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Times are tough… Unless you are in the music industry yourself (or a retired millionaire), it is difficult to attend every single gig that passes through town. Local acts will usually give you multiple opportunities – sometimes in the one year – to see them, but when it comes to international outfits, who knows when they will be back around your parts again. Favored acts are usually given the benefit of the doubt, and so was the case with Floridian rockers Anberlin early in 2011, when yours truly saw them twice in the same week (Soundwave Festival & headlining sideshow). So when the Stephen Christian led quintet announced that they would be touring Australia once more in August, I met the revelation with ambivalence. I mean, it was not as if they had released a new album in the meantime, and simply throwing “An Evening With…” on the tour poster did little for me initially. Surely, they had to woo fans some other way. And that they did!

First up – and the only support act of the night – were Sydney pop-punkers Tonight Alive. Having been impressed by the quintet at a previous supporting performace, their placement on this show was most definitely a pleasing one. As per usual, charismatic front-woman Jenna McDougall was handing out lessons on the art of smiling, while woo’ing all the (ummm) gentlemen in attendance with a Led Zeppelin t-shirt covered by a flannel shirt. Looks really are not an issue with Jenna, so it’s a bit of an oddity that her band-mates are attempting to make her stand out even further by grooming themselves as if they were in a 80s hard-rock band. Musically, Tonight Alive struggled a little on this night. The larger surroundings of The Palace Theatre seemed to hamper the mix, with McDougall still making a concerted effort for her surprisingly strong voice to be heard over the surrounding racket. Not helping matters – at least to me and a few others – was that it seems the sneaky buggers released a 2nd EP without many knowing (and here I was waiting for the LP to drop). This made their earlier tracks and new single ‘Starlight’ the clear favourites on the night.


So, getting back to our main-event of the night, what did Anberlin actually believe was going to be the selling point of this particular performance? Well, prior interviews did not suggest that it was going to be one specific thing, but more a combination of factors. An extended set, some covers, a few lesser-known songs, more acoustic work, a Q&A session and possibly even a special guest. It seemed rather vague in all honesty, but it also sounded rather tantalizing. If Anberlin could pull off even half of those successfully, then the price of admission seemed like an absolute bargain. It resulted in an audience which was part apprehensive and part excited, but when the band came out to do their thing on set opener ‘Dismantle. Repair.’, the crowd momentarily got lost in the moment of what could have been any other Anberlin concert… In other words, a cracking good show. It did not take long for the first curve-ball to be thrown our way however, with the third track of the set (‘Paperthin Hymn’) gaining an assist from Mark Stewart – lead singer of local outfit Horsell Common. Stewart was gone just as quick as he came and, dare I say it, but it almost seemed like a cheap ploy… A way of saying “look, we had a guest, just like we said we would”.


As the set progressed, it finally hit me that Anberlin had never sounded so good. On previous occasions, I had been a little critical of the band for attempting to rock themselves up too much, ultimately drowning out their major strengths; intricate musical hooks and Stephen Christian’s awe-inspiring vocals. Yet tonight, everything sounded so crisp. For a band that I have always deemed worthy of playing much larger venues than they do, a step up in capacity was assisting their performance. The rhythms of ‘Pray Tell’, the hard-hitting ‘Readyfuels’ and the hooks of ‘Never Take Friendship Personal’ came one after each other without a missed step, and then it was time to begin to tone it down a little as the set moved into its semi-acoustic section. The fantastic ‘Art of War’ was an early set highlight, as the stage was reconfigured to include 2 free-standing drums out front. B-Side ‘The Haunting’ once more made people wonder why it was not included on ‘Cities’, ‘The Unwinding Cable Car’ was a mass sing-along and even the rarely played ‘Alexithymia’ did not sound out of place. It was all a prelude to a mystery cover which turned out to be Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, as “Hey now, Hey now” rang across the theatre. As if it was almost commonplace, shaggy redhead Travis Clark (of We The Kings, who were playing Melbourne the following night) laconically wandered out to sing the 2nd verse, while Jenna McDougall returned to assist with the outro and following tune ‘Down’. And just like that, Anberlin had successfully pulled off half of those aforementioned components in one foul swoop!


