Album Review: Liam Gallagher – As You Were

The last time I saw Liam Gallagher he was on stage with Beady Eye (his post-Oasis band) at the last ever Gold Coast Big Day Out. A scorching Queensland sun and a lifeless crowd of a few hundred people completed the scene. Knebworth, it was not.

Not long after, Beady Eye quietly disbanded, to no one’s great sadness. From there Liam went into a long hibernation, punctuated only by a messy divorce, a solitary live performance (singing ‘My Generation’ with Roger Daltrey on a British television show) and the occasional ‘potato’ insult directed towards his brother via Twitter.

While all this was happening, Noel released a number one album, wrote a song with Paul Weller, recorded one with Johnny Marr, and sold out concert arenas. Together their opposing fortunes set a narrative of Noel as the talented, clever one, and Liam as the hooligan has-been.

it was not a solid foundation from which to launch a solo career. Even an Oasis obsessive like me began to doubt whether ‘Our Kid’ had it in him to make it as a solo artist.

I am pleased to say that my doubts have been extinguished by Liam’s debut solo effort. As You Were is a fine record, and the best thing he’s been involved with since Oasis’ Don’t Believe the Truth came out 12 (!!!) years ago. The reward has been commercial success: not only did As You Were top the UK charts, it outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined. For good measure it’s also the highest selling vinyl LP of the last 20 years. As far as comebacks go, it doesn’t get much better.

When I reviewed Beady Eye’s BE, I saved my biggest criticisms for the songwriting and lyrics. I wrote that Liam would benefit from having someone else writing for him. My crystal ball must have been on point that day, for Liam has brought in professional songwriting help on  As You Were.

“I can’t write those fucking big songs”, he told NME earlier this year. “I’m limited. My verses are up there, but I just can’t do that next bit.”

Scrolling through Oasis fan forums, some have criticised the decision to bring in hired help. They’re talking bollocks. Sinatra barely wrote a song in his life.  Most of the few songs Elvis wrote were shit. The Stones wrote one song on their debut LP. Good enough for them, good enough for Liam. Besides, he’s still written six of the songs on the album (with co-writing credits on four more).

The first song released from As You Were was ‘Wall of Glass’. Written by enough people to fill a Toyota Camry (including Greg Kurstin, the Adele hit-maker), it’s slick and punchy with a radio-friendly sheen. The opening song on the album—and one of its best—it is a statement of intent announcing the return of one of the last remaining rock n’ roll stars: “you were sold a one direction / I believe the resurrection’s on”.

Elsewhere, highlights include the reflective, post-divorce ‘Bold’ (“you’re ticking all the dickheads off, you know what I mean?”, says Liam), the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-style acoustic stomp of ‘Greedy Soul’, and the delicate and heartfelt ‘Paper Crown’ which features the best Liam vocals on the album.

There is a noticeable dip in quality on the second side of the record. ‘I Get By’ and ‘You Better Run’ are Beady Eye level plodders, while the pleasant ‘Chinatown’ struggles to be taken seriously with its awkward lyrics (“well the cops are taking over / and everyone’s in yoga” … err, what?).

Fortunately, the run home is saved by the last three songs, the Stones/late-Oasis sounding ‘Come Back to Me’, the dreamy ‘Universal Gleam’ (a bit of a ‘Tender’ by Blur rip-off, but hey – Noel’s been nicking tunes for years), and the most anthemic song on the album, ‘I’ve All I Need’, which should have been released as a single.

There’s another stand-out song buried away in the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition. ‘Doesn’t Have to be That Way’ sounds like Liam Gallagher fronting Tame Impala, and should definitely have been on the main track list.

All in all, As You Were represents a spectacular career resurrection for Liam Gallagher. While it may not be a perfect album—the second half is too patchy for that—it is undoubtedly (and unexpectedly) a great one. Put it this way: Noel has his work cut out to top it when he releases Who Built the Moon? next month.

Welcome back, Liam.


Best songs:
Wall of Glass, Paper Crown, I’ve All I Need

Concert Review: Midnight Oil

Big Pineapple Complex, Sunshine Coast, October 14, 2017

I was too young to see Midnight Oil the first time around (they broke up in 2002), so when I heard they were playing at the Big Pineapple as part of their Great Circle reunion tourI was keen as a bean to grab a ticket. 

