A fair amount of trepidation accompanies a gig like this, such is the reputation of mainman Anton Newcombe. Reports of their Gaelic Theatre show a few years ago were either frothing about Newcombe’s shambolic antics or deriding it for the lack of focus on the music. Either way it would have made for a memorable gig and it definitely didn’t deter the fans who packed out the Metro on a Sunday night.
Up first were Melbourne’s Demon Parade who are accompanying BJM around Australia. They seem an obvious choice with the way they work rockist drones with their chiming guitars and lazy vocals. There was also a touch of Liam Gallagher and Bobby Gillespie in the way singer Michael Badger shaped his words. The crowd responded enthusiastically for a band playing Sydney for the first time. The way they drove the songs with some sharp dynamic changes and strong energy marks them out as a band to watch.
With venue full and punters expectant the main act sloped onstage with minimal fuss and many would have been struck by the size of the band – 8 members plus a couple of guest vocalists in the shape of ex member Matt Tow (Lovetones, Drop City) and Aimee Nash from The Black Ryder. In FasterLouder’s latest interview with Newcombe he states that he thinks their are too many people in the current touring band and that he just goes with the flow and that is definitely the impression he gave. As the gig went on there seemed more and more indecision between the band about what to play and Newcombe didn’t seem particularly interested in taking on the bandleader role.
From the outset Newcombe was positioned side of stage and facing his bandmates rather than the audience. This meant that your view was constantly drawn to the Bez of the band, Joel Gion, who seems to have a permanent role playing tambourine and maracas and shuffling around looking bored – or was that an air of cool? The other member who has returned to the fold is Matt Hollywood and it was his performance, especially when he stepped up to the mic that provided some of the many highlights.
Little verbal interaction with the audience was made but the hypnotic and trance-like grooves were more than strong enough to draw the crowd into the music. Songs like Wisdom were typical of the BJM approach of getting into a groove and just rolling with it while guitar melodies peel off and slacker vocals intoned wasted words over the top. Vocally Newcombe’s vocals seemed a tad off the mark and often sounded strangely like Robert Smith, deeper with an English tinge.
The set seemed to be one of greatest hits and there was little, if anything from the recently released Who Killed Sgt. Pepper album which was a shame. To hear tracks like Let’s Go Fucking Mental and Feel It would have been a treat. Instead we got the classics like Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth and Who? which seemed to suit the fans just fine.
Returning for a one song encore they ended on the same circling, droning riffage they had delivered all night and by the crowd response they had clearly made up for past misdemeanors. Though Newcombe the mad genius seemed on his best behaviour and rather subdued, the emotive surge at the core of BJM’s music was definitely on show, without distraction and with an impressive cohesion.