BEASTS OF BOURBON
+ CHILDREN COLLIDE
Prince of Wales Hotel, St Kilda
Friday, June 8, 2007
By PATRICK EMERY
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The State Government should order Port Phillip Council to erect a sign on Punt Road warning prospective visitors of the peculiar social and economic aspects of the St Kilda region. Never mind the occasional glimpses of the sex and drugs street sub-culture that's underpinned the evolution of the contemporary St Kilda aesthetic – what's particularly offensive is the gratuitous tax that seems to come with any lawful transaction concluded in the St Kilda region – especially the purchase of alcohol at licensed establishments.
Tired of waking up after a night at the Prince of Wales Hotel with holes in our hip pockets, tonight we decided to imbibe some pre-purchased beers in a local public area before heading down Fitzroy Street to catch the Beasts of Bourbon. Our economical deviation meant we unfortunately missed The Vandas, but we were still well in time to catch Children Collide. Unlike the headline act, Children Collide were a source of constant and pleasant surprises. The set was less a series of songs than a sequence of musical moments that segued seamlessly into each other like a psychedelic journey through the early 1980s. If there was a prevailing style, it was somewhere in the post-punk, new wave region – but whereas those genres fell apart under the weight of spiked haircuts and artistic pretension, Children Collide served its new wave on the rocks. By the time the band had waved farewell, the consensus was that we could've left happy at that point.
The merit of the Beasts of Bourbon of the 21st Century is a matter of conjecture. On one hand the Beasts have refined their original swamp and blues rock sound into a brutal hard rock style that threatens literally to blow the audience into a neighbouring universe. Conversely, the Beasts have evolved into a creature that, while obviously not tame, is so well practised at its tricks that it risks being labelled as predictable. But, it must be said, the fans (including the crusty old punters promulgating increasingly distant memories of earlier Beasts incarnations) keep coming back – and that says something.
It certainly wasn't a surprise that the Beasts roared into action tonight with I Don't Care About Nothing Anymore from the Little Animals album. It's a song that gives Tex ample opportunity to invoke his Beasts persona – angry, threatening and unashamedly nihilistic – equally, the anthemic aspect of the song captures accurately the lifestyle associated with the Beasts, and which might continue to be pursued without an appropriate level of irony.
On guitar, wearing his iconic white Stetson hat and favourite brown Greville Records t-shirt, Spencer hams it up, brandishing his battered Fendercaster in the time honoured manner of guitar rock deities through the modern rock'n'roll ages. Charlie Owen starts the night with a ruffled black coat that's reminiscent of Paul Stanley in the late 1970s (Owen's liberal mop of hair reminds me of the Uncle Andrew character from the first Narnia chronicle) and Brian Hooper's steady stance says as much about his mental fortitude as it does about the wonders of medical science. Tony Pola is back on drums, having secured both the band's and the state penal authorities' permission to return to his drumming responsibilities.
The set-list is a mixture of old and new. The old stuff – Driva Man, Hard for You, Straight, Hard and Long, The Low Road, Just Right, Chase the Dragon – gets the crowd chanting in unison, as many of us taking the advantage of the moment to pretend we're tough enough (and stupid enough) to perform the various unlawful and socially unacceptable activities narrated in the songs. The new stuff – I Told You So, The Beast I Came to Be, Master and Slave, New Day of the Dead, sits comfortably with the older material, yet understandably doesn't elicit the same type of reverential response.
After a typically interactive Let's Get Funky – a song that refuses to lose its appeal – the Beasts return for the one-two punch of Drop Out (dedicated to Messrs Baker and Salmon) and Thanks. In the moment it's a perfect conclusion to a great night; in hindsight, it's the finalé we anticipated. The modern day Beasts don't vary the artistic formula much, but they practice the formula as well as anyone around.
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