While the set had already passed well over the hour mark, what the audience was not to know was that when the acoustic set-up was dispensed with come 14th track ‘Breaking’, it simply ushered in the 2nd half of the gig. And what better way to set alight the stage than to perform the much-loved ‘The Feel Good Drag’. Depeche Mode cover ‘Enjoy The Silence’ followed, as did the likes of fan favorites ‘The Resistance’ and ‘A Day Late’. ‘Adelaide’ then got the banter going with the band taking some pre-checked questions in their stride. It wasn’t so much the answers themselves which were interesting, but more the way in which the quintet let their guard down and looked to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Even lead guitarist Joseph Milligan displayed a hitherto seen charisma which dispelled his usually statue-like performance. The main set then ended with the oddly effective duo of ‘Dance Dance Christa Paffgen’ and ‘Godspeed’ to rapturous applause. Of course, an encore and 26th track would follow, and there was only one song which would befit such an occasion… The simply phenomenal and awe-inspiring ‘*Fin’. It was the first time that many in attendance would witness this tremendous tune and I’m certain it will not be soon forgotten, no matter how many beverages had been downed by then.


It is not often one can say this, but to put it bluntly, ‘An Evening With Anberlin’ may well have been the best concert I have experienced to date. It may need a little time to settle for that call to be made, but it is definitely a contender, and The Foo Fighters will have to play their socks off in December if they are to top “Davey’s Top Gigs of the Year” list. Strangely, as much as it was an experience for all in attendance at this nation-wide tour, I am almost certain it was just as much an experience for Anberlin themselves. One of the major feelings I now have is how pleased I am that a band who deserve much more worldwide success than they have achieved, dared to think outside of the square and, more importantly, big. They carried this show off with a confidence and charisma that may well be the final piece of the puzzle which has been required to send this talented outfit to even more dizzying heights. I don’t think that anyone who happened to see Anberlin at one of these (apparently exclusive to Australia) shows would begrudge them playing arenas next time they toured… Because, like myself, they could look back at this particular night and realize that they were part of something new… something intimate… and something very special.





DaveyBoy
09.07.11
Setlist

1. Dismantle.Repair.
2. We Owe This to Ourselves
3. Paperthin Hymn (With Mark Stewart of Horsell Common)
4. Pray Tell
5. Readyfuels
6. Never Take Friendship Personal
7. Change the World (Lost Ones)
8. Art of War
9. The Haunting
10. The Unwinding Cable Car
11. Alexithymia
12. Don't Dream It's Over [Crowded House cover] (With Travis Clark of We the Kings & Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive)
13. Down (With Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive)
14. Breaking
15. Feel Good Drag
16. Reclusion
17. Enjoy the Silence [Depeche Mode cover]
18. The Resistance
19. A Day Late
20. Adelaide
21. Impossible
22. Take Me (As You Found Me)
23. A Heavy Hearted Work of Staggering Genius
24. Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen
25. Godspeed

Encore:
26. (*Fin)

thediamondcanopy
09.07.11
nice

Masochist
09.07.11
Holy crap, what a set list! Anberlin is very close to the top of my list of "Bands I Most Want To See Live." This sounds like it was a career-defining show...so many good songs!

Mordecai.
09.07.11
new this was gonna be a DaveBoy post as soon as I read Anberlin. I caught the sydney show. breathe-taking. Fantastic write up buddy, how good is that setlist?

Winsomniac
09.07.11
Wow, *Fin as the encore. Legitimately jealous.

Oceanus
09.07.11
Nice write up, DaveyBoy. Just one thing, though. "foul swoop" should maybe be "fell swoop"?

Blindsided
09.07.11
Yeah *Fin as the set closer is definitely one of the best musical moments of the year for me too.

Phideaux
09.07.11
I noticed that to Oceanus. C'mon Davey! Good write up though.

toxin.
09.07.11
Davey, you have no idea how ridiculously jealous I am of you. Jesus Christ, that is just unfair. You get to see them three times? :(

toxin.
09.07.11
Also, 26 songs? fuck me, I should've flown to Australia for the show.

