Black Sabbath, Qudos Bank Arena, Apr 23rd 2016

Deafening chimes with huge sporadic percussion bellowed throughout a packed Qudos Bank Arena. Everyone was caught off guard with an eight-minute premature stage presence, a fittingly uneasy prelude for what was to come from Black Sabbath.

One minute you’d be comparing Ozzy Osbourne to a drunk yet endearingly harmless uncle and the next his demonic eyes and hellraiser persona would break on through. It was tantalising but it was confusing. In the midst of Osbourne played an absolutely stellar line-up of musicians. Tony Iommi made industrial riffs at the simple twinkle of his fingers.

Psychedelic imagery set the tone for Fairies Wear Boots as distorted live footage simulated an acid-washed version of Sgt Pepper‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Iommi effortlessly shredded and Osbourne nodded along, a quasi headbang.

Osbourne’s introduction to War Pigs was as incomprehensible in dialect as it was once known as a political anthem — he shuffled along the stage donning a bra that had been gifted to him by one of the many bare-chested women in the mosh pit.

Then redemption reigned from a haphazard start as the second half gained traction and synergy. Climatic points one and two came from Geezer Butler’s solo in N.I.B — it felt like a dark sonar message — and drummer Tommy Clufetos. 15-minute ear-bursting drum solo. This spiritual spectacle had everyone spellbound as he speed-bagged, cha-cha’ed, and bonged on the same drum set. The energy, the technique and the sound were surreal. When it was over the crowd were at their feet hailing this Jesus-like figure.

With the energy at fever-pitch it was the perfect time to roll out the classics and watch the mosh pit get heavier and Osbourne get crazier: making random “cuckoo” noises, throwing a bucket of water over the crowd and cackling devilishly.

Children Of The Grave was savagely powerful and authentic — it was this moment that showed the crowd’s presence, as the arena’s respect for these Gods Of Metal reverberated with the shattering bass.

To no one’s surprise, yet no one’s disappointment, Paranoid made for the encore, and those piercingly electric lines had people’s feet shuffling to the hysteria of such a classic.

The band so humbly thanked the crowd, knowing this will be their last grace on a Sydney stage and Osbourne mumbled “God bless you all,” a paradox within himself, both the Anti and the Christ.

Hayley May Casey.

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Gang of Youths, Enmore Theatre, 9 April.

The minute you heard Dave Le’aupepe’s pipes an instant ethereal grace permeated Enmore Theatre, the limited pockets of air available carried the strong-hold synth in track Restraint & Release while a Tim Burton-inspired stage show went on in the background.

The nostalgia reeked for Gang Of Youths, playing in their homeland of Sydney’s inner west — yes they relayed that with a heavy heart — but they fucking wanted to be there: physically, spiritually and all consumingly.

When anarchist anthem Poison Drum dropped the band became silhouettes, gallivanting around as bold shapes that nullified any notion of there even being a frontman.

Enmore Theatre emulated a time machine as it took its travellers back to circa 1986 as a room full of lighters oscillated along with masterpiece track Knuckles White Dry. The raspiness in Le’aupepe’s voice was tethered between trauma and triumph. Then with no ease of transition Benevolence Riots had Le’aupepe play the role of Spirit Master while his followers clapped in a trance-like corroboree.

However, it was crowd favourite Magnolia with its energetic up-tempo sound that fleetingly snapped revellers out the state of hypnosis in the room as the packed-out venue tried to match the energy of the band: belting it back and jumping around awkwardly to the disjointed ballad.

But yet again the energy took a stark turn into an ethereal place, with the whimsical tones of Kansas slowly and teasingly winding the set down. Of all songs to ‘end’ with Vital Signs made the most sense, with its fitting psychedelic narrative. This gig was a showcase of range, nuance, and conflicting inspirations — and proof that Gang Of Youths won’t be pigeonholed.

Gang of Youths - Peter Sharp

Photo credit: Peter Sharp

Hayley May Casey.

