LIVE REVIEW: Herbie Hancock @ Sydney Opera House

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Herbie Hancock
Sydney Opera House, June 10th 2019

Herbie Hancock has been playing jazz onstage for nearly sixty years and even though this was his second show of the day in the Opera House’s Concert Hall, the septuagenarian seemed to have boundless energy as he took the audience through a spellbinding two hours of jazz fusion.

Hancock has always been one to evolve with the times and branch out from traditional be-bop jazz into soul, funk, classical and more. Tonight he was still sounding like he was channeling the future with a lineup of Lionel Loueke (electric guitar), James Genus (electric bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and himself on piano, synth and keytar. At one point he introduced a song as one he wrote in the ‘70s and as the audience cheered he added – “2070, I’m ahead of my time!”.

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The focus of the set was firmly on songs he wrote as technology was changing and electronic music was becoming established and often taking the lead in jazz, funk and soul music. Actual Proof was a real highlight. Hard funk and ridiculously virtuosic soloing from the band, especially Colaiuta on drums. What made the band so impressive was their ability to work as a cohesive, fluid and rhythm-based unit and then pull things back to spotlight individual solos that never outstayed their welcome. These were some of the finest players in the world yet there was very little ego emanating from the stage. Hancock was flashing grins and kicking out his leg from beneath the piano, clearly revelling in the musical interaction with his band. As he introduced them he seemed genuinely and humbly in awe of their talents.

Hancock himself divided his time between his various instruments, pacing himself before going deep on a solo, notes near flying off the keys in a blur of fingers, whether it was light, dancing runs or heavy, slamming chordal accents. He remains a dazzling and inventive player, still taking his music to thrilling and otherworldly places.  For the most part the set was upbeat and constantly in motion. A comparatively quieter moment came with the soulful Come Running To Me featuring Hancock’s synth-manipulated vocal adding yet another element to their sound.

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Late set highlights came in the form of two of his masterpieces and most recognisable compositions in Cantaloupe Island, recorded in 1964, and the closing future funk encore of Chameleon, from his 1974 album Head Hunters. Hancock took centre-stage with his keytar, swapping solos with Loueke and at the age of 79, leaving the stage with an airborne jump to signal the final note as the audience rose to their feet in unison. 

This was no artist playing it safe at the tail-end of his career, this was a celebratory night of music and creative spirit par excellence, from a true innovator and legend of modern music.

Chris Familton

SONIC KICKS: Greta Mob

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Sydney’s Greta Mob are picking up some great gigs at the moment (Beasts of Bourbon) and building some buzz around their music which is built on a visceral mix of Australian swamp rock and dirty post punk blues. We recently caught up with drummer Luke Millar who plugged in the memory card for Sonic Kicks and took a look at some of the albums that shaped him musically. Check out a recording of Greta Mob’s epic 10 minute The Vengeful Narodnik at the end of the post.

The first album I bought – The Offspring | Americana

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The first album I ever bought was in the form of a cassette. It was Americana by The Offspring from a two dollar shop in Wangaratta called Crazy Clints. I vividly remember standing in the checkout queue after spending about half an hour kicking footballs around whilst waiting for my mum to finish shopping. I was about 8 years old at the time and being the little shit I was, I nagged mum until she bought it.

The album that soundtracked a relationship – J Dilla | Heroin Joint

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Due to me failing miserably on the relationship front, I actually don’t have an album that has soundtracked a relationship. However, freakishly in the last few months I’ve found myself a girl who loves hip-hop and beat driven music. She pointed me in the direction of Mr J Dilla which has been a mind blowing experience. As Heroin Joint was the first song she showed me by Dilla, I can’t help but think about that moment when I hear it… as lame as that sounds. Check it out!

The album that inspired me to form a band – Tool | Undertow

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Rhyece and my older brother used to play in a high school band together called Iron Turpie which was comically named after the Australian actor Ian Turpie. They used to rehearse at our house and when they’d have a break I’d sneak into the shed and start bashing the drums and cranking the guitars that were still set up. So that was probably what inspired me to start playing music. However, my brother and his friends used to play a lot of Tool around the house at that point so I’d say Undertow by Tool was very influential at that point.

The album that reminds me of my high school years – Rage Against The Machine | The Battle of Los Angeles

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Every single day after school without fail, my best friend and I used to watch The Battle Of Mexico City by Rage Against The Machine. We were about fourteen at the time and both had a stupendous amount of energy. We basically just head banged and drank coca cola for an hour until it finished. So yeah, I’d say The Battle Of Los Angeles by Rage.

The album I’d love to hear live and played in full – David Bowie | Low

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This is probably the toughest question, but the more I think about it, it’d probably have to be Low by David Bowie. Speed of Life… What a way to open up an album!!

My favourite album cover art – Herbie Hancock | Headhunters

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Headhunters by Herbie Hancock is the first funk album I ever bought, and still to this day is one of my favourite album covers. So Headhunters.

My guilty pleasure album – Snoop Doggy Dogg | Doggysstyle

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Hmmm, probably Nickleback’s The Long Road… Just tricking, I’m low, but not that low. I’d probably have to say Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. Now let me explain, yes the lyrics are quite filthy and sexist but gee there’s some fat ass beats on that album. That’s how I like to justify it anyway 🙂

An album I loved but now have no idea why I bought it – Hillsong | Celebrate Jesus Celebrate

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Back in the day when I was a Pentecostal church goer, I bought an album by Hillsong. I can’t remember what the album was called, but one thing I do know is that Celebrate Jesus Celebrate was on it. Just listening to this truly made me feel uneasy. Sorry Jesus, but I just repented of all my sins, which means you’ve now forgiven me. Cheers!

The last album I bought – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds | Push The Sky Away

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I heard it at work for the first time a couple of months ago and after spending the train ride home with Jubilee Street stuck in my head I just had to buy it. Killer!

Upcoming Shows

Sunday 1st September w/ Spencer P Jones @ Lyrebird Lounge, Ripponlea

Thursday 5th September w/ Dead River, The Deep End, Smoke Stack Rhino @ The Espy, front bar, St Kilda

Thursday 26th September – The Bank Hotel, Newtown (solo headline show)

Friday 27th September – w/ Swervedriver, Charlie Horse @ Metro Theatre

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