RADIO BIRDMAN
+ GIANTS OF SCIENCE
Coolangatta Hotel, Queensland
Saturday, February 11, 2006

By MURDO MacKENZIE
Image by RICHARD SHARMAN

Section: 1 Reflection

After last night’s performance I have been reflecting about what I seek when attending a performance of any kind whether it’s a movie, music or theatre.  For me, I like to be transported elsewhere, to be overwhelmed by the experience, to be taken out of time and place.  This is why I’m an "up the front" person at any type of performance. 

At the movies I like to sit as close as is comfortable to the screen so that the creation I’m viewing is allowed to wash over me. Here I can meet the artist in what is know as "participation mystique", where artist and audience can meet in a shared experience. Any band can tell you that they feed off this crowd energy. It’s the participation mystique that allows this to happen.  In ancient Greece, this shared experience was considered sacred.  Theatre was considered as ‘therapeutic’ and before any performance sacrifices were made to the gods, especially Dionysus.

In many cultures, to meet in that sacred place, to participate in the "participation mystique" certain preparations or conditions need to be made. In our culture alcohol and other intoxicates assist in loosing the ego boundaries to emerge into the participatory place. It is no coincidence that Dionysus is not only associated with theatre and creativity but also with madness, intoxication and the irrational.

What has this to do with last night’s performance? Many of the audience and maybe those reading this review would find the concept that they were participating in a sacred act as laughable….they were there to "have fun" and so they did!  Yet, at a Radio Birdman concert in 2002 in Sydney, a young man let out with a yell to no one in particular towards the end of the night: "This is religious!" Likewise, this night, another young man, in a haze of delirium, clutching the set list like a sacred object tried to explain to me how he felt.

He started: "…it's like..um..", then finally said something like "anyone who did not enjoy themselves must have something wrong with them’"  Radio Birdman had often referred their performances as Theatre and the last word one would apply to Radio Birdman would be frivolous. I noticed a picture of Robert Johnson on one of the amps.  Some people consider Robert Johnson as the father of Rock 'n' Roll and I get the impression that Radio Birdman are much aware of this heritage

Getting back to the "participation mystique", I feel robbed of an experience if, like in a movie theatre, noisy wrappers, whispered conversations can disturb or distract holds one from emerging in the experience. Instead of being emerged in the "magic" of the moment, one is made aware of one’s surrounding, one’s own mind and body. This is what happened to me last at Coolangatta; several factors worked against me getting the most out of this wonderful performance.

The venue: 
The venue layout was shithouse for a "sold out" crowd. The depth in front of the stage was inadequate. It was fine for Giants for Science, but as the venue filled up many punters were squeezed out into sides with very little view of the stage.

Some dickheads in the audience: This lot seemed to take up this precious little space.  At the beginning I was close to the front with full view of the stage.  By the end, myself and many others including a nice couple on the barrier railing in front of me ended up at the side back wall, near the EXIT sign.  I’m not sure what is worse.  Being generally stomped on by a huge beefy guy throwing his body around or being stabbed in the foot by stilettos  or burnt in the face by Gold coast babes on an endless diet of  cigarettes….even the mowhawks in the audience retreated to the side!

Lack of Intoxication:  all the above could have been less intrusive if I was not sober!!! Damn DUI laws and living I hour away.


Section 2.  The Performances

Before I continue I would like to thank other members in the audience who were really helpful and/or friendly, including the bloke from Mur’bah (Murwillumbah to non-locals) who warned me ahead about the crowd.  His ears were still ringing from the RB gig in Coffs and gave me useful info on songs etc.  His flat mate was the drummer with The Eastern Dark (ED: Geoff Milne) whom I later met. Thanks Guys

Giants of Science:

I really enjoyed their set. The above-mentioned distractions had not appeared yet (except for the sober bit). Since seeing them in Brisbane 2002, their sound seems to have become more sophisticated, more variation, more textural.  They still pumped out the Rockie bits which they do so well but also included some lyrical, sometimes mood scape material. The sound was well mixed and the vocal harmonies worked really well.  he band members were relaxed and obviously knew some members of the audience, engaging in some amusing banter. They recently released a new album "Here is the Punishment".  Well done

