Live Review: British India – The Gaelic Hotel (12.11.2011)

British India walk out on stage to a welcoming Sydney crowd and kick into ‘Black and White Radio’, the first song on 2007 debut album Guillotine. It seems everyone wants to follow the instruction in the chorus to: “Report to the dance floor, go go go go!” and I have to move away from the rough-looking people in the middle whose dance moves threaten to bruise my feet.

Lead singer Declan Melia is wearing a jumper, despite the Sydney heat, and looks like he’s going to take it off mid-song. He gets about halfway, with the jumper covering his face and sings through it for a few lines before pulling it down again. Popular singles from Guillotine ‘Tie Up My Hands’ and ‘Run The Red Light’ get the best reception, with people crowd surfing and pushing through the moshpit to get closer to the stage. Even walking to and from the toilets becomes a calculated adventure in a crowd like this; I misjudge the timing of someone’s jumping and spill half a beer down my top.

Melia explains he has a bit of a cough, but cough or not his vocals are strong and he only sounds croaky when he talks. They create a lot of energy while they’re playing but lack a little between songs. That’s not to say they give the impression they don’t want to be here, quite the opposite, as Melia reminisces about playing here years ago. The lack of energy might be more to do with them travelling from Adelaide and only arriving in Sydney this afternoon.

Catchy new single ‘She Prefers Older Men’ is a fun addition to the setlist but it’s older songs ‘Teenage Mother’, ‘Outside 109’ and a fun singalong to the sexy ‘You Will Die and I Will Take Over’ that stand out as highlights.
They throw in a cover of ‘Flagpole Sitta’ and Melia makes sure we know it’s a Harvey Danger song, not Green Day or Blink 182. “It’s pop-punk so it’s a bit uncool but we’re going to play it anyway,” he says before all of us show how “uncool” we are by jumping up and down and screaming: “I’m not sick but I’m not well and I’m so hot, cos I’m in hell.”

Things slow down during ‘Vanilla’ and crowd-requested ‘Council Flat’ so the people moshing around ease off a bit. Ironically, it’s when they play ‘I Said I’m Sorry’ that the trouble starts again and I notice two guys pushing each other, only to be held back by their girlfriends. ‘March Into The Ocean’ finishes the set and the band walk off without an encore.

Seeing British India is always a memorable experience, they give their all on stage and always play old singles as well as new ones. I look forward to hearing their new album when it’s released and hope they continue the fun on the rest of the tour.

Live Review: You Am I (Secret Show) – The Annandale Hotel (10.11.2011)

You Am I arrive on stage at The Annandale Hotel half an hour late. It’s fair though, they’re here after supporting Cold Chisel at Allphones Arena, a venue about 15 kilometres away. The Annandale weren’t promoting You Am I tonight, instead calling them “Thee Convicts”.

The band didn’t give any clues about this secret gig, there’s nothing on their Facebook page or website. Annandale owners, Matt and Dan Rule, emailed fans who had seen You Am I here before about the show. The people attending are all about the music, man, rather than being seen and it’s a refreshing feeling.

Frontman Tim Rogers appears as a white screen covering the stage is lifted. He’s sweating heavily, obviously supporting Movember and for some reason wearing a girl’s school uniform. They’re quick to start playing and a simple “Oh, hello!” between the first two songs is their only introduction.

Even though they released an album in October last year, You Am I get the best reception when they play hits off 1995’s Hi Fi Way. ‘She Digs Her’ has everyone bopping early on and hearing everyone sing along to chorus: “Do you need somebody, to feel somebody?” from ‘Purple Sneakers’ was a beautiful moment of unity.

Rogers is energetic, bantering with the crowd and his band mates. He’s a passionate front man and guitarist, evident from the sweat pouring off him, but I’ve seen them live enough times to know wine can sometimes get the better of his stage presence and professionalism. Not tonight though. The wine is there but Rogers is in control, laughing and playfully pushing guitarist Davey Lane around between songs and solos.