Having said that, as the rain tumbled down all Saturday, watching Netflix and staying dry inside started to become more appealing. Rain and outdoor concerts mix together about as well as Pauline Hanson and Halal Snack Packs, and as I drove up the Bruce Highway I didn’t know whether to expect a ‘raining at Glastonbury’ vibe or more of an Apocalypse Now-style muddy hell.

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Luckily it was the former. I hadn’t seen a concert at the Big Pineapple before, but walking into the venue it was immediately impressive. A huge, outdoor festival-style amphitheatre, with a big stage down the front which the band had had emblazoned with an extract from the UN Declaration of Human Rights:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Not your typical rock concert!

Midnight Oil have invited different support acts to each leg of the tour, and with Jebediah and the Living End the Sunshine Coast crowd had lucked in (Brisbane got just one support act: the Jezebels).

I am not as familiar as I should be with Jebediah, but the Aussie alt-rock icons had the crowd rocking before the Living End came out and made me realise I’ve probably been unfair to them.

I think because they turn up at the opening of a garage door (is it just me or does it seem like they play literally every festival ever?) I’ve become almost immune to their existence. Seeing them in a field with half of the Sunshine Coast head-banging to ‘Prisoner of Society’ was a reminder how good they are live.

It was seriously bloody wet by the time the Oils took the stage. They began with the crunching industrial riffs of ‘Redneck Wonderland’, with frontman Peter Garrett cutting the shapes he’s famous for (fun fact: the Big Pineapple sits in an electorate where 23% of people once voted for One Nation. Redneck wonderland indeed..).

It was absolutely pissing down, and a near slip slowed Garrett’s dancing a little, but he still got right out amongst it in the rain, telling the crowd that “the more it rains the more we’ll stay to play our set” – or go down to the pub to finish it if the electrics fail.

The first half of the set was mostly album cuts and minor hits, with highlights including ‘On the Borderline’, ‘Dreamworld’ (“this one’s for you, the Queensland song!”), and ‘When the Generals Talk’. Garrett sounded note perfect on them all. It could just as easily have been  1997 as 2017.

The band came to the front of the stage for an acoustic set (highlight for me: ‘Short Memory’) before finishing the main set with ‘Read About it’,  ‘Blue Sky Mine’ and ‘Forgotten Years’. Before ‘Blue Sky Mine’ came a little spiel about stopping the Adani coal mine:  “Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand, and say I love my country that much I’m gonna stick my neck out for it.”

Garrett’s political career might be over, but Midnight Oil are still very much activists. As well as Adani, there was talk of the Great Barrier Reef, the Traveston Crossing Dam (the construction of which Garrett blocked as Federal Environment Minister), anti-Abbott and Hanson ad-libbing, and at one point, a giant ‘Yes’ for Marriage Equality logo on the big screens.

(Side note: I saw Macklemore play ‘Same Love’ at the NRL Grand Final in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, and no one booed. Or if they did, it was drowned out by cheers. Same deal with the ‘Yes’ logos at Midnight Oil. It you can promote marriage equality at a Rugby League match or in a field outside Nambour without being howled down, then the argument’s already been won. Sorry Tony).

After ‘Forgotten Years’, droves of people had started to make a dash to the car park (always amazes me how many clueless people leave before encores – come on people, they aren’t going to reform and it play ‘Beds are Burning’!). I hope they turned around when the band returned to play an encore with a trio of their biggest hits: ‘King of the Mountain’, ‘Beds are Burning’,  and ‘Power and the Passion’.

During ‘Power and the Passion’, Hirst launched into his trademark drum solo, thumping a rusty corrugated iron water tank that the band have been dragging around on tour.

Corrugated iron, torrential spring rain, the Big Pineapple, the Oils… you couldn’t get more Aussie if you tried!

