. The imminent arrival of everyone’s favourite retro-electro’s had pulled moonlike at the Parklands masses, as a tide of people poured into the vicinity of the Green Stage. Do people understand just how popular Cut Copy have become? Surely they were an act worthy of the main stage, although one wonders what that massive set would do to their precisely melodic music. In any case, they nearly blew the big top off the ground, as a writhing mass of ecstatic punters enjoyed every moment of a fantastic set. After already stealing the show at the brilliant Nevereverland show in December, I find myself loving these guys more and more.

    OK, time to stop stuffing around now. I had to get through the gate to get up front at the main stage. Although more than interested in checking out Arctic Monkeys, the real reason I was here was to catch one of my heroes, a legend, a demi-god even. I’m a Rusty from way back - well, a new recruit in the timeframe that Neil Young has operated over. A push and a shove and a hastily avoided trample and I was through: front and centre a full hour before he took the stage. Thankfully, the Monkeys put in a great set next door to keep us all entertained, complete with a nice cover of Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand and a cracking version of Do Me A Favour.

    It’s a dodgy prospect sometimes, seeing one of your heroes play. But I’ll cut to the chase. Neil Young was better than I could ever have hoped for. No surly insistence on focusing on newer work (not that the new stuff is at all sub-par anyway) or on subverting his adoring fans’ expectations here: Neil just wants to give the punters a great show, and he was in fine form tonight. Attacking his guitar like a deep-forest hermit on acid, he rocked through a great version of Hey Hey My My before fulfilling a dream of mine by wading through the achingly beautiful guitar solos smothering his classic ballad, Cortez the Killer. Out came the acoustic guitar for an indulgently crowd-pleasing trilogy of The Needle and the Damage Done, Old Man and Heart of Gold, and the Parklands crowd became a choir. But then we were back in electric mode, as a parade of classics passed by, dotted with the kind of epic, soulful lead guitar that only Neil Young can produce. Eventually the rollicking chords of Rocking in the Free World burst out, before Neil and band finally lined up to take a bow. But there was one last unexpected treat: an exceptional cover of the sacrosanct Beatles masterpiece, A Day in the Life. Well, if anyone has the cred to take it on, it’s Neil, and he beautifully guided us through the haunting balladic verses, up through the first crescendo and down through the jaunty McCartney bridge before finally tearing the stage apart with the song’s final climax.

    It was a fitting finale to the day - itself an experience of ups and downs. But as the crowd trudged wearily out the gates I was walking on air.

    the yowie
  • Never better

    Dez 21 2008, 1h13

    Sat 13 Dec – NeverEverLand 2008

    How exactly does one review the nine hours of sonic bliss that was Nevereverland 2008? The experience was almost stream-of-consciousness, a strange mutation between rock festival and rave, with such a diverse yet universally excellent assortment of artists that brief evaluation seems a difficult task. In the spirit of the day, then, I think I’ll opt for a simple blow by blow of how it all went down - or at least my experience of it.

    Two pm standing outside the front gates with all the other eager beavers in the sudden swelter that Sydney decided to lay on that day, and it was feeling kind of surreal. I had only just been doing some Saturday morning housework before leaving, so heading into a party just seemed wrong.

    Wandered into a thankfully well air conditioned Hordern Pavilion in time to see Van She take the stage. The sound mix was spot on, something these guys really depend on for their polished pop sounds, and they methodically plodded their way through it. The vibe was still a tad jarring at this stage - who would expect to see such a great act kicking off proceedings so early? Mix in a liberal sprinkling of back-tattoo- and arse-crack-displaying jockdom throughout the crowd, desperately trying to make an impression on an otherwise sleepy-eyed audience, and you get an environment not exactly conducive to musical enjoyment.

