Vindicators Survive Wound Only to Advance!!!

The Empire Hotel, Annandale
January 28, 2006


If ever there was an example of turning a black eye into a feather, Vindicator Electro's performance at the Empire on Saturday, January 28 was it.

Dean Coulter's decision to move on in early January, with a gig just weeks away, was potentially a mortal blow and probably would've been for any band with less collective wisdom and experience than Vindicator Electro.  Fortunately though it turned out to be a quick trip from problem to opportunity, when Steve Lucas (ex-X) bravely volunteered to step into the breach with, at that stage, little information as to just what Mark Sisto had in mind.

The next obvious step was to spring Chris Masuak from behind the drum kit (while it was not the first time he'd filled the role it had always seemed a somewhat profligate use of his talents).  With Masuak in his natural place on Sisto's left, inspirational recruitment followed.  Gerard Presland (drummer for the Manifestations – a pre Vindicator Electro Sisto band) stepped in, to form with Andy Newman, what must be one of the best rhythm sections any Sydney stage has seen in a long time.  

Never a band to be undergunned, news however soon filtered through that the power of the first, of only 2, rehearsals was something to behold.  A new set came together with ease, the only survivor from last year's song list the Cash classic "When the Man Comes Around".  Given Presland's familiarity with the Manifestations' material, six of the tracks from the recently released CD formed the core of the set with about the same number of covers.  There was to be a definite West Coast shift in the choice of covers including three songs from Love and Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren".

When the night arrived it's fair to say that at least a handful of band and audience members were still trying to straighten feet and faces after The Stooges show 2 nights earlier.  Andy Newman nursing a broken rib after too much fun in the mosh pit, and Sisto's cameo appearance on stage with The Stooges for "Real Cool Time" and "No Fun" still a talking point for everyone but him.

Madeleine Chase opened the evening with a pretty set, a mix of covers and originals, which made the night worthwhile from the outset.

The night however was Vindicator Electro's; Gerard Presland's in particular.  The new power was phenomenal and its impact across the stage was amazing to watch.  Masuak's guitar and Tatham's keyboards had the platform they needed to fly, with Lucas on the wing an added gift.  Masuak and Lucas a new compound:  mixed shaken and stirred, the outcome uncertain even for them but on the night it was fresh if not magic.  Masuak grinning with real guitar joy and if I'm not mistaken, exceeding many of his other recent appearances.

Sisto was clearly energised by the additional power all round and the new set – all of his choosing – which really suited his singing style.  He delivered the lyrics in unforgettable form.  When he hissed the "Atoms Action" lines: "If I had my way I'd wear you in my skin" well, at least 50 percent of the audience felt it as well as heard it.  Other highlights included the Manifestations tracks "Eyes Freeze Time", "Once It's Undone", the nicely spooky "Night Sender" and Love's "A Message To Pretty" on which Masuak and Lucas added backing vocals.

Finally if there had been any doubt left, the closer, a killer version of Zager & Evans' "In the Year 2525", made for an interesting comparison to the recent Visitors Reunion.  For my money it showed Newman and Presland to be world beaters, others probably already held that view, and one can't but wonder why they weren't picked for The Visitors team?

The night sealed the future for this line-up.  The audience's attention, fixed and held from midnight until after 1am, as they travelled a broad spectrum of moods from warm to icy; fury to tenderness and it has to be said, into some bent weird scary terrain.  It takes some thinking to pick an overseas band that could do the same for us on a Saturday night in an Annandale pub.

My guess is that if you missed Vindicator Electro on the 28th but know anyone who caught them, you won't be missing them next time.

Hell, if these fellas have a third practice . . . . . . .