 

Setlist

Redneck Wonderland
Lucky Country
Sleep
Back on the Borderline
Safety Chain Blues
Dreamworld
Truganini
No Time for Games
My Country
When the Generals Talk
Short Memory
US Forces
Kosciusko
Only the Strong
Read About It
The Dead Heart
Blue Sky Mine
Forgotten Years
King of the Mountain
Beds Are Burning
Power and the Passion

10 of the Best – Paul McCartney


I try not to think about the damage concert tickets have inflicted on my bank account over the years. I prefer reminding myself that by spending the equivalent of a small African nation’s GDP on tickets I’ve been able to tick off most of my concert bucket list. But one name–the name at the top of the list–has eluded me: Paul McCartney.

The reason he is top of the list is because he was the best member (yeah, you heard me right!) of the best band ever.

His music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. The first album I ever owned was Off the Ground, which I got on cassette for my seventh birthday. Growing up, Dad would often play not just Beatles albums, but also Wings Greatest and Venus and Mars. I remember being about ten years old when some school mates came over and I put ‘Penny Lane’ on my Sanyo stereo and declared it my favourite song. They thought it was total shite, but I’m so glad to have grown up with good music in the house (although mum we could have done without the relentless Celine Dion albums at dinner time).

It’s 24 years since I got that Off the Ground  tape, which is also as long as it’s been since McCartney last toured Australia. He was meant to in 2002,  but cancelled after the Bali bombings. Since then… nothing. World tours came and went, Australia never on the itinerary. As the years passed I began to accept it would never happen and I’d have to be satisfied with seeing Ringo Starr a few years ago.

And then came the announcement last month that Paul’s One on One tour will be coming to Australia, stopping in Brisbane on December 9. I’ve got my ticket!

In anticipation, here at my top ten McCartney songs (Beatles, Wings and solo) in chronological order. The only rule is Paul either had to have written either all or most of the song.

We Can Work it Out (The Beatles, non-album single, 1965)

It’s cheating a bit including this one (it’s a Paul song but John helped finish it), but I couldn’t leave it off because it’s a favourite – one of those perfect, timelessly enjoyable Beatles pop songs. Even your Beatles-loathing nan probably likes it. A folksy, acoustic song clocking in at just over two minutes long, like many good pop songs it is deceptively simple. There’s a waltzy bit at the end, while the optimistic title belies the exasperation of the words (especially Lennon’s: “Life is very short, and there’s no time…”).

Hello Goodbye (The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)

Released as a single with Lennon’s ‘I am the Walrus’ as the B-Side, ‘Hello Goodbye’ couldn’t have been more different (incidentally ‘I am the Walrus’ is probably my favourite Lennon-penned Beatles song). Devoid of the psychedelic sounds that characterised the Beatles during the recording of Magical Mystery Tour, the contagious melody and nursery-rhyme lyrics (“you say yes / I say no / you say stop / I say go go go”) instead add up to pure fun. Best enjoyed via the accompanying promo video with the band decked out in their Sergeant Pepper outfits.

Hey Jude (The Beatles, non-album single, 1968)

Paul wrote ‘Hey Jude’ for John’s son Jules (“… [Jude] sounded a bit better”) while Lennon and first wife Cynthia were going through a divorce.  It would spend nine weeks at the top of the US charts, and also held the record for longest-run time for a number one UK single until Meat Loaf came along to do anything for love. The first half with Paul and piano is of course gorgeous, but it’s that four minute fade-out coda full of “na-na-na-nas” and gravelly Paul vocals that make it the best singalong song ever.

Back in the USSR (The Beatles, The Beatles, 1968)

Opening with the sound of a Vickers Viscount jet taking off from Heathrow, on ‘Back in the USSR’ Paul borrowed the title from Chuck Berry’s ‘Back in the USA’ and parodied lyrics from the Beach Boys—if they’d grown up on the other side of the Iron Curtain (“those Ukraine Girls really knock me out”). The opening track on The Beatles, the passing years have added a layer of hipster Communist chic that has only added to its appeal.

Helter Skelter (The Beatles, The Beatles, 1968)

Written to try to out-do the Who’s ‘I Can See for Miles’ (which Pete Townshend had proclaimed the Who’s “loudest, rawest, dirtiest song”), Paul suceeded with a song so brutal that after one take Ringo, his fingers covered in blisters, threw his drumsticks across the studio. Heavy Metal a decade before the genre was a thing, ‘Helter Skelter’ received unwanted infamy from Charles Manson but has since been reclaimed by McCartney as a staple of his concerts.

