It was an expectant, hyped-up crowd who welcomed the almighty Mi-Sex on stage at St Kilda’s stately Memo Music Hall on Saturday night. After reports of a brilliant gig the night before in Sydney, all the Melbourne faithful had convened. The rare chance to see our heroes in an intimate and classy venue with fabulous acoustics was obviously too good an opportunity to miss. It’s been more than a while since the guys last graced a Melbourne stage – and all present were eager to hear just how well the newly penned material slotted in amongst timeless classics like ‘People', 'Computer Games' and 'Blue Day'.

Taking their places against Memo's rich red velvety backdrop I wonder what they might play… with such a brilliant back catalog of classics, where does one even begin to start?

As Murray Burns' instantly recognisable synth intro to 'Graffiti Crimes' fills the room, I realise the beginning is a pretty good place to start. It’s a very faithful rendition and Steve Balbi’s vocal delivery possesses all the menace and disdain of the original. The relentless dual guitar attack by Colin Bayley and Travis New, who fills in for the inimitable Kevin Stanton these days, are an incredibly tight and angular unit. They propel the song along at a heady clip and we’re instantly right back in the saddle. The exuberant cheers and whistles really buoy the band along and they all beam. Nothing like an appreciative crowd.


Their first big hit of the night follows. A muscly ‘But You Don’t Care’ is delivered with no holds barred and Balbi does a great job of matching his predecessor’s vocal delivery. Standing in for (the sadly departed) Steve Gilpin is a massively daunting proposition but obviously one that Balbi feels extremely privileged to undertake. He manages the task in a most respectful manner, bringing his own little bit of stage craft to the mic, which is incessantly spun on it’s stand – so much so, that in the space of two songs – much like an errant kid spinning on his grandmothers piano stool – he has unwittingly unthreaded three mike stands! This keeps his stage tech, Stav, very busy running repairs and finding replacements. As I watch Balbi gallivant around the stage striking poses and pulling shapes, I smile to myself, for I realise that without him, there quite probably wouldn't be a Mi-Sex to come and see. He has, in many ways, saved this band’s bacon. Dressed in bowler hat and waistcoat, he delivers the material faithfully and respectfully – including all the Gilpin style soliloquies – through wide mascara’d eyes, in the style of a possessed Droog from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Clockwork Orange’.

'A technical' with the next track forces the band to abandon the setlist momentarily and instead career us through a breakneck version of ‘Not Such a Bad Boy’ and then 'Ghosts’ from 1980’s Space Race. Both are fantastic to hear liive and for the next ten minutes or so we’re transported back to those heady days as if nothing has changed. ‘Falling In & Out’ from '81’s ‘Shanghaied’, with it’s poppy synth run, is dusted off and Travis absolutely nails the guitar solo. Then it’s time for ‘Down The Line’ (Making Love On The Telephone) and Balbi brings it home with an amazing vocal performance, down on his knees for half the song while yet another replacement mike stand is found.


Finally drummer Paul Dunningham’s headphones go back on – signalling it’s time to cue the backing track intro for 1980’s synthy and quite drumtastic ‘Space Race’. Like all the others before it, it rocks just like the old days and plenty of punters who were previously still sitting at tables are now up and dancing. It’s been a loud gig. After checking that a young child – sitting high on her dad’s shoulders up the front – is wearing ear-plugs, Steve takes a brief moment to thank everyone present, especially Steve Gilpin’s daughter, Sarah, who is in tonight’s audience, for the opportunity afforded to him to sing her Dad’s songs ‘After this, I wanna show you the things people have posted about your Dad…". Lots of those in the audience around her give her appreciative hugs. It’s a touching moment.

It's now time to preview one of the new songs – a power ballad called ‘Somebody’. With Balbi on lead vocals, to my ears it sounds very like something that would be a huge hit for someone like Robbie Williams. For a tune that barely anyone in the room knows, it receives an exceedingly warm response which visibly pleases the band.

The relatively obscure ‘Stills’ from Graffitti Crimes is next and although not that well known, is one of my personal favourite Mi-Sex tracks. The synth lines and guitar solo are impeccably played out and it brings a big smile to my dial.

It has a very 'up' vibe and by end of another blistering solo from Travis, the crowd are well and truly hyped up. Balbi apologises as the next song is a slow one. He need not have though – as it transpires to be none other than ‘Blue Day’. Probably the most melodic song in their canon of work. Muzz’s keyboard work is gorgeously apt and when coupled with Don’s languid bass the effect is soulful, soft and warm. By the time Paul kicks in solidly on drums, it has ‘Countdown' written all over it. Obviously a firm crowd favourite, this has everyone singing along.