    Next up was Ladyhawke and all of a sudden the Pavilion was packed to the rafters. They really came out of the woodwork to see this girl in action and my guess is that hardly a punter was unfamiliar with at least half the songs she played. This crowd was seriously into Ladyhawke’s perfect pop and they weren’t disappointed with the performance. Pip Brown really tore through a great set which sounded pretty much just like the album, but on steroids. Now we were in business - still plenty of wayward exuberance bouncing off the walls, but at least we were getting the level of stimulation we needed. So much so that I started wondering whether things were going to peak a little early? As the hordes vanished back where they came from seemingly seconds after the closing chords of My Delirium, it was only ten to five, after all…

    And they stayed out as German eccentrics The Whitest Boy Alive calmly set up their kit. The vibe of the venue just completely changed as these guys lulled everyone who’d stayed into a haze of relaxed groove. It was amazing how effortlessly they charmed the socks off everyone present, and suddenly the desperate gleam in folks’ eyes was replaced with simple grins.

    I had Hercules & Love Affair marked out as a possible intermission to go rest up, maybe have a bite to eat and mentally prepare myself for the later acts. Figured it didn’t hurt to see them come on and get started. Five minutes later all thoughts of heading outside had fled - my God, it is so hard not to dance to these guys! The album had kind of left me cold but live, Hercules & Love Affair mix a palpable manifestation of NYC exotica with some irresistible beats, and I went into something of an ecstatic trance. Oh yeah, and the sight of a cute lesbian banging an electric drum with an enormous dildo is not one I’ll forget in a hurry!

    By the time Cut Copy hit the stage, we were back to full capacity. Into the business end of proceedings now. A bit of nice electropop before the sonic assault of Klaxons and the Presets? No way - Cut Copy were not going to be outdone in intensity. Their set was a pulsating orgy of magnificent, positive sound. The crowd was in absolute bliss, almost looking beatific in their enjoyment of this performance. You know how it is when you listen to a Cut Copy song and about halfway through it kicks up a gear and you remember again how good they are? Magnify the sensation a hundred times and you get close to the experience of watching these guys play.

    OK, I have to eat! Outside for a quick pork bun and Klaxons have started already by the time we creep in the back of the venue again. First time I’d seen anyone from that vantage point, and I still don’t know whether it was just poor sound mix in those distant reaches or whether Klaxons didn’t quite bring their A-game. Golden Skans and Two Receivers just didn’t seem to get belted out with the kind of effect I was hoping for. They looked like they were having a good time up there, and they weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. I think they just had a bit of bad luck in being scheduled after Cut Copy had just torn the place down and built it up again in forty-odd minutes.

    And finally, everyone’s current favourites The Presets made it on after a lengthy delay, probably not helped by incessant stage invasions by the aforementioned shirtless meathead brigade, who had progressed beyond the euphoria of 3pm to belligerent posturing. After going through the motions of radio-friendly plodder Talk Like That, the emphasis was on their harder, more industrial repertoire. Grinding their way through this fantastic noise, somehow they managed to lift the crowd to new levels of euphoria. The only missing element, for me, was the two magnificent dance anthems from Apocalypso, Anywhere and Buzz Factory. Oh well, you can’t have everything, and after belting out predictable set closer My People, I have to say, yes, I was satisfied. Oh yes I was.

    Couldn’t hear for two days afterwards. Small price to pay. Best music festival ever? Close to.

    the yowie
  • A cut above

    Dez 15 2008, 5h45

    Fri 5 Dec – The Temper Trap, Papa vs Pretty

    It’s been a while since Melbourne prodigies The Temper Trap have made their way north to Sydney, and quite a buzz has been developing about them in the meantime. Not surprisingly then, even in these difficult economic times that everyone’s always talking about, the Oxford Art Factory was nicely packed on Saturday night for the band’s return to their home away from home.

    Papa vs Pretty hit the stage around 10.30 with a ton of enthusiasm. These guys really looked like they were up past their bed time, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. They looked like they were having the time of their life in front of this sizable and, it has to be said, appreciative crowd. Their brand of guitar pop/rock is nothing that will redefine the boundaries of the genre as we know it, but they attack it with such energy and conviction, you can’t help but be drawn into the experience. Their set tonight was a really nice warm up to the main event, and they should take some credit for establishing what felt to be a pretty happy vibe in the OAF this night. Nice work.