Get Back (The Beatles, Let it Be, 1970)

Originally conceived to satirise late-sixties anti-immigrant sentiment, ‘Get Back’ morphed into a song referencing ‘California Grass’ and gender-bending over bluesy Lennon guitar. A Beatles song for Stones fans, ‘Get Back’ was typical of Let it Be’s more rock and blues sounds. The last song on the last album the Beatles ever released (but not the last they recorded), it finishes with audio of John at the infamous 1969 rooftop concert:  “I would like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.” 

Jet (Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run, 1973)

I think it’s fair to say that Paul McCartney and Wings didn’t always get things right (there is NO excuse good enough to explain the existence of this). They were at their best though playing the type of rock music to fill football stadiums. ‘Jet’, from 1973’s Band on the Run, fits into that category. At different times Paul has said it was written about either a black Labrador or pony that he owned. In the context of the lyrics, neither explanation makes any sense. All I know is that it is scientifically impossible to listen to this song without shouting out the ‘JET!’ parts.

Band on the Run (Paul McCartney & Wings, Band on the Run, 1973)

What’s with Paul and stitching multiple songs together? (e.g. Side Two of Abbey Road).  The title track from Wings’ best album is really a medley of three songs linked by lyrics about imprisonment, freedom and escape. The first part, a despondent, Beatlesy-sounding ballad, precedes a funky mid-section before a finale section laced with triumphant lyrics over acoustic guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Eagles record. A three-part epic, ‘Band on the Run’ has grown in stature to become the third most-played song at McCartney concerts.

Venus and Mars / Rockshow (Paul McCartney & Wings, Venus and Mars, 1975)

The third Wings entry on this list. How many I can get away with before I turn into Alan Partridge? ‘Venus and Mars/Rockshow’ is another conjoined McCartney song (what’s with him and shoe-horning multiple songs into one?!). Written from the perspective of being in the audience at a concert (“sitting in the stand of a sports arena / waiting for the show to begin”), the ‘Venus and Mars’ part is really just a short folk warm-up act for the ‘Rockshow’ headliner which is a stadium rock song. It’s a bit dad rock (probably a popular song amongst the tucked in polo shirt community) but it’s also fantastic. Iconic album cover, too.

Calico Skies (Paul McCartney, Flaming Pie, 1997)

Paul authored many of the Beatles’ best acoustic songs (‘Yesterday’, ‘Blackbird’), but one of his best is ‘Calico Skies’ from 1997’s under-rated solo album, Flaming Pie. The accompanying video, which opens with Paul by himself playing guitar next to a campfire before cutting to  him in the studio sitting with late wife Linda, gets me every single time (“I will hold you for as long as you like / I’ll hold you for the rest of my life”).

Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

Brisbane Entertainment Centre, February 14 & 16, 2017

My first Bruce Springsteen concert was on March 25, 2003, five days after the start of the Iraq War. They were nervous times, and we were all frisked by security as we walked into the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, an outdated venue even back then. 

I was in my final year of high school, where being a Bruce fan had hardly put me at the centre of coolness. My mates either didn’t know who he was or thought he was a bit crap and something your dad might listen to.

Actually my dad did listen to Bruce Springsteen, which is how I became a fan in the first place. The Boss soundtracked many evenings in our home (The Ghost of Tom Joad, The Rising and Greatest Hits  albums especially), and it was with mum and dad that I went to the show.

Bruce Springsteen

The concert was unbelievable, with a contagious energy that tore through the crowd like a bushfire. Hearing songs like ‘Born to Run’, ‘Jungleland’ and ‘Badlands’ played live with the passion and fervor of Bruce and the E-Street Band had me completely hooked. Straight away I went from casual fan to fanatic.

February 14

14 years later, I find myself back at the Entertainment Centre, twice in one week for my fourth and fifth Springsteen concerts (I’ve previously written on this blog about the 2013 and 2014 concerts) as part of his Summer 2017 tour across Australia and New Zealand.

I’m older, Bruce is older and the E-Street Band are older, but some things haven’t changed. I still have to explain to people who the hell ‘The Boss’ is, although now they’re office colleagues instead of  schoolmates.

