LIVE REVIEW: Pinback @ Manning Bar, Sydney 22/08/11

written by Chris Familton

Melodie Nelson was in solo mode for her support slot which was a shame as her band are really starting to find their legs. Playing to backing tracks courtesy of her iPod and filling in the gaps with keyboard and guitar she did however draw the audience further into her simple yet warmly enveloping songs. There is a real melodic richness and sense of calm to her music in the same way that Beach House filter their songs through a gauze of drift and drone without straying too far from the essence of the song and traditional structures. My Johnny was the most upbeat and immediately gratifying song with its tale of love/lust going awry set in the world of 60s pop and like all of her songs it received a warm response from the crowd.

This was Pinback’s first visit to Australia, surprising for a moderately successful act now into their thirteenth year and with four albums to their name. ‘Moderately successful’ should be taken in the context of the indie world they inhabit – the same world as Modest Mouse, Built To Spill and others who gained recognition in the post grunge climate of the late 90s. Post rock and math rock were big at the time and Pinback melded indie rock with those more exploratory sounds to create a particular hybrid that was  built on clever lyrics, prog-leaning composition and and heart on sleeve performances.

Taking the stage as a trio, Pinback received a heroes welcome from the sparse yet wholly devotional audience. Both Rob Crow and Zach Smith played the role of frontman, with Crow spending most of the time playing bass and Smith on guitar. With only a few exceptions they proceeded to plough headlong into their back catalogue, pausing momentarily to replace bottles of beer on Crow’s customised mic stands replete with drink holders or quickly tune guitars.

Live they beefed up their sound considerably with a much heavier rhythm section and a sharp and direct vocal delivery, particularly from Crow. For a man who looks like a roadie or socially inept video store clerk he has a voice that can soar into falsetto or step its way gently through detailed vocal melodies. His guitar acted more as a rhythm instrument while Smith’s playing shone as the musical heart of many of their songs. He strummed, slapped and picked his way through the performance with apparent ease, belying the complexity of what he was playing. On Barnes he was superb at replicating the intricacies of the recorded version of the song while reeling off counterpoint vocal harmonies without a trace of strain or exertion.

There were innumerable highlights but some that stood out were Good To Sea with its weird mix of Modest Mouse and They Might Be Giants quirk and perfect pop hooks. Bouquet reminded of a more immediate and engaging Sunny Day Real Estate while Loro from their first album floated on magically and generated a great audience sing-a-long. It all came together on Devil You Know from Autumn of the Seraphs with tumbling and overlapping instruments and vocals that felt much bigger than the sum of three musicians. Mid set Crow shed his guitar and indulged in some bouncy dance moves before taking the mic into the audience for some celebratory singing and interaction. It showed another side to a band that generally plays serious music and further endeared them to the already devoted fans.

Pinback were clearly buzzed to be playing in Australia and long time fans rewarded them warmly. This was a show that reaffirmed how enjoyable live music can be in the right environment where everyone is playing their part and enthusiasm is the order of the night from all sides. With a new album out early next year hopes will be high that a return visit is already being planned.

this review was first published on FasterLouder.

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