Cold Chisel, Grinspoon – 15 Dec

Grinspoon seemed like a fitting support for the One Night Stand tour, reuniting to pay homage to some of their predecessors in Oz rock. While their energy and Phil Jamieson’s free-spirited nature were contagious, the set’s fast pace seemed to come from Jamieson wanting it to be over as quickly as possible. Before Jamieson sprinted off the stage they did a great rendition of INXS’s Don’t Change, it had a funky, dirty pop vibe, but the lack of kinship between the band distracted the music. At one point Jamieson brought Scott Russo (Unwritten Law) on stage for some awkward vocal backing. It was equal parts entertainment and confusion.

Diehard Cold Chisel fans sported the band’s entire apparel range spanning the four decades of their existence. They were rewarded with a blood-, sweat- and tear-stained performance. Jimmy Barnes’ voice was raspier and deeper than ever, and while he didn’t have the range afforded by his glory days, the pain in his iconic wail made him appear like the ‘white man’s’ James Brown.

Andy Bickers’ sax on Rising Sun bellowed through the arena, every foot tapped and every face beamed. His intermittent presence was always welcomed and his harmonica and sax skills layered the shit out of an already magical music display.

Ian Moss was consistently flawless; his ability to modestly weave through tracks but then dominate solos and lyrics was incredible. Barnes and Moss had playful chemistry, often embracing and sharing the microphone with their sweaty heads pressed against one another. Like two brothers it was all about encouragement and there was no room for ego. Moss’ version of Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind that was his climatic moment, the spotlight beamed off his guitar as the chords glided atop soul-soothing keys. You wanted to bottle the sound.

A clearly well thought out setlist had the crowd on the edge of their seat, but also leveraging on Barnes’ need for a sporadic breather. The odd new track made the crowd idle, casually sipping their drinks in stark contrast to the classics; except for track Lost in which Barnes’ current state of being really shone through. It was beautiful to see his evolution as an artist just within that track alone.

But of course it was the classics that the Chisel fans wanted, and they’ve been around too long to know that self-indulgence and delusions of grandeur do not keep fans for 40 years, so they rolled them out. InBow River, every lyric from Barnes’ mouth was like a grenade, if he had dropped the mic right then and there, the crowd would have been satisfied. It was clear he was digging deep and the respect levels were at fever pitch.

Cold Chisel solidly cemented their name in Australian culture for their allegiance to representing the battler with a pervasive message of hope and never giving up. After leaving the One Night Stand tour there wasn’t enough juice in the tank to get home — so as has always been the lesson: you go hard, or go home!

Jimmy and Mossy

Photo credit: Rohan Anderson.

Naughty By Nature, DJ Peter Gunz , MC Losty -13 Nov

A hip hop display of epic proportions rocked the Metro last night. A sea of Nike TNs packed in. MC Losty had some tight rhymes and kicked off the energy with a vitriolic battle.DJ Peter Gunz had a penchant for the old-school and confidently dropped beats with seamless precision, which had the whole venue bouncing. It was an opportunistic moment for some talented local performers, plus it warmed up the excited crowd in classic block party style — booties to the floor and drinks went down with them.

As Naughty By Nature took the stage, the bass transformed the ground into a magic carpet, raising the crowd’s energy and excitement.

Treach was mesmerising, his presence and flow seemingly crucial to keeping the trio around for the best part of 25 years. He came out with a boomerang in hand and over the course of the set referenced Australia’s Indigenous history with the intent of reconciliation and unity; look to your left and right, “Hi relative,” — the message was widely felt.

The trio played some old-school classics between their own back catalogue, with DJ Kay Gee emanating confidence while waxing nostalgia on the decks. A tribute to Tupac then Biggie reinforced that feeling of love and unity, then Jamboree carried on that upbeat ecstasy.

