Time, place and circumstance…
I cannot deny the influence of these factors on how I rate a live show. My opinions on music are unapologetically subjective because for me music is about emotion. I’m exponentially more punter than producer so I’m not necessarily seeking a note perfect performance. I crave that rare and hard to define ‘something’ that makes the experience resonate more deeply and connect more emotionally.
To me sometimes the back story can be as important as the band, the vibe as influential as the venue. My expectation for a band’s live show is directly proportional my experiences with them. These points became very evident when I sat down to review my year in gigs, this list is completely influenced by bias and factors beyond how well the band played. This assessment criteria is possibly a tad unfair, but that is live music to me.
10) BLACK SABBATH – PERTH ARENA 4th May
The opportunity to catch Black Sabbath was one I couldn’t possibly pass up. I am not a Sabbath devotee but I am absolutely a fan and I more than appreciate their place in musical history. I was under no illusions as to which version of Sabbath I was paying (a lot!) to see but was extremely keen all the same.
It was a great show, despite the obvious ravages of time, which were (not surprisingly) mainly evident on their legendary front man. The production was amazing and the sound was unbelievable, it was my first chance to catch a show in the new $500 million dollar Perth Arena and I was well impressed with the set up as a concert venue.
The highlights from the night were undoubtedly the playing of Tommy Iommi and Geezer Butler, both elder statesmen showed that age has done little to dissipate their impressive skills. The touring drummer – Tommy Clufetos was a machine and he even managed to hold my attention throughout an overly long drum solo that served as an interlude for the benefit of resting the more aged band members.
But the focus of the audience’s adoration was undoubtedly Ozzy. The Prince Of Darkness shuffled awkwardly around the stage repeatedly urging the crowd to put their hands in the air or yell various obscenities, he was still a captivating front man even in his borderline discrepant state. He has obviously lost some vocal ability; and he sure had me shit-scared that he was going to fall over and break his hip, but he is still Ozzy fucking Osbourne and the show was a blast from go to whoa.
9) FOALS – METRO CITY 22nd September
As I mentioned in my ‘Top Ten Albums of 2013’ Foals fall on the edges of my areas of musical interest, I am not normally one to be taken by danceable indie rock but once I witnessed Foals live I was a convert. They were a world class live act when I first saw them at Big Day Out in February but they had made an impressive leap in live ability in the months between that show and this one in front of a packed Metros.
They are a well-oiled live machine with chops honed from incessant touring and confidence borne of the experience from playing some of the most prestigious festivals in the world this year. From the impressive showmanship of their stage entry and opening track until their thank-yous and goodbyes they totally killed it.
In contrast to the energetic dance-along that the BDO set represented the Metro show was highlighted by some of the slower and more emotive songs in their catalogue. The band controlled the dynamic of their performance; and therefore the entire room, with expert aplomb. When they drop the pedal they are as catchy and engaging as anyone and when they slow things down their nuanced song writing and impressive playing abilities really shine through. In particular singer Yannis Phillippakis was in fine voice on this night with his control, range and tone all making for an impressive and effecting performance.
8) SLEEP – ROSEMOUNT HOTEL 28th October
This falls into the same “I never thought I would see this” category as the Sabbath show. Sleep were done and dusted before I knew they existed. And yet here they were.
This show was an exercise in pure musical density, Sleep flooded the room with layer upon layer of sludgy goodness and pushed the fortitude of the gathered as far as they could. At times hypnotic, at times crushing and very occasionally melodic Sleep used the power of rock n rock to contort time and space until they were its masters. The trio punished us with a furious and glorious pummeling. They may have rearranged my internal organs with their bottom end but I it was totally worth it.
7) 65daysofstatic – THE BAKERY 5th January
In recent years I have been more and more drawn to purveyors of instrumental soundscapes -bands that weave thick tapestries of sound that envelope and transport me. These days there is a million bands trying to achieve such a sound yet 65daysofstatic have been ahead of the pack for over a decade.
The English lads can really play, they concocted a cacophony of dense and beguiling sound. A major part of the point of difference held by 65dos is impressive element of electronic wizardry employed to help build sonic structures that rose and fell, then rose and fell again. It was completely captivating to watch whilst remaining irresistibly danceable. The band held sway over the punters at this show with pure musical brilliance, these guys are expert at their craft and they executed on this night with aplomb.
