Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Live music Q1 2008

I've found it too much effort to write a blog after every gig I go to, by the time I'm home I'm so physically drained that it's hard to gather my thoughts and write up a satisfactory review. So I'm going to try something different this time and rely on my memory to recap the concerts I've seen over the last 3 months.

The shows
22/01 - Rage Against The Machine:
After my internal hype for this show, I couldn't help but feel slightly let down. RATM simply aren't the force they were a decade ago, but I still was excited to see the show. After downing a few too many brews pre-gig, I made my way into the middle of the floor at the SEC, and watched the 2nd half of the Anti-Flag set. It wasn't terrible, but not very impressive either. I like the band but the live show seems to cater around an undeserved sense of accomplishment playing to the wrong audience.

RATM themselves were solid, played a decent setlist with some of my favourites like Know Your Enemy and Vietnow. Tom Morello was my guitar hero growing up and inspired much of the music I create so seeing him live was a dream come true. A short set and limited crowd interaction from Zack made me feel the price was a bit steep but overall I was still glad I went.

23/01 - Battles / Warp Show:
My 2nd night in Sydney and with a bit of a hangover and not much sleep, I was still looking forward to rocking out to the experiment math rock quartet that is battles. The Warp Show was more than that, opening were two DJ sets with Melbourne band Pivot in between. Apart from some cool visuals taken out of 60s films interlaced with sexy images to a not-so-sexy beat, the music was just an annoyance to talk over. I found Pivot to be most entertaining, their music was good and their live show had potential. Now they are signed to Warp it will be interesting to see what they come up with in the future. After downing a couple of bottles of Beck's Beer, it was time to watch Battles.

The set was very heavy on material from Mirrored, which to me was great to see how each song is constructed. The musicianship was faultless and they were very energetic. It's the music I would feel like dancing to if I danced, but I was too busy standing in awe to really do anything else but watch & listen. As it was Sydney Festival, it made for a really odd crowd mix, though as a whole it was a nice atmosphere to be in.

24/01 - Brand New:
Day 3 of my four day Sydney trek and by now the youth hostel beds mean I'm really down on sleep. Finished reading the sublime novel Ender's Game, saw the captivating movie Cloverfield, and dined out at the Lansdowne to pass the time before the concert. With no opening act, Jesse Lacey came out and played 5 tracks acoustic. That was a nice opener, though I only recognised one of the tracks. The main set consisted mainly of tracks from their latest album, with the notable exception of Limousine. Millstone was probably my highlight of the night.

The Enmore is my favourite venue in Sydney, though the upstairs area is something of a let-down. It will be interesting to see what it's like once renovations are complete and the upstairs bar area is completed.

25/01 - Big Day Out:
It was my 8th Big Day Out, and it will probably be my last. I'm getting too old and impatient for Aussie festival crowds, especially when I see most the bands playing at sideshows. Skipped the early bands and didn't arrive until mid-afternoon. First band I saw was Regurgitator who were a lot of fun, and it made my brother happy to see his favourite band. After that, caught the end of the Spoon set and enjoyed what I heard. The Nightwatchman was a lot of fun, Tom Morello had really good crowd interaction. Unkle were alright, though someone taking a piss in front of me then watching people walk through it made me leave the boiler room quickly. Caught the end of Battles who were just as fun as two nights earlier, watched a bit of Karnivool then went to the mainstage to see the end of Arcade Fire and get in a good spot for RATM. Their performance was a little better than at the sideshow, but I was disappointed that the set only had one change. Would have loved to see Tire Me live. When they finished with Killing In The Name, the entire stadium was moshing, from the D-circle to the stands. It was the most epic moment I've witnessed at a Big Day Out.

And with seeing one of my favourite childhood bands, I really couldn't think of a better way to finish my annual trek to Australia's premier music festival. The travel is just too much, the crowds have gotten to me and I really want to do something more than use my holidays to see a music festival that I don't enjoy going to anymore. It's been 8 times for me, was hoping to get to double figures but I've had enough. The latent jingoism manifesting in the crowd is quite disturbing. Seeing people draped in Aussie flags for a music festival seems wrong. Fair enough it's one thing to be proud of your country, but it's been taken to another level where to an extent it's being used as a divisive symbol connotating segregation and xenophobia. The Aussie flag is the new black, evidence that our country is becoming more like the United States. It's so frustrating that a symbol supposedly being representative of a multicultural country is being used in such a manner. The shirts with "love it or fuck off" is jingoism on parade, and it's a parade I don't want to be a part of.

30/01 - Dream Theater:
Finally a band that would cater to my need for prog, technically and musically did not disappoint. 2h45m of standing was a bit much, but it went by so fast. The visuals were a bit of a let down, the stage production was still quite good but not as good as the press release implied it would be. Still having cameras on the instruments meant that I could get an appreciation for how technically brilliant the musicianship really is. My personal highlight was seeing In The Presence Of Enemies in it's 25 minute entirety. John Petrucci looked so effortless while playing, and John Myung performed one of the best displays on the bass I have ever witnessed. Fantastic show, it is the highlight of the year so far.

09/02 - Iron Maiden:
This concert was an interesting experience for me. I consumed a hipflask worth of Jager on the trip up, but by the time I got to the gig I was sober. Had a good day drinking in a pub in Newtown with veteran metalheads though. Skipped the opening bands in a futile attempt to keep my buzz, but Behind Crimson Eyes wouldn't have been worth watching in the first place, the reaction of booing from the crowd as they attempted to cover Ace Of Spades echoing through the halls of Acer Arena was quite amusing. Positioned myself just in front of the mixing desk, where the visibility wasn't fantastic but the sound would be at it's best.

I've got to say I'm not a huge Maiden fan, but the show was really solid. The band has a great stage presence, the musicianship was fantastic and the theatrics were amazing. The set was very Powerslave heavy, though that was to be expected, it still would have been nice to see a few more tracks of Number Of The Beast. Rime of the Ancient Mariner was my personal highlight, and there was enough soloing to keep me satisfied. A great show, I felt vindicated in attending.

31/03 - Coheed & Cambria:
First gig in almost two months, it left me a little underwhelmed and unsatisfied with just going to rock shows. C&C are one of my favourite bands, and it was a great experience to see them live, I'm just over the whole rock crowd. Again the musicianship was fantastic, Claudio Sanchez is a fantastic performer. He wasn't afraid to show off his skills even if some of the AFI-shirt wearing 15 year-olds that made up half the crowd didn't exactly appreciate it. The encore at the end was possibly the greatest encore I've ever witnessed, including the 20 minute version of the final cut with each band member performing an amazing solo. Though it was a shame the crowd as a whole were upset they didn't put in 2 or 3 more songs instead. I didn't care, I was there for the music and I saw some fantastic displays. Chris Pennie is a machine with the sticks.

Coming up
Over the next three months I have lined up:
  • Porcupine Tree / Sleep Parade
  • Helmet
  • Alchemist / Pod People
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan / Coliseum
  • Cog / Jakob
  • Rosetta
I'm expecting a lot, hope they can keep up with the quality I've seen so far this year. 4 of those gigs are in Canberra so I won't have to travel to Sydney constantly, that can only be seen as a good thing. Unfortunately I have to miss The Mars Volta as it's on a weeknight in Sydney, but that's life. I've seen them twice before anyway.

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