Annandale Hotel, Sydney
Sunday, March 30 2008

Words & Pictures: THE BARMAN

Sunday, bloody, Sunday. Comes after Saturday. Tomorrow's Monday but there's an important gig on at Annandale. To go or not to go. Let's see...

Second-last chance for Australian crowds to see the New Christs before their Eurotour and the farewell for French band Dimi Dero Inc at the end of their second Aussie run. Plus, The Holy Soul are back on the boards after doing a run around Melbourne and the odd show with ex-Can man Damo Suzuki.

It was never really in doubt.

Obviously not everyone felt the same way - at least early in the night. When Dimi Dero Inc took to the stage about 7.30pm there was enough space to swing a cat, and the small rat it was holding in its jaws.

Blame the late roll-up on the Y2K-style technical fuck-up that caused any Australian mobile phone synchronised with the national carrier to fall off daylight a week early. It didn't faze the Dimis who raised the stakes from the night before to summon up a set of blazing fury.

Fortunately the crowd grew quickly as this was seriously intense stuff, deserving of an audience. The set reached a crescendo of sorts in "Ah Oui, C'est La Vie" when Dimi took to his already battered Telecaster with a cordless electric drill. Sans drill bit, but it still wasn't doing that axe any favours as he dragged it over the strings and pick-ups like a masochist at a Formula One motor racing boss' fancy dress party.

No doubting the spirit in their by now locally notorious cover of "Ace of Spades" either. It might be 2010 before we see these guys back this way again but let's hope it's sooner. Meanwhile, it's high time for another album.

About time for another long-player from The Holy Soul too, whose "Sign of The Triangle" was half a line-up ago. Kate Wilson (drums) and Jon Hunter (guitar) have replaced those who left the building in the last two years and it's a tighter and more confident band treading the boards.

I'm guessing a good spread of tonight's songs are newies, not having spun The Holy Soul's back catalogue for a while, and they're rendered with heart and, dare I say it, soul. Trent Marden's a distinctive presence up front on vocals but you can't help get the feeling he's itching to ditch that guitar now and then and really throw himself into his work. The set's short but it leaves everyone wanting more.

A respectable crowd is building and the volume's beefed up a notch for the New Christs who deliver a bracing set of just over an hour's duration. By now, everyone knows this is a new line-up that's up in quality with all but the very best that have worn this band's ubiquitous moniker. (It's no dishonour but I'd rank the "Distemper" configuration as the high mark and as one of the very best bands I've seen.)

"We Have Landed" claims its place as the set opener and from then on its a selection from the last two-thirds of the band's career (term used advisedly.) "The Burning of Rome" and "Jenny" provide the groove and levity respectively.

The vituperative "Impeachment" retains a spot on the strength of its bile and keyboard colouring - and both are good things. If anything, I'd like to hear this line-up cranking things up and backing off a bit more. Some of the re-arrangements tonight hint at that. No spot however for "Born Out of Time" or "LIke a Curse" but was pleasantly surprising to hear them in the recent past and this was a truncated set.

Everyone seems to be enjoying their work these days. Rob's totally relaxed and at ease even if there's the odd shard of feedback emanating from the backline and/or fold-back. He's always quick with a quip and tonight's no exception but if only some of those gems of wisdom weren't delivered off-mic or san votte.

The only mild disappointment for me is that the band's chosen to keep a lid on most of its new material.

But then again who can quibble when tonight's cover of "The Seeker" ranks as one of the New Christs' best ever, delivering sledgehammer crunch. Not far behind was "I Need You", strategically placed at the top of the encore. If Ray Davies was still in the country, he might have dropped. The cynical old bastard would have been impressed.

The sole new song, "Bonsior au Revoir," was the closer, and on the strength of one sighting it seems a wailing goodie. This line-up has been recording and there might be news on that front soon but an album is some way off yet, through no real fault of the band's.