21 Feb 2010

Soundwave Festival 2010 @RNA, Brisbane [20 February 2010]

It's the day after the 2010 Soundwave Festival, held at Brisbane's RNA showgrounds on Saturday 20 February. I have blisters on my achy feet and sunburn, but new memories comprising a collection of absolutely stellar music moments.

While I usually forgo a day of dehydration, sweat, crowds and bad fast food at festivals by showing up around 6pm for my favourite headliners, this year I made a concession for one band: The Gallows. What I'd heard of this Brit band's music was enough to inflame my desire to see them perform live. What I got, at 12:40pm on one of the first slots of the day on a small stage at the rear of the RNA, was an explosive, dynamic, tongue to the floor gig. The band gave 110% of itself in response to the audience showering them with energy, enthusiasm, and adoration. Pulling the biggest crowd I've ever seen from a relatively little known, early festival slot holder, singer Frank Carter was surfing the crowd more than he was on stage. His easygoing banter and sense of humour incited a bit of good natured recklessness among the punters in the pit. While the band's been around for a few years, they're still relatively unknown in Australia. Hopefully, their performances at Soundwave will change that. They're the closest I've seen or heard to punk in a long time.

I then drifted from gig to gig during the lead-up to Placebo at 4:15pm. I saw a little of Taking Back Sunday's gig. The main thing impressed upon me by this band was the lead singer wearing a full sleeved black shirt, black jeans, and black waistcoat while performing in the middle of an Australian BRISBANE summer, in the daytime. His face was bright red. When he climbed a lighting rig to hang upside down, his face morphed into a beetroot and I wasn't sure he'd make it down again before passing out and collapsing to the floor. He did, albeit with a bit of a struggle due to his hands being so sweaty they kept slipping on the rig. After seeing The Gallows, though, I must admit that Taking Back Sunday seemed as hard rock to me as The Wiggles.

Eagles of Death Metal were up next. Singer Jesse Hughes lamented his experiences in New Zealand where he was apparently beaten up for hitting on some other man's woman. Something told me he was up for a bit of loving on the road, as he flirted onstage with the entire female audience. Bassist B.O.C. sported the biggest set of mutton chop sideburns I've ever seen, while the band's drummer on this tour was from noneother than Queens of the Stone Age. (I suppose he needed another gig now that Josh Homme's off with Them Crooked Vultures...) They played a few of their hits but all in all, it was a bit of a slow set. I thought they had it in them to play some of their raunchier numbers.

Next up, I caught the last few numbers from the Clutch set. I didn't know much about them or their music before Soundwave, but they were awesome! Their music is very luscious and bass rich, funky and bluesy. They had a tight live sound and I'd highly recommend you check out their set on this current Soundwave tour. Next up, Anvil, Canadian heavy metal icons who've been around since the 1970s. Okay, they were good. The crowd went wild for them. Lead vocalist Lips sounded like Dio. But I wasn't in the mood, on the day, for some '80s throwback metal, so sadly they didn't rock my boat. However, they impressed their fans, so if you love '80s hair metal, definitely check them out.

Saw the tail end of Paramore's set while I waited for Placebo. I can't say one nice thing about Paramore, so I won't say anything at all. Oh wait, I can: the 14 year olds at Soundwave LOVED them.

I have adored Placebo since their inception, however I recall thinking, while seeing a Big Day Out set they played early on in their career, that their live shows were a little lacking. Yesterday at Soundwave, Placebo defined themselves as not only excellent songwriters with an interesting image, but as impressive and captivating live performers. Brian Molko's voice has matured and he has a much stronger stage presence; much more confidant. Stefan Olsdal on bass continues to play up the sexy, androgynous diva onstage, and yesterday he did not disappoint, dressed in shiny, pewter pants and a see-through singlet top. In fact, it must be said the entire band looked amazing, with a black and white theme that extended through to their equipment. Fiona Brice, a touring member of Placebo, impressed me greatly with her multi-instrumentalist skills on keys, electric violin, theremin, and backing vocals. She's absolutely gorgeous to boot. The lyrics were delivered like a dry martini: bitterness with a dash of seduction. People really should read Placebo's lyrics a little closer; they make some damned accurate observations about politics, society etc that I don't think a lot of people seem to 'get'.

