With the onset of daylight saving time a mere thirty hours away and a couple of relatively warmer days just gone, the mood of the punters entering Mebourne’s Festival Hall (not so affectionately known as Festering Hall) on this particular Friday night seemed just a little more jovial than usual. Those who arrived early would have been treated to Perth act The Chemist… For this attendee however, it was to be dinner and drinks that would win out, before arriving for the surprisingly well-known international supporting act; Los Angeles alternative rock quartet Silversun Pickups.
Even on record, Silversun Pickups rely on a fuzzy, distorted sound, so it was a little overwhelming that the mix for the band was still being tweaked as they kicked off with ‘Growing Old Is Getting Old’. The boys – and chick – soon cranked things up a little though, as ‘There’s No Secrets This Year’ and ‘Future Foe Scenarios’ sounded great. Lead vocalist Brian Aubert then struggled a little to bring out the poppiness of ‘Substitution’, but all was forgiven with the memorable closing duo of ‘Panic Switch’ & ‘Lazy Eye’. The melodies of both simply overwhelmed the audience as Aubert shined with his guitar-work and transitioning from gentle to enraged vocals in a heartbeat.
Having only seen front-man Ian Kenny’s “other” band Karnivool live, I was not sure what to expect from Birds Of Tokyo. Sure, their relatively traditional rock style was more my taste than the progressively heavy Karnivool, but would it turn out just a little (for want of a better word) boring in a live setting. Needless to say, it did not take long for my doubts to be cast aside. In fact, it was about the time Ian opened his mouth. Mr. Kenny may be as bad a dancer as Midnight Oil’s Peter Garrett (who is now an Australian politician FFS) and is totally confused as to which direction he wants to take with his hair, but the man simply has the best vocals in the land right now. While the band played competently throughout (ably assisted by a synth player who impressively handled keys & strings duties), the audience were undoubtedly in Ian Kenny’s hands from beginning to end.
For the most part, their setlist was well selected. It included four tracks off the band’s debut LP ‘Day One’, all of which were subtly stripped back and sounded fantastic. Birds of Tokyo even threw in EP favourite ‘Believer’ for the loyalists and it is a credit to them that it did not sound out of place at all. Having just released a new album which reached #2 on the Australian charts, it was no surprise that the self-titled album got a good run. If anything, the rather plain ‘Wild At Heart’ should have been replaced by ‘Armor For Liars’ off of the band’s best record to date; ‘Universes’. Of the five songs to be played from ‘Universes’, it was predictable that ‘Silhouettic’ and set closer ‘Broken Bones’ would be the night’s highlights… And they did not disappoint at all. These two were the crowd favourites along with current single ‘Plans’, which especially had the audience’s larger than expected female turn-up singing along at full voice.
All in all, it was a couple of terrific performances from two excellent bands. It is just a shame that there was so much flannel in the audience! (Hi Vooligan).