Proving that an impressively played festival set can pay future dividends, yours truly dug deep into his hip pocket to see Yellowcard after they had made quite the positive impression during their 40 minute set last year. Considering that previous to that Australian performance, the Floridian quintet shared headlining duties with Sum 41, then it was safe to say that us Aussies had been craving a full Yellowcard headline set for quite some time… And the rather intimate setting of The Hi-Fi Bar in central Melbourne was the perfect venue for the first of two sold-out shows.
First up for the night were local pop-rockers For Our Hero. Having never heard a single song by these youngsters before this night, I actually came away rather impressed. Sure, it was pretty safe stuff without any real distinguishing point… But in their spot of warming up an audience who were predominantly waiting to hear a band such as Yellowcard, then For Our Hero achieved their objective. They sounded clear, crisp & catchy with just enough variety to get by. If they can grow into their own sound as they gain experience, then this could be a band with a bright future.
Continuing the “hero” theme, Australia’s 2nd favourite pop-punk outfit Heroes For Hire were up next. I’m actually a fan of their recorded output thus far in their career. Again, they don’t do anything that hasn’t been done by superior overseas bands, but they do so in a catchy & energetic manner which is difficult to dislike. Predictably, their live show leans on the heavier side of their act… And to be honest, I found that only makes them less distinctive in the grand scheme of things. Most band members run all over the stage to give off an energetic vibe, but it all seemed like adhering to a stereotype. Apart from the strange sight of seeing a fan hopping up on stage & chugging a beer from his shoe, the one saving grace was the interesting dual vocal dynamic, which surprisingly had me favouring Duane Hazell’s whinier style to lead singer Brad Smith. Heroes For Hire played songs from all 3 of their LPs – including new release ‘No Apologies’ – but it may be concerning that older tunes ‘Lights Out’ & ‘Bright Lights in Paradise’ were the set highlights.
Following the now customary continual chanting of a band’s name, Yellowcard ambled out on to stage – in rather under-stated fashion – to a rousing response. As soon as lead vocalist Ryan Key sang out “Bottoms up tonight…” from ‘Summer Air’ opener ‘Awakening’ though, there was nothing at all under-stated about this veteran outfits performance. The loud & adoring crowd sang out almost every word of every song – to the point where Key had to adjust his earpiece multiple times – and the band visibly fed off the energy to the betterment of their enthusiastic performance. The rapid-fire hits just kept coming our way, with ‘Rough Landing, Holly’, ‘Breathing’ & ‘Five Becomes Four’ early set highlights, before recent single ‘Always Summer’ resulted in what may have been the most pitch-perfect rendition of the night! ‘Hang You Up’ then slowed the pace down, before Ryan went solo for ‘Sing For Me’ & the majority of ‘Empty Apartment’.
From a musical stand-point, Yellowcard were also difficult to fault. As per usual, the majority of the attention was focused on violinist, cheerleader & ever-smiling good guy Sean Mackin, as he put his heart into every melody and sang along to almost every lyric. In truth, Mackin often over-shadows the accomplished guitar-work of both Key & Ryan Mendez, who balance flair & technicality in impressive fashion. If anything, the rhythm section predominantly stayed in the background, with drummer Longineu Parsons occasionally looking a little unchallenged by what he was asked to do. There’s a good reason for this, however, and my word was it shown when he performed a mid-set solo which just may well end up being my musical moment of 2012. Words cannot even begin to indicate what Parsons was doing, but I’m certain someone pressed the speed-search button at the venue! This is the best video I could find of it… & it really does not do the solo justice:
As if the night required another ingredient, two fans were then introduced to the crowd late in the set, with a wedding proposal taking place. Thankfully, the answer was in the affirmative, because I’m not quite sure how the subsequent ‘Only One’ would have come off otherwise! As ‘Lights and Sounds’ finished off the main set, anticipation grew for the predictable encore & its much-loved closer. New single ‘Here I Am Alive’ sounded just fine without Taylor Jardine contributing vocals, while ‘Light Up the Sky’ lit up the mood of the venue in anticipation to a song I’ve previously dubbed the greatest live sing-along I have ever witnessed. Needless to say, ‘Ocean Avenue’ delivered the goods once more, capping off a fantastic night from a band that just keeps on keeping on! Yellowcard are very much a recommended live prospect according to this scribe.