A cover of ‘Cinnamon Girl’ is a surprise and Rogers does Neil Young justice with his gravelly voice note-perfect singing: “You see your baby loves to dance…”

Ballad ‘Heavy Heart’ is another highlight. Rogers moves his microphone stand from the stage to the floor and leans over to serenade the first few rows of the crowd. All you can see during the chorus is a mess of people reaching to touch him and his face moving around between words.

It’s getting late but they show no signs of slowing down, playing hit after hit in a cracking encore. ‘Minor Byrd’ starts it off and before kicking into a furiously fast version of ‘Thank God I’ve Hit The Bottom’, Rogers demands us to keep supporting the Annandale. He says he loves the Rule brothers and “…they are like our fucking family.” Old favourite ‘Cathy’s Clown’ and poppy sing-along ‘Mr Milk’ finish things off. They bow together with their backs to the crowd and leave us sweaty punters to shuffle out onto busy Parramatta Road.

I haven’t seen You Am I play so well or engage an audience like that in years. It was such a shame they had to finish when they were really firing up and showing us why they’re still one of the best live bands in Australia.

Live Review: The Rescue Ships, Inland Sea, and Jackson McLaren – FBi Social Club (22.10.2011)

When I walked into FBi Social, there was a guy on stage talking about Fairy Meadows. I thought for a moment that was his name, which would have been cute, but found out later it’s actually Jackson McLaren. He said he didn’t have a setlist worked out for the gig and is “A lazy musician. A broke, lazy musician. A broke, lazy, hungover musician,” which gets a good laugh from the slowly-filling FBi Social Club.

The strangest part of the set was when he told a story about someone getting injured at a party and went into great detail about the blood he saw. The story was such a sharp contrast to the lovely imagery he’d created in his previous songs but a perfect intro to the song ‘Oh My God, I Know.’

He calls up a girl from the crowd to play violin and we see her later on stage with Inland Sea. McLaren finishes up his set with the catchy and funky song ‘Farewell This House’ that makes me think of driving to the beach during summer holidays. His lyrics are full of description and he takes us with him to all sorts of places.

Inland Sea cram their ten members on the small FBi Social stage and for a moment I think it’s going to be a disaster. A cello, a violin, a mixture of guitars and drums and five singers, could sound like a mess if one note is missed. But I needn’t have worried.

Inland Sea were note perfect in every bar and harmony they put together. It’s a struggle for them to move at times as they change positions and instruments but they make the most of the little space they have. They create a beautiful atmosphere and during second song ‘All Fall Down’ remind me of a Hillsong Church choir – but in a good way. The crowd quietens down during third song ‘No Time’ from their new EP. For a moment I forgot I was meant to be reviewing the show since I was so captivated by what was happening on stage.

We’re introduced to Beau Frith, who looks a bit like Alan from The Hangover, and he sings the slightly more upbeat and heavier ‘The Only One’. They finish the set with a hoedown-feeling song and urge everyone to “come and dance!” Though it must be hard to have ten people dance and play on a small stage, they pull it off, and finish up their flawless set.

The Rescue Ships arrive on stage and tell a story about a rude security guard they encountered and say the next song is called ‘I Hate You’ just for him. Though the sound was perfect for Inland Sea and Jackson McLaren, The Rescue Ships experience a little feedback early on.

This is quickly fixed and we’re able to hear the rest of their set clearly. The whole gig feels like a big party, since it’s the last one of the tour, and The Rescue Ships tell us funny stories about “guys on pingers” in Wollongong and “deep-throating equipment” in Manly.
The bass player has just turned 21, so they celebrate with shots and sing Happy Birthday. The crowd doesn’t sing until guitarist Brian Campeau yells “You guys suck, sing!”

Their banter with the crowd is better than Inland Sea’s but The Rescue Ships don’t quite create the atmosphere Inland Sea did. It seems I’m not the only who thinks this, singer Elana Stone told a story about someone who said Inland Sea were amazing but The Rescue Ships are just “good” and feels a little inferior.