The first shows falls on Valentine’s Day, and begins with Roy Bittan tinkling away on the ivories, signalling the opening strains of ‘New York Serenade’ from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. Backed by a string section, it’s a gorgeous reminder of the lashings of blues and jazz that sometimes appeared on early Springsteen songs, although I think a song like that works better later in the set in lieu of a more energetic opener.

Next comes ‘Lucky Town’ from the album of the same name, before a run of rarities: ‘Janey Don’t Lose Heart’, ‘Rendevouz’, ‘Be True’ and, because it’s Valentine’s Day, ‘Back In Your Arms’. The latter (from 1998’s Tracks compilation of B-Sides and unreleased songs) stretches out for 15 minutes and forms the backdrop to a Bruce Springsteen Valentine’s Day monologue. “Get your flowers on”, he says. “Don’t forget the flowers! One shitty rose is all it takes!”.

Four non-album tracks in a row blunts the momentum just a little, but not for long as ‘Better Days’ sets the course for a journey through the Bruce Springsteen archives, featuring the likes of ‘Hungry Heart’, with Bruce crowd-surfing over the pit, the shotgun wedding and recession of ‘The River’, and ‘Because the Night’, during which Nils Lofgren lays down a blistering solo while spinning around in circles on the spot.

Once Nils stops spinning, the main set comes to a close with ‘Badlands’ (still in my opinion the best live Springsteen song. The album version is good but it goes up to 11 when they play it live), ‘The Rising’ and the ultimate E-Street party jam, ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’.

The encore begins with another Valentine’s Day special. ‘Secret Garden’ with its lush, orchestral synths is played live by the band for only the sixth time. With the crowd bathed in pink lights, it’s a lovely way to start the encore.

‘Dancing in the Dark’ is up next (festuring audience members invited up on stage to dance with the band, a staple of Springsteen concerts and a nice throwback to the song’s video clip), before signature anthem ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’. The latter features a big screen montage of fallen E-Streeters Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici and a saxophone solo by Clarence’s nephew Jake who himself has become a fan favourite after first stepping in for his uncle five years ago.

By now, every one is on their feet (“get off your asses!”) in time for a stomping cover of the Isley Brother’s ‘Shout’ and ‘Bobby Jean’ from Born in the USA to finish the night and release the Bruce faithful into the night.

February 16

Some artists criss-cross the globe and play the exact same songs night after night after night. Not Bruce Springsteen. The setlist changes every night (and during the night too!) sometimes catching the band off guard as they suddenly have to play a song for the first time in 30 years. With sign requests, deep album cuts and live covers, any concert you could hear any one of the 300 plus songs he’s recorded.

He doesn’t disappoint at the second Brisbane show, playing 15 different songs (!!!) that we hadn’t heard on Tuesday night, adding up to 41 unique songs over two nights from 14 different albums.

After starting with ‘New York Serenade’ and ‘Working on a Dream’, it isn’t long before something amazing happens.

Bruce spots a sign in the audience held up by a teenage fan. “Missed school”, it reads, “in the shit now, can I play ‘Growin’ Up’ with you?”.

“You know this song? You know it on guitar? Come on up!”, Bruce says, before sharing vocals and guitar duties with the youngster. He does know the song. Perfectly, actually. I told you you never know what you’re going to hear at a Springsteen concert.

(I saw something similar a few years ago at a Neil Finn concert. He’d held his microphone out to the crowd and picked up the voice of a bloke who happened to be a trained opera singer. Next minute this random bloke is up on stage delivering a mind-blowing version of ‘Fall at your Feet’ while Neil plays along on piano. It was stunning.)

The next day I read on Brisbane Times that this kid had been on stage with Bruce before, so maybe it wasn’t as random as it seemed. Credit to my (notoriously cynical) father for picking up at the concert that it was probably planned.

Even if it was completely scripted, it was bloody brilliant, and revved the crowd up for a set that added songs like ‘Fire’, ‘I’m on Fire’ and ‘No Surrender’ that we didn’t hear on Tuesday.