    Kicking off the show with a rocking instrumental piece, The Temper Trap showed they’re a band absolutely sky high in confidence, and so they should be. Singer Dougie leads by example with an unashamedly passionate stage presence, and the band stepped up the intensity to suit. But besides the obvious musical talent, from Dougie’s powerful voice to the driving rhythm section that drives the whole lot along, it’s the quality of the songwriting that really shines through in a Temper Trap performance.

    It makes one wonder if this was the kind of experience the LA punk/funk scene was being treated to by the young Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the 80’s. Could The Temper Trap be destined for the kind of stardom that those guys found? No disrespect to the rest of the Aussie East Coast scene at the moment, but with these guys, you really sense the class. It’s all over them, and they completely stand apart from most bands you will see over the summer. If any of the crop of local talent is going to make it big, my money’s on these guys.

    If you’ve secured yourself a ticket to the St Jerome’s or V Festival this summer, a side trip to see The Temper Trap play what will presumably be one of the earlier sets is an absolute necessity. If you haven’t, then keep an eye out for a side show. I guarantee that the days of getting up close and personal with these guys in a decent, small venue are numbered.

    the yowie
  • From the ridiculous to the sublime... almost

    Dez 1 2008, 6h16

    Sat 29 Nov – Pivot, Qua, My Disco

    It’s probably fitting for a band as unique as Pivot to headline a show which ultimately left me with such mixed emotions. I didn’t expect anything too straightforward - and this gig was anything but that.

    We showed up in time to see only a couple of songs from Qua, which was a bit of a shame because what I did see, I really liked. A somewhat similar beast to Pivot themselves, if perhaps a little more conventional in the structures they build their music around, Qua nevertheless created some really interesting stuff on the night. And definitely the best usage of electric drums I’ve seen this year - don’t see enough of them any more!

    My Disco obviously aim to be provocative with their music and I guess I have to admit that, with me, they succeeded. Unfortunately, their style of provocation was akin to being cornered by a fanatic Scientologist. It doesn’t make you stop and think about your life, it just annoys the shit out of you. There are two things that My Disco have overlooked in their decision to base their show around physical intensity and a musical direction that veers the narrow range between monotone and pure distortion. Firstly, bold musical statements aren’t real impressive when you just parrot ones that have gone before (Steve Albini produced their album - I wonder if he was flattered at the imitation?). Secondly, and most importantly, there’s a really limited lifespan for music that just bores the hell out of everyone. It’s true that these guys display an intensity of performance that would be utterly transfixing if there was any kind of substance to go with it. If I painted a canvas completely white, would everyone be impressed by my minimalist statement? Some probably would. I guess that’s why people go to see bands like My Disco.

    By the time Pivot took the stage, I was just about over the bad taste left in my mouth. Sticking almost exclusively to tracks from their latest album, O Soundtrack My Heart, Pivot were immediately more engaging. Theirs is a musical statement that actually bears some closer attention. Working yourself successfully into the orbit of their strange world of sound does take some effort, but this is labour that pays off. One thing is for sure, though: Pivot are always compelling on stage. Driven relentlessly onward by the frenetically brilliant drumwork of Laurence Pike, this band mesmerise more than entertain. That’s something to be admired, but I have a feeling that their peak is ahead of them. The impression I get is a kind of groping towards some kind of musical epiphany: they’re not there yet, but when they arrive, it’s going to be pretty awesome.

    So, tonight was a bit of a mixed bag from set to set. From the ridiculous to the sublime? I’d prefer to skip the former and go straight to the latter, but I guess the Sydney live scene spoils you a bit that way. At least we got close to it in the end.

    the yowie
  • Watch Me Disappoint

    Nov 17 2008, 7h21

    Thu 30 Oct – Augie March, Dan Kelly with The Ukeladies

    OK, at the risk of sounding like some pop psychologist or worse, I just have to say it: I don’t think success and recognition sit all that well with Glenn Richards. The steady downwards progression in quality from album to album corresponds to Augie March’s rise as a force in the Australian music industry. Sunset Studies appeared out of nowhere and blew us away. Strange Bird failed to meet our (probably unfairly inflated) expectations, but it was still pretty damn good. Moo You Bloody Choir nudged the band pretty firmly into the mainstream, both in terms of sound and airplay, spearheaded by the spectacular success of “One Crowded Hour”. And then, riding an immense swell of critical and industry anticipation, along comes Watch Me Disappear. OK, it’s not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, but just stop for a moment and compare it to Sunset Studies. There simply is no comparison.