But there doesn’t appear to be any negativity between the two bands as everyone gets up to dance during catchy single ‘On The Air’, the band’s last song before an encore. The Rescue Ships come back to do a cover of Rufus Wainright’s ‘Vibrate’. The band sing it well and sound great doing it, but it’s a bit of a downer and a sombre end to an otherwise fun and folkish set.

Live Review: Adalita, Laura Imbruglia, and Through The Forest Door – Annandale Hotel (06.08.2011)

The music that started without announcement or warning was a lovely way to ease into a night at the Annandale. Through The Forest Door started to play to a half-empty bar and didn’t stop until the end of his set. He didn’t say his name or the names of his songs once, so I had to look at the playing times on the bar to figure out who this random guy on stage was. His music fit perfectly in the background to the sound of people chatting and it was a treat to relax early in the night.

I wish I could say the same of Laura Imbruglia. She experienced some sound and feedback problems in the first couple of songs and it was incredibly hard to understand her lyrics clearly at the back of the bar. Even though her voice was loud compared to her guitar she sounded shrill in some songs, a shame, since we know from her album The Lighter Side Of… she has a strong and beautiful voice. When she covered Roger Miller’s song ‘My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died’, I felt like I’d stumbled into a hoedown and at any minute, people would be boot-scooting across the Annandale floor.

Adalita ambled on stage after guitarist J.P. Shilo had been teasing us with the intro to ‘Jewel Thief’ for a few minutes. She won everyone’s attention early by pounding on a drum with one hand and pointing at us with the other. I don’t think there was one person in the bar who looked away before the song finished.

Adalita’s voice was in fine form and it was such a relief after the problems Imbruglia had faced on stage. No note was lost in any part of the set and her voice was able to resonate over the vibration of the bass on the walls.

‘Full of Rope’ from Magic Dirt album Girl was the second song of the night and I think we were all a bit surprised to hear it. Adalita didn’t look as comfortable behind her guitar as usual and acted like she wasn’t sure how to move with it, a far cry from the Adalita I’ve seen live before. Whatever the issue, it didn’t take long to disappear and she went on to deliver a grinding version of ‘Invite Me’ to a nearly silent crowd.

A few of the songs on album Adalita are reminiscent of Magic Dirt, so much so, at the start of ‘Hot Air’ – the opening track on her album – my friend turned to me and said: “This is a Magic Dirt song, isn’t it?” It’s a comparison that is inevitable but harmless, since the songs on her album are of such high quality both recorded and live. ‘Going Down’ immediately reminds me of ‘Vulcanella’, with its heavy guitar riff and half sung, half spoken lyrics. But unlike ‘Vulcanella’ that sometimes lost its momentum live, ‘Going Down’ is rocking from start to finish and is the stand out song of the night.

“Thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting live music. Good on ya!” is her farewell and ‘The Repairer’ is the last song before the encore.
Adalita thanks us all again for coming out and the final song of the night is ‘Taxi Club’, a song co-written with Magic Dirt band mate Raul Sanchez.

Live Review: An Horse – Annandale Hotel (03.06.2011)

The Gold Coats tell us early they were devastated about leaving their actual gold coats at the Jetstar terminal in Brisbane, but manage to play a lively set to a gradually filling bar.

We’re told the drummer Nadia, who hasn’t played drums all that much, has bruises all over her legs from playing her tambourine too hard. Nadia manages to multi-task, playing drums with a drumstick in one hand and shaking a tambourine in the other. The catchiest song of the night is about mature age students, with lyrics: “I thought long, I thought hard. I went online, I re-enrolled,” and had everyone around me toe-tapping and singing along. Their cover of Paul Kelly’s ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’ brings a fresh sweetness to the song and its well-known lyrics. 

An Horse members Kate Cooper and Damon Cox arrive on stage to a nearly full bar, but feedback from one of the amps during set opener Trains and ‘Tracks’ from Walls puts them on the back foot early. The feedback was only noticeable in the first track, but for the rest of the set Cooper made a point of mentioning her disappointment with the sound.

