Saturday, July 21, 2007
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
Australia’s Silverchair hit the music world hard and fast in the mid- to late-nineties. Coming on the scene as a group of fifteen-year old Nirvana/grunge worshippers, the global smash single “Tomorrow” turned the band into superstars almost overnight. Their debut album, 1995’s FROGSTOMP, spawned two other singles—“Israel’s Son” and “Pure Massacre”—that showed Silverchair to be more than a one-hit wonder. Striking while the iron was hot, Silverchair released FREAK SHOW less than two years later and once again ravaged the international charts with “Abuse Me,” “Freak” and “Cemetery.” Perhaps suffering from “too much, too soon,” singer Daniel Johns suffered through an eating disorder and other personal issues before finally seeking out a more artistic musical presence than that displayed on FROGSTOMP and FREAK SHOW. The result was 1999’s NEON BALLROOM and eventually DIORAMA in 2002. While undeniably more musically diverse and adventurous, neither album failed to achieve the sales figures or commercial acceptance of the band’s first two albums and Silverchair’s international presence quickly faded.
Fast forward to 2007 and Silverchair has re-invented itself as a mature, modern rock band—with touches of glam and Brit pop—on their new album, YOUNG MODERN, due July 24th in North America (the album has been out in their native Australia since March). In support of the record, Silverchair announced their first tour of North America since 1999 and many dates sold out almost immediately, including the Vancouver show. Being a major fan of both FROGSTOMP and FREAK SHOW during my university days, I was curious what Silverchair would offer up after all these years.
Pumped to hear the band tear through “Israel’s Son,” “Tomorrow, “Pure Massacre” and “Abuse Me” but fully expecting a liberal spattering of newer material, as well, my heart sank as I read the setlist taped to the stage. Not a single track from FROGSTOMP was written down and with the minimal hit “The Door” being the only inclusion from FREAK SHOW, I was left wondering why Silverchair was choosing to completely ignore the very albums that made them such a huge success in North America. The setlist read more like an album-release party for YOUNG MODERN with eight of the record’s eleven tracks comprising the band’s fifteen-song, ninety-minute set. Even DIORAMA, an album that received little promotion or airplay in North America, was allotted four songs, so it was a major disappointment to see the glaring omissions.
Looking on the positive side, I figured this would be a good introduction to Silverchair’s newer material that I wasn’t familiar with and the crowd seemed to know a lot of the YOUNG MODERN songs already. From that album, the infectious pop melodies of “Reflections of A Sound” owe much to The Beatles, Oasis and Crowded House, while first single “Straight Lines” (“If you know the words, sing. If you don’t, hum,” declared Johns beforehand) is immediately catchy. “Mind Reader” is heavier and “Young Modern Station” is suitably guitar-driven but certainly nothing like the rough-and-tumble early years. “Insomnia” was drenched in feedback and guitar effects manipulated by Johns’ extensive pedal rig. “If You Keep Losing Sleep” is heavily indebted to the two keyboardists on stage as the slinky piano lines and sampled strings propel the songs in a far more mature direction. DIORAMA’s “The Greatest View” and “Without You” fared well and the moody “Tuna In The Brine” got the crowd excited but the biggest response came from the NEON BALLROOM material—“Emotion Sickness” and “Ana’s Song (Open Fire)”—as a welcome sense of familiarity spread over everyone.
Amazingly, the three original members—Johns, along with Chris Joannou (bass) and Ben Gillies (drums)—remain but with two anonymous keyboardists to round out their live sound. Joannou and Gillies relinquished the spotlight to Johns and it is clear why. His still-youthful appearance—in fairness, the band members are still only twenty-seven years old—and poster-boy good looks made most of the female audience members scream upon his first taking the stage (easy ladies…Johns’ better half is none other than Aussie pop singer, Natalie Imbruglia!). Even when Johns spent extended periods kneeling down and hidden from most of the crowd, seemingly in his own world, diddling away on his pedals and generating walls of era-piercing feedback, Joannou and Gillies stuck close to each other, hammering out the respective track’s rhythm and groove. As recent publicity photos show, the singer has shorn his shaggy, Kurt Cobain-like locks but for the live show, he inexplicably wore a white, turban-like scarf around his head. Since the band had to cancel four California shows the week prior due to Johns’ laryngitis, maybe it was to protect him from the cold?! Johns’ voice seemed to be in fine form, though, and he added to his stage presence by wowing the crowd with his over-the-top guitar heroics including such clichéd moves as playing with his teeth and behind his back and abusing his pedal rig. What Johns could have reserved, though, were his awful (and, thankfully, barely audible) jokes. He seems shy on stage and padding his minimal banter with nuggets about joint-smoking koalas should be put to rest, at least for the audience’s sake.
Young Modern Station
Tuna In The Brine
Reflections of A Sound
Ana’s Song (Open Fire)
Those Thieving Birds (Part 1) / Strange Behaviour / Those Thieving Birds (Part 2)
The Greatest View
If You Keep Losing Sleep
Yes, it was a major disappointment to find out that none of Silverchair’s early–and most popular–songs were played but the new material, in hindsight, made for an enjoyable show. For whatever reason, the band has chosen to distance itself from its heavier, grunge-influenced roots but this should also come with a warning to those people ponying up $40 for a ticket, in my opinion. There were a few shouts for “Tomorrow” but in truth a good portion of the crowd seemed really into the new stuff. Still, imagine going to a Rolling Stones concert and instead of “Paint It, Black” and “Brown Sugar,” all they played was material from BRIDGES TO BABYLON and A BIGGER BANG or, in this particular context, an INXS show and all the songs were from the album with the kid from TV and no Michael Hutchence-era songs. Kinda seems like a letdown, dont’cha think?
***Thanks to Kelli at Live Nation for the press pass.