Posted December 19, 2008


Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills
December 14, 2008


Xmas came early for the solid core of fans not at church or not too scared of the Global Financial Crisis to turn out for this Sunday show ("two sets, no support") at Sydney's Excelsior Hotel. If you weren't there and were one of the former, get over the band name and get a life. If you fell into the latter group, for shit's sake wake-up and live, you might be run over by a bus tomorrow. The world's supposedly going to hell in a credit-squeezed, carbon-caused heatwave, you may as well enjoy the frying.

After missing a handful of gigs (blame lies with other commitments and, in one case, a bellyful of barbecue liquid cheer and an over-zealous licensed club doorman - WTF?), I can't tell you how this show stacked up by comparison to recent outings. What I can say is that it's the tightest I've seen this line-up. A few new songs, which elbowed out a few older "new" songs, made the gig all the more compelling.

It all sounded magnificent, too. If the Ex hasn't established its credentials as Sydney's best-sounding small room by now I don't know when it will. There's the added advantage of good sightlines and even when the room's packed, there's a comfortable feel - plus a light-handed security touch. Other venues should take note.

Pretension is one thing this line-up lacks. No airs and graces, no intro tape, just get stuck in and see you at the other end. They know (or at least Rob does, because the set lists are his) that if you want to open a show the right way, use an attention-seeking song. "Headin' South"pulls the coat sleeve so hard it could rip through your the shoulder seam as quick as you could say "cheap Hong Kong suit", and the band nails that grinding feel that propels the song forward, even sans horns.

Speaking of songs, well may you note the Newies' newies. Six of them pepper the setlist tonight. I might have the order mixed up but "Vain Glorious" and "The Wheel" showed distinct promise in the style of New Christs songs that stand toe-to-toe with you and deliver a thousand-mile stare just an inch from your face. Look forward to hearing them in recorded form one day, because an aim of this gig was to raise funds to support a looming studio session.

I know "Life of Crime" is a Weirdos cover ('though I've mixed up its lineage on occasion) but it does sound great enough to record. Then so does "I Need You" and Magazine's "Shot By Both Sides", a new inclusion to these ears.

"Hot Generation" gets a look-in but Rob stresses it's meant to be the Pandoras' cover rather than The Sunsets' original. Love's "She Comes In Colours" and Cream's "Badge" round off the songs by other people nicely.

The show straddles a good mix of New Christs history with selections from throughout. Which reminds me that "Born Out of Time" was retired and put out to pasture for some time, but rates a place and a warm welcome. The band obviously appreciates the chance to stretch it out on this one with Rob weaving in a little Mop Top fun.

The music's delivered with commitment and serious application to the job at hand but there's also a light-hearted feel to the onstage banter. There's a young-ish chick who's obviously besotted ("you guys are awesome") to the point of getting herself up on stage for a dance, and guitarist-keyboardist Brent Williams come sin for a ribbing form his singer at one stage with laughs all-round.

As far as meals go, this was a real feast - a 28-song menu. Continuing the food analogy, let's say that if you walked in hungry enough to eat the crotch out of a low-flying duck, you would have left, well and truly sated and fuller than a fat lady's boot.

So Merry Xmas turkeys - and you can get stuffed if you didn't get your fill.

Jim Dickson and Brent Williams
Darren Trew photo

Dave Kettley gets all abstract

Daee and Rob.
Darren Trew photo