Caringbah Bizzos
Friday, August 26, 2006

Words and Pictures by THE BARMAN

The first thing that needs to be said is that this venue – the last bastion of rock and roll in Sydney’s southern suburbs – has improved exponentially as a place to see bands. The last time I came here, the PA was a sack of shit, the room set up the wrong way round and going the distance with a proper rock and roll outfit was a test of patience. So let’s give kudos where they’re due.
The next thing to say is that this was Radio Birdman’s best show of the Zeno Beach Tour to date. No, I hadn’t seen them all but that opinion came from someone who had. Tonight was energetic, loud (enough), focussed and precise, but with ample variations in songs and soloing to keep it interesting. The band locked into some murderous grooves – and the front-of-house sound was right on the money.
But first to the support and we wrote only recently, it’s high time that Johnny Casino & The Secrets were a secret no longer. Hoisted onto the bill for this and the final Australian gig (the following night at Manly Fisho’s) before the headliner hit the overseas tour trail, they fired out a string of unfamiliar songs that are fast becoming familiar (for these ears).

Johnny and his Secrets are becoming a better and more commanding band with every outing, with their mix of riff-heavy rockers and lighter country-twinged moments. The fact that Mr Casino is deep in enemy territory (home of rugby league's Sharks) doesn't seem to faze him. The ironed-on Manly fan is dismissive of my taunts (and has the edge in volume anyway). That his Sea Eagles got up by a point in the televised game (on in the bar nextdoor) is finally enough to put me back in my box. Did you hear about the one about the choking Shark?

Recordings from these Secrets are happening so keep your ears tuned. At least if they get rich and famous they may not cop incredibly out-of-touch reviews like the street press gave their recent BellRays support. Plus guitarist Mick and bassist Mark might be able to afford shoes and shirt buttons, respectively.

Birdman hit the Bizzos like a bomb with five old tunes in a row at the top of the set – a marked contrast to most previous shows when they ran through the entire new album with only the occasional rusted-on song for the unfamiliar. Me, I didn’t mind hearing the “Zeno” songs but just thought, at times, it might have been a bit much for the rest of you (especially overseas). Surprise, surprise – as well-received as “Burn My Eye”, “Aloha”, “I-94” etc. were at Caringbah, the fresh young killers like “Hungry Cannibals”, “Connected” and “Locked Up” were greeted just as enthusiastically

You could speculate that working up a set based on new songs was to ensure sure they all held up in the live context. Like rotating players in games to give a team more options in the finals. The bonus for U.S. and Euro fans is that Birdman could now assault them with any variety of songs and they’ll all hit with the force of a fairly large truck.

It's been an enormously long time between drinks this far south in Sydney for Birdman (I'm guessing 1976!) and the turn out is pretty damn fine in this admittedly small to medium-sized room. No stage divers (that's a relief) and a few of the punters were approaching codger status, but there's also a great sprinkling of youth peppering these ageing ranks. Judging by the line at the merch stand, too much branded clothing is never enough.

The punters are treated to some especially fine guitar exchanges with the contrast in tones between Tek and Masuak especially evident.

With lots to choose from, “Remorseless” came out at the top of my song list but the cover of “Search & Destroy” almost stole the show. Nailed as well as the latter-day Stooges ever did. Folks overseas are in for a treat. Everything should be Enough.