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Saturday, 23 April 2016 |
City Calm Down
As the members of City Calm Down – new darlings of the Australian Indie music scene – take to the stage in utter darkness, for their third of three sold out Corner Hotel shows – the crowd go nuts. Their audience numbers have simply ballooned since the last time I saw them at Howler only six months ago – just prior to their debut album launch. In that short time they have built quite the reputation and word of their exciting live performances has certainly got around.
What a difference six months can make: where before the majority of what we were hearing was new, we've now had a good while to get familiar with the material, know the words, and have firm favourites that we want to hear live. Many live appearances at festivals, massive exposure as Triple J's ‘Album of the Week’ in February and ‘Like A Version’ in early April (where they dropped a blitzing ‘Your Fix’ and backed it up with an equally impassioned cover of The Foals 'Spanish Sahara’) certainly haven’t hurt either.
'Spanish Sahara' – Triple J – Like A Version
‘Your Fix’ - Triple J
The front row, where I’ve staked my claim in an attempt to grab some footage and pics for the review, is a pretty good indication of their wide appeal. I see a great cross section of young and older music lovers – all equally hyped at the opportunity to finally see Jack Bourke and the guys do their thing.
With all the adulation and public positivity around In A Restless House’s reception, it would be very easy for Jack and his cohorts to have VERY big heads, but to their absolute credit, they all come across as very grounded, modest and approachable guys. I’ve witnessed enough to know they take nothing for granted and work hard to connect with their fan base – I suspect this in no small part due to the sage mentorship and support lent by label IOHYOU, who have been their trusty sidekicks since the beginning.
Strobes flicker intermittently as 9 shadowy figures take position. Starting soft and slow, the first notes of “Border on Control” begin. As the momentum of the track builds, Jack’s silky voice intones wilfully: "I'm waiting 'til the moment's right, To slip from all these things I know...” and as we begin to feel the energy build, all at once I sense how entranced the crowd are.
For the first number, the boys are intent only their individual performances – heads down, seldom looking out over the audience – preferring to keep their energy tight and focussed.
This all changes steadily as the band ramp it up a notch through the next track – an old fave: ‘Pavement’… heads bob along in the crowd in time to Jack’s jerky dance manoeuvres, which systematically get more intense as he feels his way through it. It’s a great vibe from the audience – welcoming and accepting.
The boys slow us back down a bit for one of my favourites from ‘In A Restless House’, the imploring ‘Wandering’… again the choruses are intense, with Jack now occasionally leaning out over the audience. As he comes close, I notice his face is a picture of concentration, eyes tightly shut as he intently focusses on hitting and sustaining those long notes.
Next one up is particularly challenging. It’s the stellar and by CCD's standards, quite uncharacteristic ‘Son’, their second single. No longer 'a new song’ that they were cautiously road-testing last time I saw them, tonight Jack belts the lines out, head back and mouth so wide I swear he could almost swallow four mics... not until they reach the chorus do I become aware of the two female backing singers they have added to the lineup tonight. Their presence sweetens the “Like a deer in the headlights” refrain and it’s a joy to hear their dulcet tones.
SOURCE: Fan Footage from YouTube.
Finn and Johno – the band’s trusty horn section – feature on the next one – a brilliant cover of Foals' 'Spanish Sahara'. If you’ve caught the video of this on Triple J’s Like a Version, you’ll know just how much energy Jack puts into this. The song begins quietly but very soon builds majestically and becomes a real vocal purge for Jack. As he takes a huge gasp at the songs end, he mutters… “really sucks the oxygen, that one…fuck!”
SOURCE: Fan Footage from YouTube.
‘If You Leave a Light on” is up next and as Jack mentions by way of introduction, sometimes on record, the true beauty of a song can get a bit lost…. and he is spot on...in the absence of the overbearing Pump Organ on the album version, Sam Mullaly’s gorgeous synth lines and Will’s harmonious ringing guitar motifs now are clearly audible and are free to soar and really make tonight's rendition sparkle. It’s an epic wall of sound that builds to the track’s crescendo and I find myself getting well tranced within it’s vast aural expanse. With Sam adding a genius accelerating 4 note motif as a bridge, the song morphs seamlessly into the jerky ‘Falling’.
The nervous, offbeat percussive style that characterises this track reminds me so much of early Joy Division and I can’t help but notice a strong channeling of Ian Curtis as Jack’s vocals become more histrionic. Jeremy Sonnerberg’s frenetic baseline, the high pitched ‘wailing’ chorus with it’s ghostly call, and loads of echo washes on Jack's vocals paint a claustrophobic picture… and it’s brilliance personified.
