written by Chris Familton
The Drones were winding up a national tour to promote the release of their first DVD A Thousand Mistakes. That document is an exhaustive look at the live evolution of the band from raw, unbridled punk rock through to their current position as one of the country’s best live acts and in Gareth Liddiard, one of our finest contemporary songwriters.
Adalita accompanied the band on tour and with some impressive help from J.P Shilo on guitar and violin she played a fascinating and hypnotic set of songs from her recent solo release. For many expecting a bunch of tracks similar to The Repairer and Hot Air there were some challenges and surprises in the way she stretched songs out with Velvet Underground-like drones and repetitive loops. Once you acknowledged that this was the way the songs would be presented it became music to succumb to, immerse oneself in. There were a few restless shouts and boos from the arriving crowd but generally the audience appreciated and responded to Adalita’s performance, even though she made little effort to build up a rapport with them outside of her music.
The Drones arrived on stage to the sound of Who Let The Dogs Out and a white haired aging stoner hippie dancing a mad jig and doing some upside down yoga moves. Right away it was clear the Victorians were in the mood to enjoy the last night of the tour and proceeded to play a devastating set that threw up endless highlights.
A longer haired Liddiard seemed as hell bent as usual on physically throwing himself into the songs with full bodied fits and shudders as he wrestled his red Fender Jaguar with surly intent. As much as Liddiard was the primal, manic frontman, the rest of the band exhibited a balanced restraint with bassist Fiona Kitchin often playing with her back to the audience and little more than a gentle sway and tapping bare foot to signal her involvement in the music. She was an absolute rock, anchoring the songs with a composed reliability that is so important to why The Drones are so brilliant live. Drummer Mike Noga was studious and calm amid the tumble and flurry of his drumming while guitarist Dan Luscombe exuded a mild yet deserved arrogance in his demeanor and playing, such is the ease of his understated yet visceral guitar style. Accompanying the band on a number of songs was keyboardist Steve Hesketh who played on their early records and provided another layer and texture to their live sound.
The album Havilah was heavily featured in their set with The Drifting Housewife, Cold and Sober, Lucky in Odd Numbers and the mammoth belligerent stomp of The Minotaur which was the first song that received the biggest response from the crowd. It was blistering in its intensity, bludgeoning ears with Liddiard barking out the closing lines “Veni Vidi Vici”. Locust had a Rolling Stones swagger about it with those magic, ringing closing lines “I would be standing in the shade of a wedding cake hotel doorway, Watching sister with her liquor in a jar, Talk to older boys in cars”. Though there were a number of slower songs played they still ratcheted up the tempo and ragged, thrashing Drones sound on I Don’t Ever Want To Change and the woozy, drunken glory of Jezebel.
Liddiard’s between song banter has become almost incoherent in a Mark E. Smith way which added to the humour and disheveled rawness of The Drones – in the best possible way. He regaled us with comments on everything from Qantas’ Alan Joyce – “can we arrange to have him killed” to his own butt crack and a lame Michael Jackson joke.
As an encore the audience were treated to a stellar rendition of the epic convict ballad Sixteen Straws performed by just Liddiard and a harmonica wielding Noga. The song is close to becoming their iconic, signature piece – bizarre for a song built on dense lyrical imagery with long relentless verses, and no chorus. It was absolutely moving and held the Metro spellbound for its ten minute duration before the rest of the band returned to the stage with Adalita and J.P Shilo to play a cover of Dylan’s Oh Sister that felt celebratory and full of life and love, the perfect way to finish a night of superlative passionate rock n roll of the highest order.
this review was first published on FasterLouder