The encore is a little different too, this time starting with the epic ‘Jungleland’ and finishing with ‘Thunder Road’, the perfect somg to end two nights of Springsteen in Brisbane.

Bruce Springsteen was 25 when he wrote ‘Born to Run’. He’s 67 now, but somehow defies time; somehow seems to get better with age. But it’s most just about him, it’s Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, and they’re all still at the top of their game. You won’t find a better live band on earth.

Setlists

February 14

New York City Serenade
Lucky Town
Janey Don’t You Lose Heart
Rendezvous
Be True
Back in Your Arms
Better Days
The Ties That Bind
Out in the Street
Hungry Heart
Wrecking Ball
Leap of Faith
The River
Youngstown
Candy’s Room
She’s the One
Because the Night
The Rising
Badlands
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Secret Garden
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
Bobby Jean

February 16

New York City Serenade
Working on a Dream
Roll of the Dice
Jole Blon (Harry Choates cover)
Long Time Comin’
Growin’ Up
Out in the Street
No Surrender
Hungry Heart
Mary’s Place
Fire
Follow That Dream (Elvis Presley cover)
The River
American Skin (41 Shots)
The Promised Land
Downbound Train
I’m on Fire
Because the Night
She’s the One
Badlands
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Jungleland
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
Thunder Road

Concert Review: Guns N’ Roses

QSAC Stadium, February 7, 2017

After Guns N’ Roses finally went nuclear in the 90s (the entire band were either fired or quit – except for Axl Rose), Elvis headlining Glastonbury seemed more realistic than the Gunners ever getting back together. 

But if ever there was a year for the impossible to become reality it was 2016 – yes, the year of Trump and Brexit was also the year that the GN’R nightrain hit the tracks again.

And so, last Tuesday night at Brisbane’s QSAC Stadium I found myself watching Axl, Slash and Duff sharing a stage in this city for the first time ever (“Guns N’ Roses” had visited Brisbane before, but the quotation marks are there for a reason; they were really Axl Rose solo shows under the GN’R name).

OK so it isn’t the complete classic lineup – there are some notable MIAs meaning it’s more of a blend of eras: The ‘classic’ trio of Axl/Slash/Duff joined by Dizzy Reed (keyboards) of Use Your Illusion vintage, Richard Fortus (guitar) and Frank Ferrer (drums) from the Chinese Democracy years, and new member, Melissa Reese (keys, synths, backing vocals).

Old school GN’R alumni Izzy Stradlin (guitar) and Stephen Adler / Matt Sorum (drums) are absent, but hey, considering Axl once said “not in this lifetime” about a reunion (incidentally, this is called the Not in this Lifetime tour), we’ll take it.

gunsnrosesbrisbane

But anyway, you haven’t come here for a Guns N’ Roses history lesson, have you, so I’ll cut to the chase and answer the question: is 2017-Guns any good?

Yes. Very good.

Sure, Axl looks less like the sinewy, whippety rocker of yesteryear, and more like a melted candle (with oddly white teeth), but he can still scream like a banshee. There might be the odd high note missing, but he sounds better than he has for a long time.

His vocals, together with the Slash-Fortus twin guitar attack and the tight rhythm section come together for a massive sound that fills the cavernous QSAC.

Some concerts have one or two ‘holy shit’ moments where the audience collectively loses it and a sea of mobile phones emerge. This was full of those moments.

The opening strains of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. Axl bathed in a sea of light tinkering away at the ivories on ‘November Rain’. A NYE’s display worth of fireworks during a climatic ‘Paradise City’. Slash’s guitar solo segueing into that iconic ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ riff. It’s basically a live greatest hits show set to fireworks.

The set is dominated by Appetite songs, glued together by half a dozen UYI tracks, two songs each from GN’R Lies and The Spaghetti Incident (Duff taking vocals for ‘New Rose’), a trio of covers and oddly, three songs from Chinese Democracy. 

I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when Axl told Duff and Slash they’d be playing Chinese Democracy songs (for those not in the know – these were recorded years after Slash and Duff had left in bitter circumstances). It probably went something like this:

Axl: oh yeah, we’re playing Chinese Democracy songs on the tour.

Duff: err no.

Slash: no.

Axl: we are or this tour’s over.