Lifting the mood a little, an old CCD classic follows…it’s 2012’s ‘Dare' from their very early EP. Compared to the dark foreboding sombreness of much of the IARH material, it comes as a welcome juxtaposition and is the metaphorical equivalent of stepping outside for a good dose of vitamin D. This is drummer Lee Armstrong’s showpiece. His work on this track is sublime – his drum rolls deftly push, pull and tease the sunny ‘Dare' along a treat.
CCD are sonic painters and the colours change yet again. We hear the sombre drones of ‘In a Restless House’s title track. It’s a cold affair and has a chilling effect – momentarily sedating the revellers until we reach the first chorus when the warmth of the rest of the band hits us and then they are away again. The setlist is perfectly paced tonight… such a moody track becomes a scene stealer when brilliantly placed as it is between two contrasting uptempo numbers.
"This next track’s called ‘Your Fix’ “, Jack announces to ear-piercing shrills from some of the girls down the front. All at once the mosh is a seething mass of dancers as they all simultaneously react to the poppy sensibilities of the latest single. Heaps of whistles and clapping behind me as Lee cranks up the drum rolls working towards the crescendo. It builds and builds and on the cusp of the release, all of a sudden… silence…darkness.. nothing. In the pitch black I see the guys are motionless. Either there’s been a power cut at the perfect moment or this is planned… 15 seconds of total silence follow… you could hear a pin drop… then bam! Away again as the song kicks back in. Jack is up and over the audience again, and they can’t get enough of it all. ‘Your Fix’ is a tremendously intoxicating track and tonight is delivered with all the power the boys can muster. Sublime.
Huge roars as the song finishes which visibly pleases the guys… It would seem the time is right to roll out perhaps the one track that has garnered them the most attention: ‘Rabbit Run’. From behind me, drunken happy voices bellow out the lyrics over the track’s slow intro. I look around and some of the audience have chosen this moment to climb up on their friends shoulders. It’s getting rough down the front. The boys don’t seem to care as Lee careers us along at breakneck speed, hammering quick fills which punctuate Sam’s airy ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart (Again)’ style synth lines. It’s definitely the singalong of the evening.
It’s now time for another cover, this time by the late great David Bowie. The boys utilise their brass section to great effect, turning in one of the most brilliant punchy and faithful covers of ‘Let’s Dance’ I’ve ever heard. Nile Rogers and the great man himself would be proud to hear it. More punters up on their friends shoulders and more raucous dancing. It goes down a treat to rapturous applause.
SOURCE: Fan Footage from YouTube.
From this high, there is really only one place to go – and that is to a pearler CCD song – not from the latest album, but an early EP – entitled 'Pleasure and Consequence’. It’s a massive five minute slow-burner that builds into an absolute banger. When it finally hits its straps, The Corner is going off and the guys are loving the reaction. An opportunistic audience member down the front sequesters Bourke’s tambourine which they joyously hold overhead playing along to the beat. The backing singers join Sam, Jack and the crowd in unison... lifting, lifting, lifting the roof off the place. At one stage Jack jumps up high onto his foldback speaker as he clutches for the overhead rigging. Once grabbing hold, he precariously leans out over the audience, waving his mic, willing everyone on. It’s a joyous moment and everyone feels it.
SOURCE: Fan Footage from YouTube.
All too soon it’s over and the boys very reluctantly leave the stage, with the crowd desperately wanting more. Sadly, as a young band with limited repertoire we’ve had all the songs we could have possibly expected, save for an impromptu Prince cover.
Within minutes all the lads are out at the merchandise desk, meeting and greeting and winning new fans – signing posters, t-shirts, vinyl, CD's and posing for photos. In my opinion, City Calm Down could not have played a better show – it was absolutely cracking. It’s no wonder they're now selling out three shows at The Corner and the rest of the tour is a total sellout. The setlist is perfectly paced and I’m sure everyone who saw them tonight will be back for another fix at the earliest opportunity. Nice work boys!
It should also be mentioned that City Calm Down are also featured on this week's Triple J 'Live at the Wireless' which first aired yesterday but WILL BE REPEATED one more time this coming SUNDAY evening. It's a remarkable 1 hour performance at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney featuring most of the songs in the set below... Don't miss it...!
City Calm Down's setlist:
Border On Control
Spanish Sahara (Foals cover)
If There's A Light On
In A Restless House
Let's Dance (David Bowie cover)
Pleasure and Consequence
Our complete City Calm Down photo gallery is available here:
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