    Perhaps Mr Richards doesn’t want to take this whole thing too seriously. It certainly seemed that way this night at the Metro. I know he is notorious for forgetting his lines and fluffing his chords, but it just seemed like he wasn’t really interested in this show. It actually got to the point where the blunders were becoming a little bit tragic, cutting some fine songs into nothingness just as they were coming to life.

    I know I sound like some sanctimonious fan bemoaning how far his heroes have fallen from the days when he had them more to himself, but I’ve been giving Augie March the benefit of the doubt for a while now. Tonight’s set wasn’t helped by the proliferation of Watch Me Disappear tracks and the paucity of older ones. Well, to be fair, they are promoting the new album. But couldn’t we have had a few tidbits thrown our way between sessions? To be perfectly blunt, the tracks from WMD are just mediocre in comparison to their back catalogue, and tonight’s performance did little to enhance the experience of listening to them beyond what I get from listening to my iPod. The one really high point of the night was a magnificent version of “Owen’s Lament” midway through the show, but this only served in the end to remind me of how good this show could have been.

    My own critical tone is making me feel rotten, but I’m not an impartial reviewer. I love Augie March and I know what Glenn Richards and the boys are capable of producing. And tonight at the Metro was so much less than that.

    Set list:
    Watch Me Disappear (Watch Me Disappear)
    Lupus (Watch Me Disappear)
    Pennywhistle (Watch Me Disappear)
    The Glenorchy Bunyip (Watch Me Disappear)
    Cold Acre (Moo You Bloody Choir)
    Mugged by the Mob (Watch Me Disappear)
    Farmer’s Son (Watch Me Disappear)
    The Devil in Me (Watch Me Disappear)
    The Slant (Watch Me Disappear)
    Owen’s Lament (Sunset Studies)
    Vemoona (Moo You Bloody Choir)
    Thin Captain Crackers (Moo You Bloody Choir)
    The Baron of Sentiment (Moo You Bloody Choir)
    One Crowded Hour (Moo You Bloody Choir)

    Encore:
    The Drowning Dream (Strange Bird)
    Brundisium (Strange Bird)
    This Train is Taking No Passengers (Strange Bird)
    There is No Such Place (Sunset Studies)

    The Yowie
  • Completely Juggernauted

    Out 19 2008, 8h26

    Sat 18 Oct – Sounds In The Grounds

    That’s right. Festival season is upon us once again. And in these days when no self-respecting festival will deign to charge you much less than $150 for vast lineups containing two or three acts you know well alongside two dozen you’ve never heard of, what an opportunity the crowd at Sydney University’s Manning Bar have presented us with in Sounds in the Grounds. Four of Australia’s hottest acts for forty bucks? Could we possibly go wrong? The short answer is “No”.

    The action was split into two stages: upstairs and downstairs in Manning House. On arrival, we headed upstairs to check out Melbourne’s Children Collide. They were tearing it up. These guys attack their instruments with all the ferocity of a pack of wolverines, but control the output enough to create a coherent wall of sound. In what proved to be a constant thoughout the night, the sound mix was continually defeated by the sheer volume the speakers had been jacked up to. This actually kind of suited Children Collide, but it caused problems for some others.

    Cue current Sydney darlings Van She in the downstairs stage. Their debut CD, “V”, is a beautifully produced piece of nuanced electropop, and tonight’s playlist was exclusively lifted from it. Unfortunately, the excessive volume completely distorted the songs and diminished the effect. Van She have a great live reputation, but it seemed as though the PA was really dialled up to suit the night’s headliners who, as we know, are a completely different kind of beast.