Somehow though, ‘Chinese Democracy’, ‘Better’ and ‘This I Love’ make it onto the set list. They’re decent songs from an album better than it’s given credit for, but they’re also songs no one wants to hear and for most they’re no more than the chance to grab a drink.

Despite this olive branch from Slash and Duff, I am not sure if Axl and Slash have really patched things up. They’ve said in interviews that they have, but theres no chemistry between the two. During Axl’s band intros, his tone is decidedly flat when he introduces ‘… Slash’.

Who knows what’s going on behind closed doors. Maybe everything is fine. Maybe it isn’t and they’re just tolerating each other for the money?

Honestly though, 2017-Guns N’ Roses are so good it doesn’t even matter. After two decades of acrimony and controversy, the Not in this Lifetime tour finally lets the Gunners’ music do the talking again.

Welcome back fellas.

Setlist

It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Better
Estranged
Live and Let Die (Wings Cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory intro (Johnny Thunders cover)
New Rose (The Damned Cover)
This I Love
Civil War (with ‘Voodoo Child’ outro)
Coma
Guitar Solo (Slash)
Speak Softly Love (Theme From The Godfather, Nino Rota Cover)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Used to Love Her
Out Ta Get Me
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd cover)
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Concert Review: DMA’S

Corner Hotel, Melbourne, June 11, 2016

I’ve wanted to see Sydney band DMA’S ever since I first heard ‘Delete’ back in 2014. I nearly saw them at St Kilda Festival last year but decided to go home and have a nap instead (that sentence makes me sound 70 but in my defence I was bloody tired from Laneway Festival the day before). 

While I enjoyed those forty winks it turned out to be a mistake because it’s only 18 months later that I’m finally seeing DMA’S as they tour their debut album, Hills End.

If you haven’t heard the album, all I need to say to describe it is that I was listening to it at my parent’s house the other day when mum asked me “is that Oasis?”. Granted, mum is a Keith Urban enthusiast, but her comparison is spot-on.

They’ve also been compared to the Stone Roses and noise-rock groups like Sonic Youth, but whatever they sound like, it’s obviously working for them, because they’ve managed to sell out the Melbourne’s Corner Hotel three nights running.

By the time I arrived at the Corner Hotel, I had already missed the support acts (Ray Borner and Green Buzzard) in some lame attempt to conserve energy for an early flight to the Gold Coast the next morning.

(Side-note: I’m noticing a new trend in my life of choosing naps over doing stuff. Is this what being in your thirties is like?)

Therefore, my night begins with DMA’S taking the stage – the usual three-piece having expanded to six for their live shows and crowding out the tiny Corner Hotel stage.

They start with ‘Timeless’, which also happens to be the opening track from Hills End. The album dominates the set list, and judging by the singing going on around me, I’m not the only one who has had it on heavy rotation in recent months.

Singles ‘Too Soon’, ‘Lay Down’ and of course ‘Delete’ are all met with a raucous reception, and at times even evoke a spot of crowd surfing. Also lapped up are fan-favourites  ‘Laced’ and ‘Feels Like 37’ from their earlier EP.

There isn’t a lot of talking between songs (“cheers” is about it), but there is relentless energy and a Manchester ‘wall of sound’ balanced out by by Tommy O’Dell’s sweet vocals.

Their swirling guitars and anthemic pop rock is delicious, but I have to say this – what’s going on with the clothes?!

The Kappa jackets and cigarettes tucked into lad caps make them look like a bunch of youths about to rob your nan in the shadows of an East London council estate.

It’s an oddity more than anything – they can wear what they like and it doesn’t take anything away from their shows – but it’s an interesting curousity and makes me think how strange it would be if an English band played a show in Australia wearing blue singlets, stubbies and thongs.

The set finishes with an extended instrumental outro tacked onto ‘Play it Out’. Finishing with one of their more widely known songs might have been more obvious, but like the rest of the set this works perfectly. It’s vaguely reminiscent of how the Stone Roses always finish with ‘I am the Resurrection’.

I left the Corner Hotel with both a smile on my face and disappointment on my mind – disappointment that I would be on holidays and not able to come back and see them play the next two nights as well.