Paul leads us into the next track which is the anthemic ‘Castaway’. By now the party up front is in full swing. As I study each of the band in turn, they are all well into it and loving the vibe of playing these songs again. This lineup have played together for long enough now that each inherently recognises their cues and are rocking as powerfully and with as much conviction as they have ever done.

Mi-Sex - Castaway @ Memo Music Hall (2nd April 2016) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.

Balbi coaxes the last few remaining tables up to dance as the quirky intro to ‘Computer Games’ cranks up. Fate is often a funny thing. Originally written as a bit of a laugh, the ol’ ‘Pu-pu-pu-pu-puter Games’ seemingly has had the last laugh, standing the test of time probably better than a lot of its contemporaries, and garnering Mi-Sex the biggest hit of their career.

Mi-Sex - Computer Games @ Memo Music Hall (2nd April 2016) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.

Everyone is up, into it and pogo-ing along. The main set closes with a ripping version of ‘It Only Hurts (When I’m Laughing)’ and the guys leave a crowd desperate for more.

We are not to be disappointed, for they return shortly and sensing their chance, seize the opportunity to showcase their second new song of the night.

"Thank you so much...As I said earlier, we’re making a new record… you got a new song in you? It’s really great to see people here… cos’ you never know... A lot of people out there think that Mi-Sex is… (signals ‘over’) Let em’ know that we're here… we’re here to stay, we’ve got a new album coming out! We’re not going ANYWHERE! This is a new song called 'My Sex Is Your Sex’ “.

Here is a sneak peak with a snippet of this new Mi-Sex song.

Mi-Sex - Mi Sex Is Your Sex @ Memo Music Hall (2nd April 2016) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.

With its stomping rhythm, the new track is an uptempo glam banger. Heads rock back and forth up the front and by the look of all the accompanying handclaps in the audience it is obviously hitting the mark. "New song… waddya think?”, Balbi inquires...and huge cheers ensue. Now at the end of the official setlist, Paul, the drummer looks to Colin for a prompt. ‘People’, mouths Colin.

And so we all come to the end of what has been a sensational night of impeccably performed rock with the marvellous rousing ‘People’. Balbi encourages us all to join in on the refrain. The crowd joyously sing along at the top of their voices.

Mi-Sex - People @ Memo Music Hall (2nd April 2016) from Carbie Warbie on Vimeo.

As I survey the scene from the gallery high above the audience, I take a moment to reflect on tonight. Contrary to popular myth, the loss or departure of a band’s lead singer does not always spell the death of a band. If the songs, the audience’s passion for what the band epitomises, and indeed the band’s vision is strong enough, survival and growth is infinitely possible. Two other bands I’ve seen in recent years and will continue to go and see have that 'never say die' attitude; AC/DC, and The Stranglers, have survived multiple lineup changes and crowds still flock to see them and continue to rave about the performances.

It’s been a brilliant night out at one of Melbourne’s strongest contenders for ‘best intimate venue’ seeing a band still at the top of their game. In the words of the late great Steve Gilpin, "The idea – both fascinates...and appeals to me!’

Speaking to Paul Dunningham after the gig, he tells me the writing and recording for Mi-Sex's new album is well on the way and current plans are to release it through Golden Robot Records in late 2016.

As the lovely ladies at the merch desk hand me my autographed EP (containing re-recorded versions of People, Computer Games and Falling in & Out plus the new track ’Somebody’), they excitedly tell me that Mi-Sex are next back in Melbourne in July when they are scheduled to tour in conjunction with The Angels. After tonight’s barnstormer, I’ll be damn sure to get along. Should be one helluva gig.

SOURCE: Photography by Harry Williams

Mi-Sex’s setlist;

Graffiti Crimes
But You Don’t Care
Not Such A Bad Boy
Falling In and Out
Down The Line (Making Love On The Telephone)
Space Race
Blue Day
Computer Games
It Only Hurts When I’m Laughing
My Sex Is Your Sex

Mi-Sex are:
Steve Balbi - Lead Vocals
Don Martin - Bass
Murray Burns - Keyboards
Paul Dunningham - Drums
Colin Bayley - Guitar
Travis New - Guitar

Members with Mi-Sex in the chemistry of the songs
Steve Gilpin R.I.P.
Kevin Stanton (speedy recovery)


To view our complete Mi-Sex photo gallery:

All concert photography and live footage captured by CarbieWarbie Photography.
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