NOTINTHEFACE
09.07.11
I sort of got out of this band after New Surrender came out, but I've been really feeling them lately. This setlist is epic.

Willie
09.07.11
Nice write up. I think I'm going to look into this Tonight Alive band.

toxin.
09.07.11
@NOTINTHEFACE, have you heard Dark is the Way...?

It's miles ahead of New Surrender.

AtavanHalen
09.07.11
"‘An Evening With Anberlin’ may well have been the best concert I have experienced to date"

Well it had DOZENS of gigs in competition

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
I guess it should be noted that they usually do not play this length of setlist, but going by this night, they had no issues at all in pulling it off.

Great to hear you went Mordy. Breath-taking is a good description for it.

Well, I went with the more current & informal speech with "foul swoop". My inner Shakespeare wasn't working at around midnight when I wrote this up.

Trey, think Paramore, just Australian... & with a blonde out front.

Atavan, you must be so pleased that Delta Goodrem sang a song about you... "You're just so predictable". I presume you didn't catch this show, despite your love for Jenna?

Mordecai.
09.08.11
"Trey, think Paramore, just Australian... & with a blonde out front."

and cooler nipples

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
Hehe. Hey Mordy, dare I ask (because I'm curious, not to dig it in), but did you have any guests up there at your show?

Storm In A Teacup
09.08.11
Damn!!! Best Anberlin set ever.

Mordecai.
09.08.11
yeh the nipple girl came up and some dude. not sure if it was the horsell common fella or not but i heard some guy next to me say it was the dude from getaway plan

Knott-
09.08.11
you spelt amberlin wrong

Eko
09.08.11
awesome setlist, (*fin) is incredible live.

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
Sounds like they just got lucky with We The Kings in town on that night.

ALSO, I should have mentioned in the blog that this show was being filmed... So I can see it ending up as a DVD of some sort in the future... Either as a bonus disc for something, a bootleg or a stand-alone DVD.

StolenIdentity
09.08.11
I've been waiting for a DaveyBoy post on this show lol.

I saw them in Brisbane last Friday. This was the 4th time I've seen them live and it honestly astounds me that their performances keep getting so much better.

You were spot on with what you said about the improved production, especially the vocals - I was over the moon with that.

And the set list! INCREDIBLE. I ended up standing behind the audio techs at the mixing consoles and so I got to see the entire set list moments before the gig started.I gotta say, rather than diminishing my anticipation, seeing the sheer amount of quality tunes to be played got my heart racing faster than the Stig in a Lambo.

To top it all off, they were genuinely the nicest bunch of guys during the meet and greet afterwards, especially Stephen.

Definitely tops my list of favourite live gigs ever, and I I've seen some pretty good ones over the past few years...

StolenIdentity
09.08.11
Oh and they played Naive Orleans for us too :D

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
Careful man, Atavan will not be happy that you also thought it was the best gig you've ever been too. LOL!

Great to hear that you liked the write-up & enjoyed the show as much as I did. I agree that they just keep getting better. This is my 5th time seeing them and I'm not even sure you can compare the other 4 to this.

I was so tempted to stay behind for the meet & greet, but by the time we got back there (as we were in the 3rd row come 'Fin'), the queue was a mile long. I have no idea what people were buying to get signed - Was it a cd single or something?

I noticed they played 'Naive Orleans' at a couple of the shows. A handy addition indeed.

Tyrael
09.08.11
You're a true hero of the people Davey

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

kangaroopoo
09.08.11
Some set. I'll just live gigs vicariously through you.

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Tyrael
09.08.11
'Atavan, you must be so pleased that Delta Goodrem sang a song about you... "You're just so predictable". I presume you didn't catch this show, despite your love for Jenna?'

Haven't seen so much win since I saw a burglar getting his ass kicked by a granny a few years ago

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Mordecai.
09.08.11
"It's a tough job, but someone has to do it."

quit spamming your own review for god's sake, man.

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
Whoops, sorry about that. The record was scratched.