Continuing the Britpop theme, let me finish this review by saying this to you, DMA’S: Cheers lads.

Setlist

Timeless
Too Soon
Feels Like 37
Straight Dimensions
In the Moment
Laced
Melbourne
Lay Down
So We Know
Delete
Your Low
The Switch
Play it Out

Concert Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, March 29, 2016

Walking towards Margaret Court Arena on my way to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on Tuesday night, I was SHOCKED to see so many young kids and families making their way in.

Who knew that the ex-Oasis man had such a big following amongst school kids?! Here I was thinking kids are all into Beiber and One Direction when in actual fact they’re in the schoolyard swapping bootlegs from Cardiff 1996 and debating who was the better drummer out of Alan White and Zak Starkey.

Then I realised they weren’t going to see Noel Gallagher at all; they were all walking next door to Hisense Arena for Planetshakers Awakening 2016, an Evangelical Christian movement’s conference for followers to “seek, worship and encounter God”.

noelgallagher1

Quite apt actually, because seeking, worshipping and encountering were exactly what the rest of us were planning as well – not for God though, but for the ‘God-like Genius’ who once claimed that God is an Oasis fan (I’m not religious myself but it’s pretty obvious to me that if he was real God would dig Heathen Chemistry).

Noel is 48 years old now, and the days of Oasis playing to packed football stadiums with bottles of piss being flung through the air are long gone. Instead, Noel takes to the stage at a very civilised 8:30 and without a word launches into ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, delighting a crowd adorned with Man City shirts, Pretty Green parkas and Adidas trainers.

It’s a testament to Noel’s solo career that his High Flying Birds songs are so well received. But while Chasing Yesterday is a bolder and better album than NGHFB, the songs from the latter are more anthemic and translate better live; especially ‘If I Had a Gun’ and the before-mentioned ‘Everybody’s On the Run’.

Out of the Chasing Yesterday songs, ‘Lock All the Doors’ and ‘The Riverman’ perfectly bookend his career. LATD was written in 1992 and sounds like it’s just been cracked open from a Definitely Maybe-era time capsule. ‘The Riverman’ on the other hand is a spaced-out jazzy number with a saxophone solo on it. Perfect antidote to the Oasis-haters who claim that everything Noel writes sounds the same.

Of course there are plenty of Oasis songs too – ten in fact, including ‘Wondewall’ (done in the style of Ryan Adams), ‘Champagne Supernova’ and a rousing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ that evokes a mass-singalong straight from the football terraces.

More interesting for the hardcore Oasis fans are the selection of B-Sides and album cuts rarely played in Australia before, including ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman’.  

This is my sixth time seeing Noel (twice with Oasis, once solo with Gem Archer, and now three times with NGHFB) and he sounds as good as the first time I saw him over a decade ago.

There’s some A-grade Gallagher banter thrown in, too. He’s particularly baffled – as I think we all are -by a self-proclaimed “magician” in the audience who somehow manage to bring a BUBBLE MACHINE into the gig. How the hell did he get that past security?.

“You’re a magician? Why don’t you make the fucking bubbles disappear then?”, he says. “Did you pay to get in? Or did you magic yourself through the fucking door. If you bought a ticket you’re a shit magician.”

It’s hard to find fault with your favourite artist, but if I had to be critical I’d say the setlist was too safe. Noel is infamous for sticking to playing the same set of songs, and I think the time has come to finally retire ‘Half the World Away’ and ‘Talk Tonight’ – he’s played both the last 4 times I’ve seen him and it would be nice to hear something from say Be Here Now or Standing on the Shoulder of Giants for a change.

That minor criticism aside, Noel Gallagher at Margaret Court Arena again answered the question about when will Oasis reform. The answer: it doesn’t matter. This is just as good.

Setlist

Everybody’s On the Run
Lock All the Doors
In the Heat of the Moment
Riverman
Talk Tonight
The Death of You and Me
Champagne Supernova
The Dying of the Light
Sad Song
D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman
You Know We Can’t Go Back
Half the World Away
If I had a Gun
The Mexican
Listen Up
Digsy’s Dinner
The Masterplan
Wonderwall
AKA.. What a Life!
Don’t Look Back in Anger