Adelaide’s Leader Cheetah are heading back into writing mode for a follow-up record their sophomore album Lotus Skies, but not before playing a run of final headline shows for the year. Kicking the tour off in their hometown at Jive, the band had advertised a night of fun and surprises, with classic LC songs to be churned out, as well as a hint of what we can be expecting from the band as they head into Album Three territory.
The stigma Jive tends to have over its head, is that nobody really likes to turn up there before 9pm. Get there too early and you realise how big and empty the venue can really be and usually, you don’t have the comfort of being drunk to fall back on. Because of this, I always appreciate any band that has the task of being the band to open up a show on a night like this, when they’re playing mostly to the staff and a smattering of people including their respective partners and family members. Tonight, that duty fell onto Adelaide three-piece, Wild Oats. In true Adelaide fashion, the band is made up of musicians from other local acts; in this case, we’ve got Larissa Perry (20th Century Graduates), Alister Douglas (20th Century Graduates) and Walter Marsh (Mountbatten). I’d never heard of the band before, but they impressed, even if halfway through I began to think they were heading into generic indie territory. I didn’t even know Marsh played, let alone played and sang well, though we’d rolled in the same uni circles for the past few years; there was substance behind his vocals and although in general, the band’s stage presence left a bit to be desired, they kept my attention for a fair whack of the set.
Steering By Stars took to the stage next and by this point, the crowd was at more of a comfy size. I’d only caught the band for the first time at Laneway this year and since then, I’ve been hooked on their material. I worried though, knowing the aggressive and raw-sounding sounds the band could produce, that the PA system at Jive (which can produce some absolute shithouse audio quality) would ruin the entire performance. This did come into play unfortunately at different points in the set, as Lachlan Wilson’s vocals were often drowned out by an unnecessary amount of reverb and feedback. I managed to push this factor out of my head enough to focus on the actual musicianship of the band, and once I was able to do it, the rest of the set went quite well in my head. Between Wilson, Tom Smeets, Rory O’Connor and Adrian Reveruzzi, there’s a delicious cinematic soundscape which is conjured up and it’s so easy to become drawn in. Think of a combination of Deerhunter, some Active Child and what would happen if Dappled Cities turned Gothic and that’s the image I have of the Steering By Stars sound; I can’t wait to hear how their upcoming second album sounds.
I’ve had quite a bit to do with Leader Cheetah over the past few weeks for different projects, so tonight was as much of a culmination of those processes as much as it was about seeing them for the first time this year. Since their last gig as a full band at the Grace Emily last December, both Dan Crannitch and Dan Pash have been touring as a duo, giving audiences a taste of some of LC’s tracks rearranged and performed in an acoustic setting – as much as those performance have been garnering positive reviews all over the place and is looking to be a format which will continue, I’ll admit that I was looking forward to seeing the full band in action again. The set tonight included songs from both The Sunspot Letters and Lotus Skies, including “Dark Stands Over”, “Alibi” and “Bloodlines”, all of which going down extremely well with the hometown audience. A performance of “White Plaster Window”, a new song which I have a funny feeling could become a possible next single, was given a positive response too and for me, it was interesting to see how it was performed with the added bass and percussion, as I’d only heard it done acoustically until now. Crannitch’s vocals evoke the usual Neil Young comparisons, yet there’s a distinct edge and dare I say Paul Banks of Interpol similarity to them as he gets deeper into each delivery. His younger brother Joel did particularly well tonight I thought, as a drummer, I saw some great potential which I think is still yet to be tapped into.
I think that with any band who hits a definite high note with fans and critics alike with an album, it can become easy to slip into a level of complacency with live performance and run the risk of appearing stale in the eyes of those who dealt out the praise in the first place. For Leader Cheetah, it’s clear that they’re still switched on in their style and live delivery; the audience were enjoying the ride they were being taken on and while we’re going to have the opportunity to see the Leader Cheetah duo play in a few months when they tour with Busby Marou, there’s always something special in seeing all the elements of the full band working together so well.