Next up: AFI. Didn't impress me one iota. This band appears to suffer from a musical identity crisis; their music is all over the shop.

Now, for one of the bands I'd been waiting YEARS to see: Jane's Addiction. As one of their old-timer fans (I'm 40 so yes, I was in my 20s when they first came on the scene) I was a fair way away from the stage, just enjoying the vibe more than wishing to be squashed. First thing that impressed me was that I paid more attention to the crew setting up Jane's backdrop than I did listening to AFI. The backdrop was absolutely beautiful: a vintage flocked wallpaper design that glowed purple, gold, and white. This design was flanked on both sides by large cut-outs of voluptuous, naked women. When Dave Navarro took to the stage, he was resplendent in rock star cliches: tight leather pants, shirtless, nipple piercings, sex on legs. But can that guy play guitar! He's quite brilliant, and although his rock persona sometimes gets in the way of people realising that, you'll notice if you catch Jane's live some day. His guitar playing throughout the set complimented Perry Farrell's vocals, changed the dynamic of the music completely, sexed it up and played it cosy. Perry was absolutely stunning, a thorough diva onstage in his new suit, scarf slung just so around his neck. He's a legend, this man, and I adore him. The band navigated its way through a set that included some very well known numbers such as Jane Says and Been Caught Stealing with less known (in Australia) hits. The band was joined onstage by two lovely women dressed up in saucy outfits which resembled an amalgamation of a geisha costume, some 17th century courtesan, and Dita von Teese. They cavorted with Perry, each other, and themselves, including some video cam action. Very erotic. Naughty. Provocative. Just like Jane's Addiction themselves. I was betting around 90% of the male punters left that gig more than a little aroused...

When Faith No More came onstage, a giggle escaped my mouth. I wasn't sure what many of the younger kids who weren't familiar with the band would make of their pastel, wedding singer suits. I'm sure they thought they were a bunch of 'oldies'. It didn't take them long to show that they are still one of the most musically innovative, impressive live bands on the planet. Sublime is one word to describe their performance last night. One of the best gigs I have seen in my entire life is another way in which to say their set was faultless: brilliant, witty, energising, complex, sarcastic, sexy, and experimental. They somehow managed to perform many of their biggest hits while curve-balling the songs with seeming improvisations that added something new to the music; it didn't just sound like a well known band playing their greatest hits. Mike Patton, who impresses me with every musical venture he partakes in, was on fire last night: part theatrical showman, part trouble instigator, his voice soared and screamed and gave birth to sounds I've never heard before. He cavorted with the cameraman offstage, forcing the camera on to the audience instead of himself. That was before he quickly whipped the camera down for a full view of his trouser fly before he reached in and pulled out what we can only assume was his cock for a brief tug before returning the camera to the cameraman, who stood there in shock, hands raised in the air as if to say, "Not my fault my camera just showed someone's genitals to everyone at Soundwave". I don't want to ruin future Soundwave gigs for people who are waiting to see Faith No More on this tour, so I won't give you a full setlist rundown. I will, however, tell you that you will not be disappointed: their set was filled with their biggest hits and they've obviously tried to give everyone a great taste of their musical accomplishments within a limited amount of stage time. From start to finish, this was a perfect set, only making me fall deeper in love with the music and the mischievous antics of Faith No More. I didn't think I could become more of a fan, but today I'm already missing them. They were absolutely incredible. Please, do not miss their set at Soundwave for anything.

I think this year's Soundwave offered up some truly inspiring music and that all in all, it was one of the better Soundwaves I've been to. Of course, the addition of Faith No More to the lineup might've biased me somewhat. To all those people who bought Big Day Out tickets instead: ha ha. And yes, I did mean that in a Nelson from the Simpsons kinda way...

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