Brisbane Festival Review: Gareth Liddiard reveals the ragged beauty within his chaotic songs

The audience surrounded the square stage set-up in the middle of The Tivoli. It’s part of Brisbane Festival’s Tivoli In The Round programme, where fans experienced intimate performances from Australia’s best musicians. However, Gareth Liddiard found it unusual to have eyes on him from all directions, quipping to the crowd, “You’ve got to remind me to turn around at some point”.

With his bands The Drones and Tropical Fuck Storm, Liddiard thrashes and yowls to chaotic noise. But for this Tivoli show, he sat alone on a stool with his red electric guitar wobbling on his thigh, revealing the ragged beauty underneath the chaos.

Liddiard is revered for his songwriting, especially by opener Carla Geneve. “When I was 11 my dad got me Wait Long By The River… and The Drones became huge for me,” she told the crowd. Now 19 years old, Perth singer/songwriter’s own music career is emerging, especially after a stellar run at this year’s BIGSOUND, and her talents were on full display on The Tivoli’s stage. Armed with an electric guitar, she offered insightful contemplations of her young life with her bluesy wail, stepping away from the mic to shake her hair to her astounding solos.

The stage was dimly lit by lamps placed at each corner of the stage, and a shadowy Liddiard eased into his set with “Cold And Sober”. His fingertips brushed against the higher strings as he groaned his lyrics. As the song built, his playing became erratic; spit flew through the lights when he wailed, and his stool shook as his strings clanged from his forceful strums.

Fans were mesmerised during songs, silently gazing as Liddiard made his guitar tremble through the gorgeous “You Let My Tyres Down”. But between songs, fans queried him for his opinions on everything from needles in strawberries to the AFL Grand Final. Now facing the stage’s left, Liddiard began playing “Strange Tourist”, the title track from his 2010 solo album, only to stop after flubbing a note. He began a second attempt, this time stopping to chide, “This is the part where the reviewer goes, ‘Liddiard is adept at writing songs but he talks a lot between songs’.” After the crowd broke out into laughter, including me, he added, “It’s my fucking show; I can do whatever I want”. That venom spilled into a swampy version of “Taman Shud”, where each verse was a barrage of attacks delivered with one breath.

After croaking a restrained “I Don’t Ever Want To Change”, Liddiard announced he was at his final song. Fans shouted requests from across his rich catalogue, including “Baby2”, “Sixteen Straws” and “The Radicalisation Of D”. Instead, Liddiard chose his seafaring epic “Shark Fin Blues”, ending with a ragged solo that had him spinning in his chair and nearly slipping from it. With performances like this, Gareth Liddiard can do whatever he wants for as long as he likes.


The reviewer attended the performance at The Tivoli on Thursday 27th September 2018.