Radio Birdman:

To summarise, Rob Younger gets the Gold Star. Great stuff. The bloke from Mur’bah said that Rob’s performance the evening before at Coffs Harbour had been exceptional and this night I would have to say the same. His vocal flexibility and variation was a delight and I’m sure this assisted in bending the edge between the known songs and the new material.  This was a clever move. Some of the old material received a different vocal treatment giving the old stuff new life. And Rob looked happy and very relaxed and chatty.

The set:

Burn my Eye: 
Started the set with a searing blast.

Smith 'n' Wesson


Do the Pop


End Zone


Non Stop Girls


Deniz then thanks the crowd for coming and said that the band wanted to try some new songs.

Found Dead:
I instantly liked this song..had that driving, swingy Stooge-like beat. In a minor key

Connected:
This song had more of the trademark driving, frantic beat of Birdman.  Both lead guitars were firing and Rob did some fine dancing.

Al Waza:
A many textured piece more experimental. This song began with a rumbling bass followed by a more lyrical sound.  The guitar pieces were good. In the middle section, Russell’s drumming came to the fore then blending with Pip’s keyboard followed by guitar riffs.  By this time I was being edged away from the front and I could no longer see who was doing what.  This was a different sound for RB.

Breaks my Heart:
Received a new vocal treatment using echo.

Heyday:
Another newie again had a more textural and experimental approach.   It started with a single drum beat, then Rob in a soft voice, almost speaking the vocals with an echo affect.  As the other instruments were introduced the sound became more complex with Rob achieving some high notes along with some haunting guitar riffs in reply..some of these moments Deniz had his eyes closed.  Unfortunately I could not see what Chris and Pip were doing. Can’t wait to hear the studio version

Remorseless:
In contrast this was a faster paced, surfing, rolling sound, easy to get into

Cannibals:
This piece started with a catchy swinging driving beat that stopped then changed into a much faster rhythm – the switch I found a bit disconcerting

Hand Of Law:
A return to more familiar territory sent the crowd off. Rob gave this a different vocal treatment …I think..at this stage the audience were getting very distracting

Anglo Girls:
Again the crowd goes berserk and I get further distracted by being groped by a strange male.  Being close to the North Coast of NSW this took the form of a shoulder, then head and neck massage.  It was hard to refuse.

What Gives?:  
My foot was stomped on..Deniz says something about something was going to give out soon ..his guitar or somethin
'.

Aloha:   This was a crowd favourite…madness frenzy

The band takes a break

Encores: Here my mind starts to give out and I could not fit tunes with my memory cells ..senior moments.  .and not on set list

A new one.


Sounded so Famiiar:
It sounded Stooge-like. Later when I returned home the only song (please don’t send me hate mail- I am a closet Goth) I could think of was The Cure’s "Club America" (from "Wild Mood Swings") where Robert Smith experiments with a Stooge-like sound

New Race:
Predictably the crowd went bananas. Band left the stage then came back.  Deniz said this one is dedicated to Tim Pittman.

Search and Destroy: Here the audience managed to go further beresk, drinks flying, a one stage I saw some legs pointing to the heavens poking up form the mosh-pit

New/old: my mind had given by now

The band left the stage drenched in sweat. The last to leave was Deniz, pointing at someone in the crowd.

Obviously there were many happy punters, exhausted but smiling...lots of "wows" and "wasn’t that great". Birdman had put on another great performance. 

Birdman have what the Spanish call ‘Duende’. This is a quality that only the best performances (whether bullfighting, music, dance) can reach. Duende is beyond musical ability. Duende requires the performers to reach into the dark, beyond the normal ego boundaries and drag up something that is magical.

The band did not fail the audience. My problem is that this night I failed to be able to connect in the way I would have liked.  I’ll be going to the Melbourne gig.  Barman, please make sure I ‘m not sober.



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