Sunday, 17 November 2013

Like Thieves @ The Annandale w/supports

DATE: 16/11/13

We departed Rivendell under the watchful eyes of Elrond. An elite representative of each race would band together to form the fellowship of the birthday pub crawl. Our mission was a simple one; to get the birthday girl to the fires of the Annandale hotel so she could look upon the face of her beloved Clint Boge, maybe slaying a few orcs in the process. Like Vikings, we pillaged every tavern along the way, relieving them of several tankards of amber ale. It didn’t take long for inebriation to assume the role of autopilot and before we knew it, we had stumbled across the historic venue. Torrential rain farewelled us with an icy kiss as we entered the iconic live music sanctuary. The foyer was alive with excitement. Weary travellers who had braved the weather were huddled around the bar, wide eyed with anticipation for the events that were about to unfold.

The band room itself smelt of stale beer and a soothing Gregorian chant sample was ushering in opening local prog rock act Mandala. An eager mob of around 20 rowdy fans had already gathered at the front of the room, standing close enough to lick the shins of any musician unfortunate enough to brave the front of the stage. The Sydney quintet immediately caught my attention with their delayed, reverb laden guitar work which created an ethereal ambiance within the room. This was quickly washed away by the backing track becoming far too loud in the mix which caused all the talented musicianship taking place to amalgamate into a bass heavy fuzz. The entire band seemed to be suffering from stage fright with the exception vocalist Robert McGinn who was confident leading his troops into battle. His vocals at times beared a loose and reserved resemblance to Forbes Mckail (Rook, The Khyber Belt).Everything seemed to fall into place three songs into the set. The sample was turned down and the gargoyles on stage came to life. Guitarist Rodney Cross’s eyes opened wide and he froze like a deer in the headlights when it became his turn to provide backing vocals. Surprisingly though, the backups were a perfect accompaniment to Roberts cautious vocals. There were great uses of multiple vocal melodies and the harmonies were spot on. The set was a slow and grinding start to the night demonstrating musical influences ranging from Dead Letter Circus, Breaking Orbit and Neotokyo to the more exotic such as the sitars of India. I was left a little underwhelmed by the end of the set as the songs tended to plod along and never seemed to accumulate to anything mind blowing but the boys had done enough to convince me to purchase an EP. Mandala show great potential and should hopefully appear soon on the radar of prog fans everywhere.

The room had filled up a bit more while Sydney quartet We Without took to the stage however the hordes chose to graze around the back of the room. Heavily grunge inspired with a hint of new metal, I was taken on a journey back to the 90’s where this style of music reigned supreme. In the half hour set I heard Powderfinger, Alice In Chains, Hoobastank, Ill Nino and Soundgarden with vocalist Chad Elliott sounding strikingly similar to Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Chad struggled to reach his multitude of high notes so much that his face resembled a bottle of undiluted raspberry cordial by the end of their set. The whole time I felt as though I was watching a covers band and it is a sad admittance that the one enjoyable song of the set was a cover of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s “I Just Dance The Way I Feel”. We were also treated to a swing dancing couple up the front of the room mid set, presumably one of the member’s parents. With a busy and needlessly complicated sound, We Without were a very disappointing second act.

We barely had time to down another round of scotches before being swiftly kicked in the face by the most misplaced band of the night, Red Remedy. The multi genre goliath exploded from the firing line with their brilliant fusion of abrasive punk, metal and rock. The room was wary and kept their distance for the first few songs as the Sydney foursome unleashed hell on stage. Leigh Czerwonker’s crunchy, grating guitar work marinated Adrian Booths fat, juicy bass riffs. Jess Rossiter was a monster behind his transparent drum kit, making excellent use of the toms and resembling Foo Fighters Taylor Hawkins in both manic performance and appearance. Charismatic front man Zach Evans punched out an incredible vocal effort. He had an awe inspiring scream and his clean vocals were an eerie mixture of Brandon Boyd of Incubus and Brian Molko of Placebo. He seamlessly transitioned between the two and was pitch perfect the whole set. His on stage persona was cocky and brash and it worked for him. He threatened to not play anymore songs until the crowd moved forward and without hesitation we gladly moved closer to this architect of entertainment. I found myself tapping my foot to every song which were overloaded with influences from the bands I grew up with. Deftones album “Adrenaline” was at the forefront with layers of System Of A Down, Rage Against The Machine, Disturbed and Sevendust rounding out this full, beefy sound. The double kick was applied liberally and syncopation between all instruments was abundant. High energy performance, amazing on stage chemistry and brilliant genre fusion mean it is only a matter of time before Red Remedy become a major player in the Australian live music scene.

A Perfect Circles “Judith” came through the PA and stirred something within everyone’s loins as the full attendance starting either singing or head banging to the song. The half capacity Annandale hotel was getting more eager with every passing minute. You could cut the anticipation in the room with a sweet potato. There was no secret who every person in the room tonight was there to see. Like Thieves marks Clint Boge’s most promising act since leaving recently reformed The Butterfly Effect and the expectations for the band were very high. Thieves take to the stage and receive an average reception. Predictably the Boge fan girls erupt when the veteran ascends the dais with a huge smile on his face and a fabulously filthy Movember moustache. They don’t waste any time and immediately wind the room into a frenzy. My initial realization is that it is going to be impossible to review LT without comparing them to TBE. The songs from the debut EP “The Wolves At Winters Edge” represent the direction that Butterfly Effect could have taken after “Begins Here” instead of the fan dividing “Imago”. The start of their set had some really poor mixing with Boge’s vocals being lost in the wall of sound which is not something you want to happen to the biggest drawing card of your band. This was remedied by the third song when the Brisbane prog rock quartet got the crowd singing along to “Killing Reason” off their debut EP. The mix was crisp as Boge’s trademark operatic voice littered the air. Guitarist Oden Johansson is amusing to watch perform as his tongue never enters his mouth as he swings back and forth like a metronome. In terms of influences, the most obvious musically would be fellow Brisbane act Dead Letter Circus, Sydney’s instrumental virtuosos Meniscus and of course The Butterfly Effect themselves. Like Thieves road test a lot of new material in the set but apart from the awesome song introduced only as “something a little different”, nothing seemed to grab the audience’s attention. The quality of sound began to waver yet again as the set progressed. The vocals becoming muffled a second time was the catalyst that caused a few disheartened punters to leave the venue early. We were thanked for braving the rain as they broke out into their closing track “The Wolves At Winters Edge” which was by far their strongest performance of the night. Like Thieves had a lot to live up to and quite frankly, fell well short of my expectations. The very fact that I walked home in the rain with a very drunk girlfriend who was chanting “Red Remedy. Red Remedy. Red Remedy” had a lot to say about the night.

Joshua Towney

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