As this four-hour journey’s end drew closer, shots of Hennessy and stories of smoking weed and dubious law enforcement were shared with the audience. A full stage of fans helped Hip Hop Hooray finish an epic night of celebrating hip hop as more than a genre of music, but instead an inclusive movement.NBN

Fleetwood Mac – 22 October

Fleetwood Mac fans’ expectations last night were as high as Stevie Nicks must have been when developing her dance moves. It took the band three songs and a bit of crowd interaction to ‘warm-up’. Lindsey Buckingham was the adhesive of the band; in trackDreams when Nicks was out of tune or lacking energy, he seemed to compensate with his suave skill on the guitar. This deflection played out the entire set, showing the very heart of Fleetwood Mac; while in its entirety they lacked synchronicity, too much focus on individuals made it feel like a geriatric Woodstock. It was a paradox of a performance.

The percussion in Tusk rumbled seats; it was Fleetwood’s time to shine on drums, as stampede stomps from the stalls echoed in time to the industrial track. It was a jamboree of percussive bliss. In this rare moment the sound was in-sync. Christine McVie emanated jolly noises from the accordion: Fleetwood Mac were back. Crowd Favourite Big Love was remastered by Buckingham and he wailed with conviction; some women geared-up to reef their smalls on stage. The crowd lapped-it-up. Cult-like fans exhibited some truly original expressions of love for ‘The Mac’: two-handed fist pumps and a simulated one-man seated tango.

Solos and duos were the band’s strengths, as they didn’t have the precision to play their ballads with the seamless intensity and timing as in their original form.

A beautifully simplistic version of Landslide brought Nicks’ soul to life as she smashed the high notes, weaving yodels through nostalgia-laced lyrics.

Like looking at a Picasso painting from afar, it worked, but when you really paid attention the finer details — tune, synchronicity and energy — it was a mess. A long hiatus and tag-team exits had clearly taken its toll on Fleetwood Mac.

Photo credit: Rohan Anderson

Photo credit: Rohan Anderson

The Wombats – Hordern Pavilion, Jul 27 2015.

It was evident last night that Splendour In The Grass had got the better of The Wombats and their fans who were still kicking-on from the three-day festival. The Wombats appeared exhausted but played hard amid a backdrop of flickering strobe lights.

At times their sound was awfully disjointed but the three-piece used this energy — or lack thereof — to bring something new to their back catalogue. Jump Into The Fog was unrecognisable as it started, with an intro of fat bass lines and an out-of-time synth keyboard slotted in messily. Frontman Matthew Murphy looked dishevelled and had an air of Robert Smith’s “I don’t give a fuck, I’m a rockstar” attitude. Guitarist Tord Øverland Knudsen swept energetically across the stage alongside the drone camera that recorded the set; a little ambitious to air a live set in the aftermath of Splendour.

The first address to the needy crowd was followed by a massive stuff-up in the track Greek Tragedy,which was sheepishly admitted, laughed off and then repeated four tracks later. Apparently this was a consequence of ‘”live music” and we should be thankful that we “were not at home, listening to the record and scratching our sacks” — nice segue.

The back-end of the set evolved into a much tighter arrangement, with Murphy belting out high notes of conviction as he delivered his famously awkward lyrics of romantic vulnerability. Overall, the set was far from polished with uncomfortable stuff-ups and some experimental sounds that hurt the ear drums, but The Wombats channelled their exhausted energy into an honest and fair set of 17 tracks that a packed Hordern Pavilion lapped up. Finishing on Let’s Dance To Joy Division they jumped into the crowd, fumbled their way back on stage and played an outro that sounded as heavy and anarchic as Killing In The Name Of, an unorthodox set proving you can’t pigeon-hole them and they ain’t conforming to anyone’s expectations — or even their own set list’s.11802051_10153077949321134_1130145959_n

Tim Rogers & The Bamboos; 19 Jun 2015

Tim Rogers & The Bamboos brought a performance packed with surprises. Rogers is an artist known for eccentricities and an abrasive demeanour; he delivered the one true thing you can expect from him, ‘the unexpected’.