VicariousIntent
09.08.11
That setlist is incredible. I agree that Anberlin should really be more popular than they are, but they do have some of the most dedicated and loyal fans I've known for any band lately. I've never gotten to see them live, but I'd really love to. I've heard Stephen Christian's voice is even better in person, which is really kind of crazy to think about considering how excellent he is all the time.

Irving
09.08.11
So. I've never tried these guys. My interest is sure piqued now.

AtavanHalen
09.08.11
"Atavan, you must be so pleased that Delta Goodrem sang a song about you... "You're just so predictable". I presume you didn't catch this show, despite your love for Jenna?"

Lolzorz, not nearly as good as that Devo song about you. CRRRRACCKKK THAT WHIPPPPPP.

I was at the Vines the night they were in Sydney. I've seen Anberlin twice and they're very hit-and-miss live so I didn't want to take the risk. As for Tonight Alive, I'm now up to eight times after following the Starlight tour - number nine coming in October with Rufio! Pew pew pew.

DaveyBoy
09.08.11
I hope you get to see them live soon VI. As Atavan said, they - and even Stephen's voice - can surprisingly be hit & miss live. But everything - including his voice - was spot on this time around.

I think you would like them Irving. 'Cities' is their best.

Fair call DavID. I actually don't blame you on this one. As they say though, the higher the risk, the higher the reward.

StolenIdentity
09.09.11
They were just signing the stuff being sold at the merch stall. No CDs unfortunately. I did get a poster and beer cooler signed though :)

DaveyBoy
09.09.11
There were beer coolers? Doh.

Tbh, I wasn't going to buy any merch, but the quality of the performance made me as I was heading out the door.

HaloDude442
09.09.11
This is awesome. Anberlin is a fantastic live band so it seems. Also, think of a pop-punk John C. Reilly when the listening to the lead singer

DaveyBoy
09.09.11
It's gonna take me a while to get my head around that one HD.

PistolPete
09.11.11
that is a meaty setlist, i'm really jealous

DaveyBoy
09.11.11
Meaty indeed. I really hope this gives them the confidence to play similarly long sets in the future.

someguest
09.11.11
Depeche Mode cover eh? How'd it sound?

DaveyBoy
09.11.11
Pretty good. But in that case, you can hear for yourself, as that song is on their B-Sides album 'Lost Songs'.

Aids
09.12.11
woah Davey, nice blog post. every once in a while you remind me why I (sort of) respect this website. that poster is kickass too. I don't much care for Anberlin but I read (most of) this post and enjoyed it, nice work.

DaveyBoy
09.13.11
Thanks Aids.

DaveyBoy: Bringin' da respect to Sputnik since 2008.

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DaveyBoy
09.17.11
Okaayyyyyy

EyesHalfClosed
09.25.11
Amazing set, I was at the Melbourne one as well.
*Fin was just brilliant. They just kept playing those final chords over and over, while the crowd sang in unison.

Thanks for the setlist btw; couple of songs i hadn't heard before.

DaveyBoy
09.25.11
No probs man. Glad that anyone around here got to witness this magnificent show & back up my claims.

Irving
09.25.11
We need more blogposts like this one.

DaveyBoy
09.25.11
Wish more gigs were like this one.

toxin.
09.25.11
If Anberlin doesn't play (*fin) when I see them, I will murder somebody

DaveyBoy
09.25.11
Oh oh... Because they don't always play it. I've seen them 5 times & they've played it twice.

Irving
09.25.11
Everybody stay clear of xtoxin.

DaveyBoy
09.25.11
Looks like that may have to be the case. Just tryin' to keep a fellow Sputniker out of jail.

toxin.
09.25.11
@Davey I think the tour they're doing (co-headlining with Switchfoot) only has them play it as an encore. So I still have hope for my sanity. Either way it's a 13-17 song setlist so you'd think they'd play their best song as an encore or as one of those songs?

DaveyBoy
09.26.11
Like I said: Don't get your hopes up too high. From what I can make out, it has depended on the tour. If they go heavy, they may not play it. Godspeed & Feel Good Drag usually replace it on those occasions.

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