The Living End / Bad//Dreems / 131’s
Enmore Theatre, Sydney 11/06/2016
Review: Peter Zaluzny | Gallery: Pauly Vella
Fact is, if you grew up in Australia with rock, punk or something similar in your circle of friends and family, then you encountered The Living End. And if you stayed on the same path as years – then decades – rolled by, you probably retained a soft spot for the Aus-punkabilly legends, at the very least. But these guys are more than a mere nostalgia act – they’re so much more, because after all, a band that trades on memories couldn’t sell out a 1600 capacity venue in Sydney like The Living End did.
Purveyors of good-time punk, 131’s were the perfect opener. An old-school bunch of pub punkers who grab the seedy side of life, drench it in whiskey and give it a big ol’ hug. Comprised of nothing more than speedy 4/4 beats, glorious, gritty riffs and roaring, Rancid-like harmonies, this band of self-proclaimed “tattooed degenerates” had The Enmore Theatre singing along about boozy times in L.A. by the end of their intoxicating set.
Then there was Bad//Dreems. Look, performing can be tough, getting up on stage to bear your creative self to a wall of faces is as an intimidating experience that most would rather avoid. Still, when you’re in a band that puts together pretty energetic tunes on your album, you kind of need the live experience to reflect that enthusiasm. Musically, Bad//Dreems were fine, but the performance was stilted, band chemistry was non-existent and front man Ben Marwe looked downright terrified as he paced around with an intense restlessness. Maybe that’s part of the shtick? They do consider themselves an “outsider rock” band, and the themes behind their music can be, well, dark. Compared to the simple fun of 131s however, Bad//Dreems’ just felt restrained, awkward and detached, a point that the mostly stagnant mosh, drove home.
As for The Living End? There was never any doubt as to whether they could still pull it live, but even the most dedicated of the dedicated wouldn’t have expected the show Sydney saw. It. Was. Downright. Brilliant. The second they stepped onto the stage room exploded to life as though someone had sent a heavy jolt of electricity through the floor. Everyone, from the teenage fans all the way to the crusty diehards, was there to go absolutely freaking nuts. And they did.
Kicking off with a new tune called “Monkey,” the guys quickly jumped into a couple of classics to really get the crowd going – “Roll On,” followed by the sweet double-bass belting goodness of “Hold Up.” Three songs in and front man Chris Cheney had already channelled his 20-year old self with a massive leap off the drum riser, while double bassist Scott Owen, spun his vintage coated beast around and around and around. God-knows how he managed to tear away at that thing so ferociously without shredding his fingers down to the bone. And behind them, Andy Strachan with his punchy drums that delivered repeated roundhouse kicks to the teeth. All tight, seasoned professionals who never slipped up on stage.
By that point the most was already deep in the throngs of pure mayhem, and seemed to be reserved for the younger punters. As The Enmore floor flexed under the pressure of over 1000 fans leaping in sync, the boys busted out hit after hit after hit, feeding the ravenous horde exactly what they were after – “All Torn Down, “What’s on Your Radio” and “Second Solution,” were met with deafening sing-along’s. Peppered between the classics were a handful of new songs which quickly shut the mouths of any naysers who disregarded the bands new record.
But nothing will ever stand quite as high as “Prisoner of Society.” When the iconic opening riff hit The Enmore and Cheney’s voice hit the mic, everything outside the venue stopped spinning for a moment and everyone’s life collapsed into pure, f**king punk rock bliss. The band inspired this response throughout the show, “we only go around once, and this is a f**cking rock show,” Cheney declared earlier on. Owen even broke out the old double-bass tricks, you know, simple stuff like balancing on top of the damn thing or propping it on his shoulder to play supporting strings while Cheney stood on top and tore through a glorious Gretsch solo. Basic stuff really.
This was a gig that had the heart of a pub performance, and the production of an arena-sized show. The light banter was beautiful, the old “this is so much better than Brisbane” adage had an undeniable sincerity, and Cheney’s send off, “you f**king rule, let’s get drunk” before kicking off “Carry Me Home,” was the kind of light-hearted stupidity that you only hear from a band that has remained humble, even after years of success. There’s a reason The Living End hold a special place in the memories of so many alt-rock loving Australians – the Sydney show reminded them why.