AU ABROAD

Live Review: The Rubens + Saskwatch + Winterbourne - The Astor Theatre, Perth (18.09.15)

After a couple of regional shows down in Western Australia’s South West, The Rubens national tour, in support of their new record Hoops, hit Perth over the weekend for a sold out show at the Astor Theatre.

Joining the group on tour and kicking off the evening’s proceedings were Central Coast folk duo Winterbourne. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Winterbourne before, and I’m a sucker for good harmonies, but there was something a little off about the opening few songs of their set. To me it sounded like the mics (or at least one of them) was too high and it distorted the vocals, spoiling the harmonies somewhat. That being said, the crowd still enjoyed it and the majority of the set was largely entertaining, with the band road testing a few new songs as well as playing favourites like ‘Steady My Bones’. The inter-song banter was good fun too – the pair are charismatic (and quirky) performers and those new songs sound promising.

Melbourne’s purveyors of Alt Soul, Saskwatch were tasked with warming the crowd up before The Rubens took the stage, and they certainly accomplished that. They very nearly outshone The Rubens, at least in my eyes. It was relentless set, with the band moving through track after track, mostly showcasing tunes from their most recent album Sorry I Let It Come Between Us.

This was my first time seeing Saskwatch play, and it was quite revelatory. Nkechi Anele is a compelling front woman, somehow making her voice heard over a swirling wall of guitars and instrumentation. It was upbeat (I’m not sure drummer Ed Crocker even stopped once) and just fun, for both the crowd and the band. It’s pretty safe to say that they upped the energy and excitement in the room. And I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for tickets next time the band are in town!

It’s been a while since I last saw The Rubens live. I have a feeling it was at a festival a few years back, back when ‘My Gun’ was dominating the airwaves. Since then they’ve gone on release two albums, the second of which Hoops released just this year. So suffice to say it was long past time to get reacquainted with the band!

Unsurprisingly, given they’ve got a new record to promote, Hoops dominated the set list; though the band slotted plenty of favourites from their debut release too. They kicked off with a one two punch of ‘The Best We Got’ and ‘Be Gone’. Indeed, whilst Hoops got more play overall, the opening half of the set was mostly all from their debut album, with ‘Never Be The Same’ being one of the early highlights (helps it was my favourite song from that first album). ‘Elvis’ from that debut album was another highlight, and a slightly mellower moment.

The second half of the set was pretty much all Hoops. The exception being ‘My Gun’, which of course was an obvious favourite for large swathes of the crowd (I had a drunk twenty-something telling me for most of the set leading up to that point she was going to lose her shit when that was played). ‘Cut Me Loose’ and ‘Bitter End’ were both highlights, with the former leading nicely into ‘Hoops’ which closed out the main set. An encore was inevitable, with the band playing ‘Lay it Down’ with Sam Margin remarking it was their first song played on Triple J and their favourite to perform (I may be paraphrasing here). Then the band brought it all to a close with ‘Hallelujah’ – which is a fucking awesome tune and the perfect way to close the night, with the packed Astor crowd hollering along at the chorus.

The band has grown in confidence since the last time I saw them. There’s a swagger there now, and they have the songs to back it up. It was a great performance, one that is only going to get better as the tour progresses.