Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sonic Youth V's The Scientists

Sonic Youth Vs The Scientists

There is a reason why QANTAS was voted the "worst airline" by Choice magazine last year.

I have had a long history of problems and bad attitudes when flying QANTAS which I won't bore you with here, besides, you don't have to take my word for it.

So sadly, due to the incompetence of QANTAS and their staff, who not only forgot to put my bag on the flight from Brisbane to Melbourne in the first place, but also took over 7 hours (despite their "commitment" to the contrary) to get that bag to me at my hotel in inner city Melbourne, I missed the start of the set by the Scientists.

But the ineptness of the flying kangaroo(d) wasn't going to stop me enjoying what promised to be a huge night at the Metro with The Scientists and Sonic Youth both performing a classic album as a part of the All Tomorrow's Parties Don't Look Back series of concerts which recently toured Australia.

We arrived a few songs into the set with Kim Salmon and The Scientists performing "When Fate Deals its Mortal Blow" from their classic Blood Red River album (actually it was originally an EP). For a collection of songs over 25 years old, they sounded rather contemporary and filled the cavernous Metro.

The Scientists @ The Metro, Melbourne Feb 21, 2008

It was a youthful looking and sounding Salmon who took centre stage, in turn screaming and howling his way through the pre-grunge Scientists sound. It was obviously Kim's band as well, as he would look around to ensure that each of the band members knew when the changes or song conclusions were coming in.

The band were loose and loud in equal parts, they certainly didn't appear over-rehearsed, which totally suited these raw songs. With classics such as "Swampland" and "We Had Love" being well received by the growing audience it was a fun opening set and set the pace for the main event.

Sonic Youth took to the stage and immediately launched into a blistering version of Daydream Nation's opening track "Teen Age Riot", complete with a 5(?) minute guitar feedback extravaganza which was so well controlled I couldn't decide whether I should be screaming and howling my joy to express how impressed I was at their abilities, to take photos as Thurston and Lee held their guitars aloft in praise (adding to the cacophony), or to just let the wall of sound wash over me.

Sonic Youth @ The Metro, Melbourne Feb 21, 2008

The band then proceeded to play through the entire double album, and what a great performance it was. For an album which is 20 years old, and which the band were initially reticent to revisit, they certainly did it justice and played with delight.

Unlike the Scientists, Sonic Youth are obviously a band where each member has an equal position. Vocal duties were shared by Kim, Thurston and Lee and drummer Steve was in equal parts ferocious and inventive (such as drumming with a maracca).

I was enjoying the gig so much I only made one visit to the bar for the whole Sonic Youth two hour set, and that was only because I needed to make a pit stop which took me past the bar in the first place.

If playing Daydream Nation in it's entirety wasn't enough, Sonic Youth also played an interesting version of Kool Thing, sadly there wasn't a Chuck D in the audience to rap with Kim Gordon, but it was a fitting finale to an album which laid the stepping stones to Sonic Youth's two most commercial albums (Goo and Dirty).

What a night! Two excellent bands playing two classic albums. Plus I still had a few more days to enjoy all that Melbourne has to offer (which is much indeed!) including a very interesting (and free) retrospective on Nick Cave at the Arts Centre.

The Scientists - Swampland

Sonic Youth - Teen Age Riot

Do you want to hear more tunes from these albums? Check out these links:-

Monday, February 18, 2008

Polly Jean Harvey

PJ Harvey @ QPAC, Brisbane Feb 17, 2008

I have always loved PJ Harvey!

Especially the strong young woman who tore into my musical conscience in 1992. I provided a brief history of this amazing woman here and after last night I am even more besotted with this gorgeous musical and sartorial chameleon.

Polly is currently touring her eight studio album, the bleak and raw White Chalk and last night it was Brisbane’s turn.

Aussie legend Mick Harvey, playing acoustic guitar and supported only by double bass, played an opening set containing a few of his own tracks plus covers of songs by The Triffids, Chris Bailey and even a few unreleased tracks from the headlining lady. Sadly there were no tracks from Mick’s two interesting albums of re-workings of Serge Gainsbourg tracks.

Mick (Boys Next Door, Birthday Party, Bad Seeds, Crime and the City Solution) is a long time collaborator with Polly Jean (despite the shared surname there is no relationship) and also produced her “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” album.

Polly entered to a rapturous reception, looking gorgeous (as always), this time in her virginal white Victorian wedding dress, gentle and ethereal. Yet there was something hidden beneath (the sexy stiletto heeled shoes which would occasionally emerge from beneath her dress), it was a pure yet slightly dangerous look to match her new piano-based album.

QPAC wasn’t quite sold out, but the venue was full of fans and we were immediately treated to classic Rock Queen PJH, roaring through “To Bring You My Love” on her Gibson Firebird guitar. Polly would play 5 different guitars throughout the night and visit tracks that spanned her career, including one of my favourite ever tracks, “Rid Of Me” (has it really been 15 years Polly?).

But for much of the set it was the gentler and darker White Chalk album which Polly wanted to play for us and for these tracks she bounced across the stage between piano, zither, harmonica (the scaffolding of which keeps tearing out her hair) and acoustic guitar. It is amazing to think that this talented woman taught herself to play piano and during the night would also play a Moog Taurus bass synth, drum machine (and cymbal), and sing in her new, almost broken falsetto style which seems to have gained strength from the vocal sounds on the album. Polly was constantly moving around the stage, changing instruments and charming us all.

There was a wonderful rapport between artist and audience throughout the evening, with several brief conversations (not always heard or understood) and many of cries of devotion and lust with everyone on and off stage obviously having a fun time.

During the performance, Mick Harvey came out on several occasions to accompany Polly on piano, allowing her to fill out the sound on guitar, although the was not a requirement as PJ’s solo reinterpretations of her own tracks had a power of their own. And were closer to their true, original form - as Polly told us in one of her many little chats with the audience.

The show was over far too soon. Polly, please come back again, soon.

PJ Harvey - Rid Of Me

PJ Harvey - When Under Ether

Do you want to hear more of PJ Harvey's tunes? Not sure which albums to buy? Check out these links:-