Here are the angry young men. It was a phrase Joy Division wore as a badge of honour in the late seventies. Fast forward to Sydney in 2011 and we have three bands that qualified for that tag. The scene was Father’s Day night with some punters bringing the old man along to party with the youngsters and in-betweeners who banded together like an army to enjoy some fine, true blue Australian talent.
The babies of the bill were Hunting Grounds, winners of Triple J Unearthed High who previously played under the moniker, Howl. This 6-piece of raucous vagabonds certainly seemed suited to the previous name thanks to the spirited yelp of singer, Lachlan Morrish propelling every song. They started with the war cry, “Blackout” and while they were tough as nails it wasn’t a patch on the gig they’d played at the Metro supporting Philadelphia Grand Jury. Last year it felt like they had enough raw power to set the city alight whereas tonight they were far less nihilistic and at times even sedate, being more like a candle burning than a major flame.
There were plenty of big guitar riffs à la Black Sabbath while at other moments they sounded like contemporaries, Papa vs. Pretty. Squashed at the front of the Enmore’s stage they squealed like banshees and seemed like the wrong fit for this lavish venue. Their blend of rough-round-the-edges rock with tracks like “In Colour” and “I Hear It’s Love” would have been better suited to a warehouse party that had to be shut down by the fuzz or at a pub with sticky carpet and copious beers. That said, we did get a three-way drum-off in the closer, “I Hear It’s Love” where a showman, time-keeper and hard-hitter gave it their all and redeemed things exponentially just before the whistle blew for time.
The second lot of The Living End’s friends were up next. King Cannons are the New Zealand-via-Melbourne group who were dressed in all black and promised some fun rock and roll music. These guys were another sextet who used additional percussion to the typical guitar, bass, drums and keys weapons of choice. They soon got the crowd rocking with music similar to the Foo Fighters.
These guys made me think that while songwriters and folk musos often wear their hearts on their sleeves then they have a different tact, wearing their influences in this fashion. On every track there was a hint of a musical great that had preceded them, from cool surf guitar to The Police-like delivery of “Teenage Dreams”. There was some 60s R&B harmonica, sounds of sunset and even Nirvana-esque grunge.
In “Stand Right Up” we got some inspirational blues as frontman, Luke Yeoward shared things in common with another fan of the genre, Jack White, addressing everyone with sweet thoughts and dedicating tracks to the audience, other bands and even the tour’s workers- the bar people, the road crew, etc and single, “Take The Rock” to the people at the front requesting it. In all, it seemed like a rather successful marriage of 60s music with punk and it definitely whet people’s appetites ahead of the forthcoming debut album due next year.
The Living End have come a long way since their first gig in Newtown. Back then they performed to a total of five people at a place that is now a Greek restaurant. Over the years they’ve been through some drummers and had a member overcome a car accident. Throw some kids into the mix and it seems they’ve come out the other side still retaining the goods, sound and fury.
The show opened with a triptych from their sixth album, The End Is Just The Beginning Repeating. “In The Morning” showed frontman Chris Cheney in fine form creating the remarkable guitar riffs for which he is known. He declared, “Rock and roll!” and they whipped out “Heatwave” and “Machine Gun,” with the former seeing the first formations of circle pits and fingers pointed high at the call of “This is a heatwave!” The latter meanwhile saw the first of many moshers for the evening.
But it was classics that made everyone quite literally loose their shit. Anyone who’s seen the group live knows that it doesn’t take much persuasion to get everyone joining in with the call and response in “Second Solution”. Scott Owen always does his amazing balancing act on the double-bass going up high and then daring to go even further than his fist-pumping devotees thought possible.
The electricity in the room continued with Cheney noodling away on the guitar like Jack White with the machine gun sway of “How Do We Know?” He then asked if there was anyone old enough to remember their debut record. He said, “Forget Silverchair. We were only eight, very advanced” and then launched into “Save The Day”. If anything, the guys made it all look so effortless that they have to be worthy contenders to fill the void left behind by the ‘Chair and the ‘Finger.
Feeling refreshed on this particular Sunday night, Doc Cheney prescribed the best medicine (sweating it out) as they knocked back “Song For The Lonely” before throwing a curveball in the form of The Choirboys’ “Run To Paradise”. The fact is The Living End’s material – like this pub classic – seem to have been written specifically for putting your arm around your mate, bellowing the chorus and balancing a tinny in the other hand. The crowd were up for it and would have happily seen the anthem through but it was time for “Roll On” where the stage theatrics were cranked to the max. Scotty got up close and personal with his charges lifting his bass ever higher, while Cheney finished with a Pete Townshend-like jump and drummer, Andy Strachan hit the skins hard like old Keef.
“Nothing Lasts Forever” saw the promise of an acoustic record but “All Torn Down” proved why they should stick to what they do best. Its perfect symmetry of excellent rockabilly punk and thoughtful lyrics meant the crowd lapped it up and wouldn’t wish for things to be any other way.
There were plenty of opportunities for mobile phones and lighters to make an appearance and Owen twirled his bass with great aplomb during “Universe”. But the set would peak with the finger-pointing jump of “Who’s Gonna Save Us” and the meaty “Prisoner Of Society”. Basically, you know you’re seeing a helluva show when people are screaming themselves hoarse, limbs are flailing, objects are flying and there seem to be more legs in the air then arms, but that’s precisely what happened. By comparison, the set closers, “Raise The Alarm” and “The End Is Just The Beginning Repeating” seemed rather tame. The new number was a curious choice of closer even though people did sing along during it and in the same way whilst waiting for the encore. Cheeky buggers.
There was not much left to do now but bring this baby home with “White Noise” and “Away From The City”. The finale, “West End Riot” saw Cheney atop Owen’s bass during the tracks timely and chaotic ending. The guitarist had proved he is easily Australia’s answer to The Clash’s Joe Strummer with his clever lyrics, wit and ability to play and do more with a single guitar then some three people can often do.
Cheney and Co. had put on an awesome rock show with the down-to-earth musicians mirroring the crowd and everyone feeding off of each other’s energy as we bounced around and the room filled with limitless possibilities. Registering easily at 10 on the Richter scale and notching up enough energy to smash the instruments just by thinking about it, it was honest, confident and heavy raw power of the highest standard – no need to raise the alarm.
Originally published on 05 September 2011 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/the-living-end-king-cannons-hunting-grounds-enmore-theatre-04-09-2011
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