“If you know the words to any of these songs, then sing to drown out the terrible sound of this amp,” she urged the crowd. And sing along they did, to ‘Little Lungs’ and ‘Company’ from 2009’s Rearrange Beds. Though the bad amp was spoken about after every few songs, its problems didn’t stop the crowd from enjoying the set. Cooper and Cox had fun on stage later in the set, joking about Cooper’s mum in the front row telling everyone she was her sister. Cox had to tell a fan: “I can’t afford to give you a drum stick, I’ve only got three left!”

Energetic and upbeat songs ‘Brain on Table’, ‘Walls’ and ‘Postcards’ were the standouts of an otherwise slower set, with Cooper and Cox getting the crowd to bounce along together. ‘Dressed So Sharply’ had the crowd singing “Dressed so sharply, you know I will read, every word you send me,” solo in the last chorus, spurring Cooper to ask everyone: “Could you feel it?” Cooper got a laugh and cheers from the crowd when she replied: “That’s what he said!”

Sweet ballad ‘Swallow the Sea’ ended the set and had the front row swaying along. Cooper had commented earlier in the night they really felt like a two-piece at this gig – something they’re not used to. They seemed relieved to finish up and leave The Annandale and the inferior amps behind. 

The new album Walls is filled with heartfelt lyrics and bouncy riffs. An Horse delivered new and old songs to a happy crowd with a lot of love. It’s just a shame they didn’t seem to have as much fun playing them as we did hearing them. 

Live Review: The Waifs – Enmore Theatre (02.26.2011)

The Waifs arrive on stage excited, and clearly happy to be back in Sydney, as they remind us throughout the show. Their new album Temptation will be released on 4th March, and tonight the set-list is heavy with new songs.
The funky guitar and harmonica solos are still there, as has become their trademark over the years, and each song they sing has a long history behind it. It’s a shame these songs are not well known yet, and often leave the crowd distracted, talking amongst themselves.

It’s not until ‘Lighthouse’ from 2003 album Up All Night that the crowd show any sign of life, and start to sing along, louder than singer Vikki Thorn in some parts. There are cheers during the harmonica solo, and her sister Donna Simpson jokes: “Everyone loves a pregnant woman on the harmonica!”

The Waifs have always been storytellers. Their songs are an insight into their relationships, their fears, travels and their history. Donna stops during London Still to reminisce of her time living in Bondi Beach, and excitedly points out her friends in the crowd. She says: “Even my old boss from the Mexican Restaurant is here!”

New song ‘Falling’ is introduced as the first happy love song Donna has written, and wins the crowd over with the light melody and pretty lyrics.
Other new songs ‘Beautiful Night’ and ‘Goodbye Darlin’ get a good reception, but it’s clear the crowd are hanging out for the older, better known songs.
‘Highway One’ is met with cheers and claps during another long harmonica solo and the two girls behind me start to hug and sway. ‘Gillian’ has everyone singing “Gillian if you weren’t my mother I would make you my wife,” a line that still makes me stop to think when I hear it.

Vikki introduces the song ‘Bridal Train’, and while most are familiar of the story behind it, there is another important lesson to be learnt. It seems the lyrics published in the EP were wrong and Vikki needs to set it straight. The words are not “leapt aboard the bridal train,” as published, but “wept aboard the bridal train.”

Donna starts to tell a story about her son, but is interrupted by shouts for “Crazy Train!” The song that has been their signature for many years was missed tonight. Amidst a set-list heavy with new songs, it would have been a welcome classic to sing and clap along to. The Waifs have fallen off the ‘Crazy Train’, and it is a notable absence.

Donna and Josh Cunningham finish together with a quietly beautiful version of ‘Rescue’, leaving behind a subdued crowd.

Temptationwill not be released until Friday, meaning many of the songs played tonight had not been heard before. With the experience and strength The Waifs have, I’m sure the songs from this album will eventually draw as much enthusiasm as favourites ‘Gillian’ and ‘London Still’.