The mature crowd grooved along to a funky version of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off with The Bamboos bandleader Lance Ferguson’s saxophone relishing its time to shine. It was a fun contrast seeing an eight-piece Reservoir Dogs-esque band turn cheesy pop music into funk.

Funk turned to folk for percussive track Lime Rickey. It showcased the band’s strengths; the track just seemed to linger on-and-on, like it was performed in slow-motion. Rogers abruptly threw the crowd back into reality, ranting about social media warriors and feeling affinity with “people who don’t tweet”.

Classic track Heavy Heart caught everyone off-guard as this piece of beautiful songwriting was sung with heaving conviction from both Rogers and the crowd. The Bamboos appeared proud to cover the Australian classic.

To up the ante they finished on I Got Burned, and the baby-boomer crowd embraced their sexuality and swayed along to a six-minute version of the ‘baby-making’ sonic pleasure.

Through moments of freak cooees into the stratosphere and instrument checks as if in rehearsal, the unison between Tim Rogers & The Bamboos was easy to see — it was these unpolished moments that made it even more clear that he’s such a genius yet such a larrikin.

Photo credit: Clare Hawley

Photo credit: Clare Hawley

Groovin The Moo, Maitland: 9 May 2015

Maitland’s Groovin The Moo was far from a parade that was to be rained on! Even its staff and law-enforcement seemed to feed off Mother Nature’s blessings in the name of music. Its lead-up was open to chance with the week prior being the wettest the area had seen in years.

Barricades separated the drinkers from those underage, reminiscent of a hobby-farm as steel fencing sank into muddy ground. The underage occasionally peered over, fantasizing about spending $10 on a cup full of watered-down garbage.

Meg Mac’s Grandma’s Hands beamed in clear sound from the stage, its lyrics in an interesting juxtaposition to a sea of young hands in the air.

Back at the more restrictive encasement that was The Moolin Rouge DMA’s inspired a ‘90s ‘geezer renaissance’: tracksuits, bucket hats and Beastie Boys-inspired infection suits appealed to fans ofTrainspotting. Play It Out bellowed across the flat paddock and boomeranged industrial riffs across to the main stage.

There was a noticeable shift in energy as hip hop ensemble One Day got off to a pumping start. A medley-style set was well received as the attention spans of festival-goers rarely seemed to sustain for a full track. Joyride may have looked like a gangster Mr T with his flat-top hair cut and chains but sounded like Pavarotti for Leave Your Windows Open, with an a cappella beginning that captured every soul watching. The man has serious skill. However, it was his version of Scribe’s Not Many that proved the climactic point of this set. The strengths and unity of the members confidently smashed that classic. This wasn’t the last we were to see of them as they came out with Sticky Fingers to do a few verses.

Sticky Fingers defied genres for most of their set, liberating them from musical confinement. A pseudo-reggae sound at times had the young and the old rejoicing. The highlight was Just For You; an extremely sweaty band played hard while lead singer Dylan Frost used his raspy pipes to play through their set-list but had little more to say to the crowd.

That lack of connection with the audience was in stark contrast to what The Preatures dished out. Frontwoman Isabella Manfredi was a woman possessed by her craft and her commitment to entertain. Manfredi displayed an untrammeled sense of purpose.  At times she seemed to speak in tongues, rambling and sounding like a gremlin. A tongue-in-cheek interactive cover of The Angels’ Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again got the crowd so amped, she placed one hand to her ear and encouraged that infamous Australian response (“No way get fucked, fuck off.”)

On leaving the main stage one could hear San Cisco’s Awkward in the distance, as people bottle-necked their way to their next timetable preference: this scribe’s being Carmada.

The Star Wars theme opened for the energetic electronic duo. As it was the eve of Mother’s Day one of their mums came out to the decks to give well wishes to a maxed capacity tent. Bouncing was taken to another level when Charlie XCX made a cameo; hip hop beats glided over a dubstep back drop, AC/DC over Run DMC; some fundamental rules of mixing were broken but you couldn’t argue with tunes that brought a festival to climax. The crowd was commanded to do a modern-day Mexican wave of spirit fingers for their popular track Maybe.  To leave all with a message of “growing up is a trap”, Blink-182’s What’s My Age Again finished the set, abruptly ending with a tapping-out sound and a nice bit of anarchy in EDM.