6) COLD WAR KIDS – CAPITOL 2nd August
Los Angeles art rockers Cold War Kids drew an impressive and diverse crowd to their Perth show. And few, if any would have been disappointed. These guys are an assured and accomplished live act and they lived up to their substantial reputation on this night. A group of interesting and intelligent tracks performed by young veterans with skill and swagger. The set list was perfect, the crowd was engaged and the performance was enchanting – can’t ask for much more than that!
5) CONVERGE & OLD MAN GLOOM – AMPLIFIER BAR 17th February
Converge are legends in their field, they remain at the forefront of modern hardcore and have the devoted following that comes with such a station. The chance to catch them was a real treat, so to have them bring Old Man Gloom to town with them was a mind blowing bonus.
OMG played such a crushingly heavy set that a structural inspection of the building may have been warranted after the show. I am a huge Aaron Turner fan and to see him again and this time in a much more intimate setting was truly awesome. They dragged the punters through a dense sludge of brutal riffery and intensity and I loved every second of it. A straight up set with absolutely zero gimmickry or fucking around – just a band of assured veterans delivering well written heavy and textured slabs of awesome. They would have been worthy of the price alone, but…
Then came Converge, with a back catalogue few could rival and a standing in the hardcore community that makes them both doyens and targets they bring a tangible and dominant presence to the stage. The musicians in the band are unbelievable and the proficiency and dexterity they displayed here was mind boggling. I love it when I see a band live and realize there is so many things going on musically that aren’t evident on record and the members of Converge were doing things I had never envisioned when listening to them. I was so impressed that post-show as revered singer Jacob Bannon sat on the edge of the stage to greet and converse with any punter who approached, I instead sought out guitarist Kurt Ballou, I shook his hand I told him I believed him to be an extra-terrestrial – because no human can do what I just saw him doing.
Converge are abrasive and uncompromising and the kids go nuts up front, yet like all good punk or hardcore acts they encourage the sense of community and control the vibe expertly. It may still get hectic and intense but not in an overtly aggressive way. After being beaten into beautiful submission I left drained, satisfied and hoping like hell for the chance to see either band again.
4) LA DISPUTE – AMPLIFIER BAR 6th July
La Dispute make music that is not about instant gratification. They make some of the most verbose and intellectual hardcore I have ever come across. They have a lot to say and are very good at saying it – and they choose to use poetry instead of preaching.
Importantly for me, La Dispute walk the walk, they are genuine, humble, insanely talented and carry themselves with an effortless charisma. They are devoid of hubris and all about removing barriers between audience and performer, they bring a palpable sense of community whenever they play. They are also happen to be a very, very good live band.
Fronted by Jordan Dreyer who brings an engaging everyman charm along with his unparalleled ability to compose and perform distinctive, brilliant and impossibly evocative lyrics. The remaining members are impressive young musos who continue to grow and improve by pushing themselves artistically.
La Dispute are an all-encompassing live experience. They play with passion and power which means their deeply emotional music is conveyed in a way that makes a palpable connection with the audience of peers, as cheesy as it sounds it is really quite a moving thing to be part of.
3) TOOL – ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE 10TH May
A text message exchange between myself and a good mate went something like this –
Me: Tool touring Oz but no Perth show.
Moo: road trip!
And so it was decided, we were heading interstate to lay ourselves once more at the altar of Tool, who easily rank as one of the best live bands I have ever seen. This show is case-in-point regarding my earlier diatribe about time, place and circumstance, this was not the best I had seen Tool perform yet it rates so highly because it led to a completely different perspective on one of my favourite bands.
This show represented a new opportunity – to watch Tool the band as opposed to Tool the all-encompassing live experience. We staked a position up front early which allowed me a view of exactly what these virtuosos’ musicians were actually playing. It was ridiculously physically demanding – I swear my left foot didn’t touch the ground for an hour- but it was amazing. In particular I intensely observed Justin as he stood a few feet away doing freakish things with his fingers. I also really got a kick out of seeing how much he seemed to be enjoying himself.
It may not rate as a classic Tool performance, mostly due to Maynard having vocal issues (he had already delayed the show by 24 hours –luckily we had that night’s hotel booked anyway, unlike many other interstate imports) and there is no doubt that Keenan’s vocal talents are a normally a big factor in separating Tool from their hordes of pretenders. But it was a fantastic experience that was different yet equal to their previous shows which I ranked so highly.
