FEBRUARY 17, 2006

(who wishes he was in Tijuana eating barbecued iguana)
Live photo by RICHARD SHARMAN of Blackshadow Photography

That ticket has been burning a hole in my pocket for weeks.

We arrived a bit after 9.00pmto find the Double Agents halfway through their set, throwin’ their great thumping drums and clanging guitars out at a room of 30 or so people. They sound 80’s in a good way- imagine the sound that the Birthday Party nailed on “Junkyard” crossed with the Nomads playing “Strychnine”. The European tour they did late in 2005 has honed them down to a very sharp edge, and it’s disappointing that there are so few hometown folks here to see them. Singer Dave Butterworth comes across as some kind of disheveled Springsteen, all rolled up shirt sleeves and sweaty hair, ripping huge chords out of his Fender and singing his throat out. Rock to his fingertips. Miss Kimmy takes front and centre for the last number, letting loose with a surprisingly dirty-sounding blues voice,  and ends up playing the last few bars leaning over her keyboard one handed from the front, while still singing and shaking her tambourine. Respect.

Brisbane’s Giants of Science are next up, a five-piece with three guitars in the front line. To my ears, they have none of that primal rawk groove, and sound 80s in a bad way, like Poison or Cinderella. At least it’s not more of Jet or Airbourne’s semi-ironic metal, thank fuck.

They throw in a weird cover/rewrite of “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” and close with “Down On The Street” but can’t quite pull it off. The best thing about them for me was the bass player’s Devo t-shirt, but when I talked to him later he told me it was borrowed. Oh well.

Before Birdman come on I end up chatting in a very odd little group- Dave Laing , John Needham and Tim Pittman. Laing tells me his Hitmen retrospective is coming on well- he’s waiting for one last tape to come in- but seems nonplussed when I jokingly suggest that after that he should look at doing the definitive Jimmy & the Boys collection. Needham is as happy as I’ve ever seen him, and certainly more cheerful than recent email exchanges would suggest. He explains the reason for Birdman’s (long) onstage sound check; on arrival from Adelaide earlier in the day, there was no van for the band’s gear, so everything is running late. This probably explains why Pittman is looking a bit stressed. A 6 foot tall blonde woman gives me a beermat advertising a Birdman themed art exhibition in Double Bay- this all seems a bit of a non sequitur.

The crowd is still looking thin, with not many of the usual suspects lurking around. I guess the Devastations gig at the Tote has pulled a few people out. It’s full, but not packed.

Birdman come on just after 11pm, to a huge roar. The last time I saw them here I got one of my front teeth kicked out in the front of stage mosh pit, so I’m side stage tonight, on the Deniz side. They launch straight into “Burned My Eye”- a kickarse up tempo version- and don’t stop to draw breath for the first five songs. The set list seems to be pretty much the same as at all the recent shows- if you haven’t seen it, here it is, ripped from the stage with my own nicotine stained fingers:

There are some odd gear changes in the first part of the set, from “Do The Pop” to “Alone In The Endzone” but it all works. Rob takes a few songs to get right into it, but soon enough that characteristic left arm swing/fingersnap comes out, and he relaxes, really twisting into and delivering each line.  Tek is of course a guitar machine, alternately grinning and grimacing as he twists the neck of that battered white Epiphone. Pip is unlit on the far side of the stage in a black/blue badged jacket with Kraftwerk-red shirt & tie. Masuak is all sunglasses, bald head & tattoos. Jim seems to be taking his cues off Deniz, and Russell…Russell just sits there at the back pounding away.

They introduce the mid set bracket of new songs almost apologetically, for some reason. It shouldn’t be news to anyone here that there is a new album on the go. They go down well, and then it’s back to “I-94”, “Anglo Girl Desire”...well, you can read it yourself.

This tour is (wrongly) billed as “30 Years Of Motorcity Madness”, and bearing that timeline (and associated bust ups, fall out etc) in mind it is frankly amazing to see how much gleeful energy the band can still summon up for the older tunes, and how much the crowd respond to them. I thought they might have been spent when the set ends after a careering “Aloha Steve & Danno”, but they come back for encores, and when Tek rings out the opening of “New Race” the place goes nuts. No backing vocals needed on the “yeah HUP!”- the crowd are singing it as one. They follow this with a killer “Search And Destroy”, Younger is putting everything he has into every cherished line, Tek is bent double over his frets, Dickson looks like he is on another planet. It’s an absolute joy to behold.

But they have the guts to put the legacy aside and close with another newie, whose name I didn’t catch but presume is going to be track one side one of the new album. I’ll buy it.

And no, I kept all my teeth tonight, but one of my nipple rings took a pounding. Ouch. But worth it.