The night of Sunday March 28 was a busy one in Melbourne town. Over 100,000 rev-heads had just got high on the exhaust fumes of the Australian Grand Prix and were now looking for somewhere to have dinner… A Greek festival had shut down an entire city street… The Melbourne International Comedy Festival seemingly had over 100 shows in bars & clubs… And Brand New were wowing a loyal audience at The Palace Theatre. However, my choice for the night was the Welsh double bill of Lostprophets & The Blackout, both of whom were long overdue a visit down under.
A half-hour delay in opening the doors is never a positive, but it’s even less so when rain is threatening and the majority of the queue are made to wait in a rather pongy alley. Upon entry into Billboards, the timeliness did not improve since Mrs. Boy & I had ample time to purchase a shirt & down 2 terribly over-priced beverages each. The roadies were doing their usual thing, as were their sons. Oh, hang on a tick; that was the local (Sydney) support band Tonight Alive…..
Most pundits at the venue had no idea there was even going to be a local support (it was announced a week before the show) & you could almost feel the groans when the kids (the drummer looked about 12) came out to play. Thankfully, the mood picked up when the lead vocalist appeared. Taking a huge leaf out of the Paramore playbook, the quintet provide sturdy, melodic pop-punk hooks as a backdrop to the impressively strong vocals of teenage front-woman Jenna McDougall. Grounded & affable, Jenna comes off a little ditzy (she forgot words a couple of times & struggled with the order of the setlist) but never had trouble penetrating through the music & connecting with the audience. They filled out their half-hour slot easily (including a Rufio cover) & were a fantastic start to the evening. Exciting times could well be ahead for Tonight Alive. If you would like to check out a few of their songs, you can do so at www.myspace.com/tonightalive.
A little strangely, the talk I had overheard earlier in the night suggested that not many at the venue knew much about Welsh sextet The Blackout. When co-vocalist Sean Smith maniacally screamed out the opening refrain to set opener ‘ShutTheF**kUppercut’, I think I saw a number of girls in the audience take cover in the queue to the female toilets! From there, The Blackout settled down (relatively speaking) to their melodic & accessible post-hardcore sound, with almost all of the attention being paid to Smith & cohort Gavin Butler. I was actually a little surprised at Smith’s singing, which was really good on the tracks that didn’t call for his scream.
Come the mid-way point of the set, it seemed as if everyone had been won over… If not by the music, then by Smith’s curiously forthright & endearing stage banter. A visit to the crowd during the heavy ‘We’re Going To Hell… So Bring the Sunblock’ incited the moshers, while ‘This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’, ‘Top of the World’ & ‘Save Ourselves (The Warning)’ followed to raise the sing-along factor. With the audience hanging on every word, Smith even managed to make everyone get down on their knees during ‘Save Ourselves’ (apart from one sole protestor, who looked suspiciously like SputnikMusic’s own Adam Knott), for a literally crowd-raising finale. Finally, ‘I’m A Riot, You’re A F**king Riot’ closed things off appropriately, summing up The Blackout’s live show; Heavy, catchy & FUN!
It was then time for the headline act; Lostprophets. Awkward opener ‘If It Wasn’t For Hate, We’d Be Dead By Now’ got things off to a slow start, while the following ‘It’s Not The End of the World’ suffered from the music being mixed too high for vocalist Ian Watkins to get over. It is a pattern I am noticing way too often these days; when a band get successful enough to play some arena shows, they struggle to get the mix right when they go back to doing clubs (Billboards has a capacity of about 1,000). Of the opening 6 or 7 songs, only crowd favourite ‘Burn Burn’ was suited by the louder mix, so it was a rather disappointing first half-hour for yours truly. If anything, the energy of keys/synth player & backing vocalist Jamie (I’m not the chef) Oliver was holding the show together.
Fortunately, when the band eventually pulled things back with mid-set tracks such as ‘Can’t Catch Tomorrow’, ‘Last Summer’, ‘A Town Called Hypocrisy’ & the anthemic ‘Where We Belong’, they had finally hit their stride. ‘Last Train Home’ & ‘Rooftops’ were sing-alongs of epic proportions, while new single ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Felon’ and surprise inclusion ‘Everyday Combat’ also impressed. The distinctive guitar riff & turntable scratching of closer ‘Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja’ also pleased the loyalists, although the set still had gaping holes since the likes of ‘Wake Up’, ‘We Are Godzilla, You Are Japan’ & ‘DSTRYR/DSTRYR’ were not played. The lack of anything resembling an encore was also a little bit of a downer.
Overall, it was a really fun night with the two support bands both impressing, and the headline act getting by on the quality of their back-catalogue. 36 hours later & I’m still struggling a little with my hearing & in need of sleep from the 12:30am finish… Wouldn’t have it any other way!