Musical defiance gained more traction as Peaches opened her set to a modest crowd.  Proving that age does not limit her exhibitionist side, sexual paraphernalia – a giant inflatable condom for Shake Yer Dix– and theatre rocked all notions of a ‘comfort zone’. Boys Wanna Be Her sounded like magic to a newly full tent as revellers waiting for Hot Dub Time Machine wondered what else they’d missed. Two dancers simulated the human centipede on stage. For a set with this much shock factor, it was only natural to have its master get on the decks and send everyone off screaming “DICK, DICK, DICK” while the condom flapped in the wind.

A performance filled with that much innuendo surely would make you want a $17 yiros – basically some hot chips stuffed into some grade-Z ‘meat’ in pita bread. You could find it on the way to Hermitude.Two massive blocks spanned across the two main stages and all the way up to outlying fences; it was like one of those army scenes where soldiers form perfect blocks when brought to halt. Speak Of The Devilwas the set’s highlight, complete with notable scratching skills, but with that many keen people in new darkness its energy was too inconsistent.

Back over at Hot Dub Time Machine it was evident this was no DJ of the Year, but man, his set was fun – ‘90s samples, balloon drops and glitter bombs distracted from disruptive transitions. It was sensory overload.

To finish with Owl Eyes featuring on Flight FacilitiesClair de Lune seemed only fitting. As much as it was perfection, it was a little tiring, this whole “artist feature artist” notion that was prevalent throughout the day. Nonetheless the festival’s energy and the vibe of the whole day negated any repetition. Good job, Maitland!

Photo credit: Josh Groom

Photo credit: Josh Groom

MUSIC IN THE MAC: ROCK RENAISSANCE AND MISSING-OUT-DISEASE (MOD)

I’m still buzzing from Sunday’s show at Mac Tav: School of Rock Macarthur showcased their students in a set dedicated to rock royalty Dave Grohl. Now, I am the least maternal person on this planet but this made me feel proud – I guess like a parent of 50 odd children clad in plaid and Chuck Taylors. But it also brought forth this amazing sense of community: both in terms of Macarthur and in terms of music. Ken – The General Manager- was a passionate dude; coaching the kids from behind the scenes, he seemed highly-invested in his role as rock and roll maestro. Biological parents and grandparents watched on proudly as the stage was shared momentarily by all students. It was cool, a girl drummer played so hard that she lost a drum stick and just played with the one. This gave me hope that there will be a renaissance of rock, not indie rock or any other variation that is watered down – but ROCK AND ROLL! It also made me angry that I am reviewing a concept as such and it wasn’t around when I was a kid and may have missed my calling. Yours Truly, #Ishouldhavebeenarockstarnotajourno

P.s Stay tuned to HMC Music FB page for this weeks gig guide

MUSIC IN THE MAC: RESILIENCE – No Pass Outs!

RESILIENCE…. Yes sometimes that is what it takes because entertainment is generally in the hands of others. Another cancelled event – AnnanROMA in the week that was. But us music lovers, we will prevail! So, I took my little bro as my +1 to Aussie rapper, 360’s, gig at The Metro on Saturday night Read 360’s review here. He went and slept in the car after support act, COIN BANKS’, performance. RESILIENCE means waiting around with an imminent hangover ensuing, not passing out before the main act – but I digress, after all it was ANZAC DAY. There may not have been a lot happening in this fair community of ours last week BUT registrations are now open for Macarthur Music on a Mission’s Battle of The Bands;  Register for Battle of the Bands here. – all proceeds go to The Make a Wish Foundation. Stay tuned to my HMC Music Facebook page for forthcoming gigs. RocknRoll HMC Xxx BOB's