The Forum is packed to the brim, with a myriad of punters making themselves comfortable in every conceivable fashion, upstanding, sprawled on couches, positioned on stairs. It seems like Melbourne’s musical cognoscenti is out in force, with all manner of musos and fans of Brian Jonestown Massacre waiting next to each other in anticipation.
The Raveonettes rouse the throng with “Beat City” featuring some uncomfortably loud feedback and a drum machine that drowns out the sound of live drums. The mood is set with the smoke machine in overdrive. Guitarist Sune Rose Wagner’s between song banter is minimal, letting his guitar and music speak for itself, at unprecedented volume. Bassist Sharon Foo shares vocal duties and helps take us on a retrospective journey, with the popular “Love In A Trashcan”. Despite the sound issues, the Raveonettes put on an impressive show priming the crowd for the sonic onslaught that is to follow.
The size of the crowd seems to multiply, and every vacant crevice is promptly filled. The last time this scribe saw Anton Newcombe perform with Brian Jonestown Massacre, in 2004 at the infamous Hi-Fi bar show, his behavior was erratic to put it mildly. Tonight Anton displayed none of the bad boy, diva antics of old and sat unassumingly to the left of the stage, almost hiding in the background, letting Joel Gion have the central spot. Was this a ploy? Was he being noticed by trying not to bask in the spotlight? Anyone that knows of Anton’s reputation would know that this is exactly where he wanted to be positioned on stage; he’s renowned for not wanting to compromise.
The whole trippy atmosphere with psychedelic projections on screen, and ode to 60’s imbued the night with a surreal quality; Opener “Stairway To The Best Party In The Universe” off their latest release Aufheben, sets the mood and pace for the evening, with tremolo, jangling 60’s guitar, breathy vocals and that surreal, transcendental quality that pervades all the songs on tonight’s set list. “Vacuum Boots” sees the crowd dance and sing along, and then guitarist Matt Hollywood takes on vocal duties with “Got My Eye On You”.
Indeed the 8- piece offers that full rounded guitar experience, with 4 guitarists including Ricky Rene Maymi & Frankie Teardrop, bassist Collin Hegna, Rob Campanella on organ/percussion and drummer Daniel Allaire whilst providing visual interest, with each band member spanning the length of the stage.
With a prolific 20 album back catalogue to draw from, the hits keep flowing. “Wisdom” is other worldly, a pure love song to boot and a veritable highlight in a set full of highlights. Anton shows some signs of his vitriolic tongue, when he retorts “I’m too old to take fucking requests”, but in his defence the multitude of songs played are nothing short of classics, leaving few songs unsung. One fan stated he wanted to take a slash, but was waiting for a song that he didn’t know....
Newer songs “The Clouds Are Lies” and “Waking Up To Hand Grenades” are well received, but it’s older material such as the popular jab at their old band mates, “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth”, ballad “Prozac vs Heroin”, and “That Girl Suicide” that draws the loudest crowd response. Selling out is an anathema to the BJM ethos, so there is no encore, but the last four songs are “Sailor”, the glorious “Servo”, “Oh Lord” and they end the set on a high with “Straight Up and Down”.
Tonight’s show was akin to an unforgettable profound psychedelic “experience”. If you remember it clearly then surely you weren’t there.