    But what a beast! Midnight Juggernauts came on stage like a ragged trio of dark Sith Lords and immediately set about destroying our eardrums in the most glorious possible way. This pulsating orgy of synth and bass was almost enough to bring on visual hallucinations. The operative word is power, something the traditions of heavy metal and grunge have long treasured. This is also the secret ingredient held by some of the greatest electronic acts over the years, but Midnight Juggernauts seem to have taken it to a new level. It was impossible not to be swept away by the rolling tsunami of their surging mega-pop. Awesome.

    theyowie
  • Let it build

    Out 1 2008, 10h22

    Tue 30 Sep – Ladytron, Familjen

    Queens and kings of electropop, Ladytron, have never toured Australia until now. Perhaps thankfully, they have never become popular enough to fill bigger rooms like the Hordern Pavilion, or even the Enmore Theatre, which means an appreciative if somewhat subdued crowd (thanks to the Tuesday night schedule) were able to get up close and personal with the band at the Metro.

    Swedish duo Familjen warmed the crowd up with some decent electronica. However, it has to be said, these guys looked a bit like a couple of blokes from the crowd who were allowed to get up and play with the equipment. This impression probably belies the skill of their musicianship, but it was definitely one of those times when you could see every second person in the crowd thinking “Man, I could do that!” And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    Ladytron walked onto stage with minimal fanfare and launched straight into a blasting version of “Black Cat”. What followed was a steady string of outstanding music with each track belted out at high volume and intensity, albeit with a minimum of stagemanship from the band. It would hardly fit with Ladytron’s style to jump around with flailing appendages, but at times in the middle of the show the stasis came close to becoming uncomfortable. It wasn’t helped by the quality of sound - in an effort to maximise the volume, a fair amount of clarity was sacrificed in the vocals and some of the more delicate instrumentation. “Runaway” sounded decidedly ragged, but by the time the final chords of “Predict the Day” came crashing down halfway through the show, things had started to warm up nicely. The last few songs of the main set were delivered with pulsating intensity, “Deep Blue” forming a nice swelling contrast to steady progression characterising most of Ladytron’s output. “Fighting in Built Up Areas” was a real standout: Mira Aroyo hopscotching around the stage chanting in Bulgarian was almost enough to induce some kind of ecstatic trance in anyone watching.

    They’re not the most dynamic presence on stage, but Ladytron’s music somehow works better when you let one track build on top of the one before, and that’s exactly how this performance took shape.

    Set list:

    Black Cat
    Runaway
    High Rise
    Ghosts
    I’m Not Scared
    True Mathematics
    Predict the Day
    Season of Illusions
    Playgirl
    International Dateline
    Deep Blue
    Fighting in Built Up Areas
    17

    Kletva
    Burning Up
    Destroy Everything You Touch

    the yowie
  • Wanting more...

    Set 1 2008, 7h55

    Fri 29 Aug – Mercy Arms

    As the curtain swept back from the stage, we were greeted by a carefully crafted view of white on white. The band had obviously been busy pegging sheets to the scaffolds as the punters continued to stream into the OAF’s Live Art Space (Mercy Arms obviously attract a dedicated crowd; I’ve never seen the main bar so deserted while a decent crowd fills the other room). It takes guts to get up on stage in white tights, but this band showed they’re just serious enough about their aesthetic to do it. Good on them, but at times throughout this gig I was struck by the possibility that these boys might take themselves just a little bit too seriously?

    As the show progressed, and Mercy Arms made their methodical way through a set list of nicely crafted, darkish dream pop, one impression overrode all others: they just didn’t seem to be having a very good time. With furrowed brow and downturned eyes, singer Thom Moore looked thoroughly depressed throughout. If it wasn’t for the strange grooving gyrations of Kirin Callinan on guitar, the stasis would have been unbearable. Callinan kept up his bird-like dancing with admirable dedication for the show’s full duration, but he wasn’t getting much help from anyone else in the band in trying to generate a more pulsating atmosphere.

    Mercy Arms have loads of potential, but they are going to need to become more comfortable in their own stage presence if they’re going to achieve it. Their musical performance at this show was perfectly proficient, but the passion was lacking. I know it’s not exactly part of their oeuvre to jump about wildly with flailing limbs, but they do need to lift the intensity if they’re going to really make a Mercy Arms show meet the standards that they so obviously aspire to. Stage decoration, matching outfits and brooding expressions are a start, but they need to learn to lose themselves in the delivery of their material to really make an impression

    Full Mercy Arms Review at The Yowie