Review Summary: Some older hits are missed, but Powderfinger deliver a live show that's as entertaining as it is surprising.
Some customs in the music industry will never change. For example; Metallica will always amass enormous attention online irrespective of whether their latest album is any good or not; Max Martin will continue to re-write Since U Been Gone
until someone tells him the novelty’s over; and rock bands will always release live CD’s. It’s a tradition that’s seen by many to be nothing more than a way for a band to make a quick dollar off impressionable fans who demand the latest release, and nothing at all to do with honest love for music or artistic integrity at all. But we are more prone to generalise the bad than the good they say, and these veteran rockers from Brisbane, Australia sit firmly in the good corner I can assure you.
Confirming that the release of their first live recording was more than just a cash-grab is the statistical data which accompanies it – only 40,000 copies of this album were ever pressed. This is staggering considering the band has sold upwards of 500,000 copies for single albums, and this release could quite easily have made at least half that sum. It’s a shame the recording is no longer in print, because a large part of Powderfinger’s huge success can be attributed to their energetic and sometimes down-to-earth live performances, all of which is on show here.
The album itself consists of two discs – one displaying cuts from their impressive 2003 Vulture Street
tour, and the other containing tracks from a one-off, low-key performance at Sydney’s Fox studios. The track-list mostly includes songs from the bands most recent album, but when they’re performed with as much enthusiasm and fun as this, who’s complaining? Opening track Rockin’ Rocks
starts a little rough around the edges, but they soon find their footing and deliver what is a great introduction to their arena spectacular. In fact, a lot of the songs here are a little sketchy, but they certainly have a bigger sound than their album counterparts, which only adds weight to what are pretty flawless songs in the first place.
While a lot of the hits from the past had been temporarily shelved for this tour, the absolute classics such as My Happiness
and These Days
still remain. In fact, fan favourite These Days
provides one of the most heart-wrenching moments they’ve ever recorded, as the band put their instruments away and let lead-singer Bernard Fanning perform it solo with nothing but a rackety old piano, and ten thousand adoring fans singing in unison. Crowd reaction runs high again as the band unexpectedly turn hit Like a Dog
into a nine minute marathon, with Led Zeppelin’s Bring It On Home
making a surprise appearance in the elongated mid-section. Listen also for Fanning’s amazing harmonica solo.
Odyssey Number Five
proves to be the best of the set however, actually superseding the quality of it’s already excellent album counterpart by several lengths. With guitarist Ian Haug providing a thigh-slapping solo as an introduction, and Fanning’s piano creating all the atmospherics in the songs closing stages, it proves to be the quintessential live Powderfinger track. Pockets
sets the mood also, with guitarist Darren Middleton performing the final solos with his teeth. The solo itself isn’t much chop, but the audience doesn’t seem to mind.
While you’ll come for the exciting – albeit rough – first disc however, you’ll stay for the adorable acoustic performances. The second disc, although only nine tracks in length, is worth the album price alone. Here, Vulture Street
hits and older tunes are stripped down to their bare essentials, with tracks like Sunsets
and Love Your Way
proving to be just as good (if not better) with the reverb turned down. The bluesy Since You’ve Been Gone
is simplified to the point of barely being at all, with just an organ and Fanning’s infectious voice permeating over the top. War ballad How Far Have We Really Come
provides a classic solo tacked onto the start, with the crowd cheering as Ian Haug just makes it up as he goes along.
Those who like old hit Waiting For the Sun
can hear the song as originally intended, with a piano providing the main backbone, as opposed to the echoic guitars heard in the original. The band mimic Crowded House at this instant, with Vulture Street
closer A Song Called Everything
also weighing in for comparison. Some laughs are brought into the fray with b-side – and crowd favourite – Rita
proving to be an absolute hit as usual, while cover Inner City Blues
keeps the “anything goes” approach moving swiftly.
While the performances can be a little sketchy at times, and some of the older hits such as Pick You Up
, Already Gone
are sorely missed, there’s no reason not to embrace the newer material on offer here as anything other than good fun. Here, Powderfinger prove exactly why they’re in the top echelon of Australian rock groups today and most probably years to come. In the end, it’s nice to know there are some bands that don’t take the business too seriously, and are happy to screw up a set-list if it means the audience can enjoy another impromptu solo.