2) THE BRONX – CAPITOL 10th May
The Bronx are another band that land firmly in the top handful of live bands I have ever seen. They are a guaranteed good time, every time. From the moment singer Matt Caughthran enters the fray he holds the entire room in the palm of his hand, his performance is pure compelling craziness, his vocal performance, brilliant witty banter and absolute exuberance make it impossible not to be drawn into his vortex. From the time he emerged in an ‘I heart Perth’ t-shirt he was controlling the room, setting the scene for another rollicking party of tight tunes and loose behavior. This night again was dominated by his irrepressible charm as he bounced around the stage and the room, he sang from atop the bar, from deep in the crowd and he literally climbed the walls and hurled himself from great heights into the transfixed throng below. If there is a more charismatic front man anywhere I haven’t come across him yet.
And whilst Matt is the conductor and catalyst of the jubilant madness, behind him are a group of unbelievably adept musicians who have not put a foot wrong in the several times I have seen them. These guys can flat out play and they do it with deceptive ease and awe inspiring cool. They set a room alight with an impossibly infectious goodtime vibe and always seem to be having nearly as much fun as their adoring audience.
1) THE MARK OF CAIN – AMPLIFIER BAR 17th March
Australian heavy music’s prodigal sons finally returned to Perth this year and they came with a mission to prove they still belong on the top of the live music heap.
I have been a devoted TMOC follower for more than 20 years and had bemoaned their absence regularly during their years of invisibility. Even though I hold this band in such esteem I must confess that after so many years of not being able to see one of this country’s most underrated acts I had become a little complacent about their place in my personal live music lexicon. Consider me reminded. The groove, the power, the absolute absence of superfluous bullshit and the sheer volume all came crashing back into my conciseness and served notice that The Mark of Cain had lost nothing in their absence.
‘Amps’ was packed with a wide demographic of punters and an air of excited expectation came with them. This is a band with nigh on 30 years of history and they have garnered a staunchly devoted fan base attracted by their honest, intense and intelligent approach.
They possess a cache of material to select a set from yet on this night they ticked every box with the material they chose. They were as tight and cohesive as ever, this despite their protracted leave of absence and the addition of young Eli Green on drums, drafted to fill the huge shoes of John Stainer (who was unavailable for the tour due to drum deity duties elsewhere) Eli didn’t miss a beat and his style complemented the Scott brother’s perfectly. Kim still rattles your very marrow with his low slung bass producing a thick wall of dense groove that shook the room and its contents so hard that if I was fitted with airbags they would have surely deployed. John was as intense and focused as ever and his playing was spot on even as he passionately poured his heart into every word he delivered.
The Mark Of Cain are a weapon of musical mass destruction, they have such presence and power and are armed with an array of anthems to boot. They again proved they can have the whole room bouncing or bobbing in accord or standing to attention transfixed by their formidable performance. The start of every single song brought an ecstatic reaction from the gathered fans, deprived of this awesome experience for so long and lapping up every moment. I couldn’t help but smile when looking around the room as it moved in joyous unison to the unmistakable TMOC sound.
It was also great to see the band genuinely enjoying themselves and they seemed grateful for how much they were appreciated. Once again the South Australian veterans installed themselves in their rightful place at the top end of live acts I have ever seen. I only hope it isn’t another 10 years before I get the chance to be shaken to my core by the brilliance of this fantastic band.
Major kudos to some brilliant local bands I have had the pleasure to first witness this year, many of whom have given their more fancied bill mates a run for their money at the shows I saw. In particular I have been extremely impressed by – The Devil Rides Out, Bayou, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving and Chainsaw Hookers. They all made an impression on me along with some of the local acts I was already familiar with such as – Eleventh He Reached London and Drowning Horse,
Interstate Australian acts that blew me away this year are – sleepmakeswaves and Whitehorse.
Meshuggah & Lamb Of God – didn’t make the top ten but great show, particularly Meshuggah who are mind blowingly proficient in the live arena.
Slanted & Enchanted Festival – a good concept that I hope gets traction. And METZ are amazing. Review here: https://audiocracy.co/slanted-enchanted-festival-the-astor-theatre-perth-71213/
Getting to meet Fear Factory after winning a competition that asked ‘What one question would you ask Fear Factory if you got to meet them?’ with the entry – “is it true Raymond Herrera has three testicles?” Fair to say I was shocked to win and excited by the opportunity.
Nice to see good people in good bands kicking goals from the local scene – Make Believe Me, a talented and driven bunch of young bloods with the ingredients to break big – a sweet mix of heavy and melody – and now they have the label backing to make things happen. And Hundred Acre Wood who are using chops and mass appeal to make an imprint with their smooth indie-rock. Both acts are poised for bigger things in 2014.
A shout out to anyone who was cool at a show – thankyou. So many people made the human element of a gig that much better – the random kid who wanted a photo with me at BDO, the dudes who saved my spot at Meshuggah, the people around us at Fear Factory who were so congenial I actually said thanks after the show, the friends I made at ‘Hits and Pits’, Jay from the Whitehorse show and anyone who shared a dance. Onyas.
Soundwave is both the most awesome and the most frustrating day of the year. As much as i am grateful for the opportunity this festival provides to see bands that often don’t have the means to tour without it, I also can’t help but wish the whole thing was scaled back a bit to accommodate longer sets and less logistical nightmares with clashes and getting from A to B. This year’s SW was a real treat with some fantastic performances from – Kyuss Lives, Tomahawk, Orange Goblin, Perfect Circle.
BIG DAY OUT
The Big Day Out will have me in the crowd for as long as I am physically able. Even though the event and I have drifted apart musically it still offers a fun experience every year and is a kind tradition among my mates and I. This year’s line-up held little for me to get excited about and yet I had a ball. Good company and a chilled approach meant a different and rewarding BDO for my umpteenth attempt. I even had a blast dancing like a dickhead to Red Hot Chili Peppers who I fell in love with in 1990 and out of love with many times over since. They may still be a patchy live act but they elicited such a joyous response from the crowd around us that it was impossible not to get down.
Hits and Pits 2.0 – for a multitude of reasons, few of which are the fault of the performers on the night. For the most part this punk “festival” didn’t quite fire, a Sunday night show for an older demographic that was pretty poorly promoted and organised meant an underwhelming result. However getting to witness Black Flag melt down in front of me as I watched Ron Reyes spit the dummy and walk off stage never to return to this incarnation of the punk heroes plus to later shake Greg Ginn’s hand and say ‘thank you’ (not for this incarnation of Black Flag but for so much that came before it) made the experience memorable.
*Tenuously connected digression alert* – With Perth sitting where it does on planet earth (it is said we are the most geographically isolated continental capital city in the world) we are most often the last show on an Australian tour before the tourist jet to their next destination. As a result I have been privileged to be present for some wild and wonderful moments. I have seen a similar melt down from Nick Oliveri with Queens Of The Stone Age and Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction both of whom never returned as fulltime members of those bands after inglorious departures from the Perth stage. The final show on a festival tour also brings once off moments in time that stand out from the mire of memory. Here’s one such amazing moment which still never fails to give me goose bumps and make me smile at the memory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qboe5CebixA
The sound guy at the Every Time I Die gig. See my review for the more longwinded version of my gripe. Here: https://audiocracy.co/live-reviews-3/international-acts/every-time-i-die-chainsaw-hookers-statues-amplifier-bar-perth-241013/
Fear Factory – sadly underwhelming on the back of Burton’s voice being blown out. The band played superbly but it didn’t really matter. Maybe it was just a bad night but they used to rate in the top handful of live bands I had seen, not anymore based on the evidence they put forward here. Review here: https://audiocracy.co/live-reviews-3/international-acts/fear-factory-twelve-foot-ninja-metro-city-perth-110713/
Metallica – they held my attention for around three songs until I got bored. My friends and I then concluded that; for us at least, Metallica are “a gateway band” and the elements of their shtick that once seemed exciting and dangerous now seem so dull and hollow. At least they weren’t the abomination that is the Blink 182 live show though – what a fucking horrible live band.
A special dishonorable word to anyone who acted like a dick at a show and negatively affected my experience as a result. For the benefit of all gig goers may I humbly suggest you read my article on etiquette: https://audiocracy.co/bens-guide-to-gig-etiquette-aka-gripes-of-a-grumpy-gig-goer/