+ THE HARD ONS
Newcastle Leagues Club, NSW
August 12, 2006
By STEVE LOGIC
The very fabric of what it is that ties post-Birdman new wave/independent/underground music fans together may never fully be explained, or even pondered upon. Books may well have been written on the subject, or sociological/anthropological studies conducted, yet that common "glue" defies quantification, even to the most cerebal amongst us. Us being those very punters, scattered across the globe.
So it was that myself and bride ventured forth into an unknown venue in a new city, to encounter unfamiliar yet friendly faces, in what could best be described as a parallel universe. T-Shirts spoke of Lime Spiders, Celibate Rifles, Happy Hate Me Nots... punters chatting excitedly, eyes darting about, hoping to catch sight of the "Sydney Six". Ray and Blackie stood chatting to fans at the top of the stairs, as MotherLode hit the stage and started churning out good, healthy slabs of chords and noise. The place wasn't just filling up, it was almost full already. Full of people of a similar vintage to myself, maybe with similar experiences....who knows? Not usually a people watcher myself, and not drinking tonight, there was no way to suppress the humanity of this prestigious event. Those faces - did they suffer hardship, retrenchment, tough times at the steelworks? The hopes and dreams of young teens at the first New Race reformation, hash cones in the cable ducts? Unyielding belief that THIS band would never disappoint, THIS band was the One Luxury worth saving for - something real and good, a timeless deliverance from the trials and tribulations of everyday reality..... how was their life? What rich tapestry lead each and every one of them to this very point in time and space? We'll never know for sure.........
The Hard Ons hit the crowd har;, let's face it - these cats know how to rock, regardless of Ray's understated demeanour and on-stage humour. Suck and Swallow became the epic it deserved to be, with Blackie's H.M. Gibson S.G. sounds laying a rock solid foundation for Ray's Rickenbacker-over-the-head bass soloing, all of which was more than well received by all and sundry. Always a great live act, and particularly reminiscent of Nunchukku Superfly in this guise (surprise surprise), give the death-metal vocal treatments. King Diamond eat ya heart out.
By this time, it's standing room only, everywhere. Jim Dickson is seen at the back of the crowd, Needham not long after. The atmosphere is electric, the queue for beer characterised by rubber-necking patrons, afraid of missing a glimpse of THEM.
Onstage they file, with a casual confidence that belies all status. VVVRRRANG!!!!! "We've Come So Far to Be Here Today" is followed by such gems as "You Just Make it Worse", "Non Stop Girls" and the crowd are irreconcilable. The hits keep coming, with Rob astride the wild beast, staring every last punter down, delivering acidic phrases like it's YOUR fault - the band will hate this, but for the sake of comparison, reviews of a WWII Adolf speech spring to mind, where every punter claimed "he was looking at ME". This is intense stuff, but the crowd are full enough of Dutch courage to handle it, at least for the moment. Tek and Masuak lock in like a machine, their chords wantonly ripping heads off in an almost indiscriminate fashion, yet way too focussed to leave such things to chance. In fact, in all the R.B. gigs witnessed thus far, from Manning Bar to Waves to Selina's to Metro and beyond, tonight presents a new tightness, not just in playing, but more the unified approach projected at this stage of the lads' unique career. It's as if a 4 piece is present, with phantom power and sounds emanating without. An unspoken understanding of a miniature army, embarking on a solemn mission, with larrikin abandon when required.
The hits keep coming - "Remorseless" and "Connected" see Tek lifting the visor at each and every punter (see above WWII remarks), with "HeyDay" offering a modicum of decompression between what are easily some of Rock's hardest tunes on record. The crowd is already out of control, with "Anglo Girl Desire" prompting a heavily set member of the crowd to face the congregation and conduct a unified "ANGLO!!!" on cue with the band. Masuak thrashes his Firebird re-issue, with facial expressions straight out of "The Real Thing" and "Rocturnal" circa 1977, especially in "Descent Into The Maelstrom", and that's what makes this gig all the more special. Regardless of following the Christs, Tribesmen, Hitmen, etc etc through the '80s and '90s, all the while lamenting Birdman's demise to some extent, regardless of the brilliant moments of those aforementioned acts, this really was Birdman again. Perhaps even more so than the early reformations, if that's possible. Rusty's drumming was par excellence, Jim's bass solid, powerful and soaring and Pip's keyboards just so Birdmanesque it wasn't funny. Let's face it, what would "What Gives" be without THAT solo???
What a night. Chatting with band and manager afterwards, it was impossible to tell them just how good they were, or how magnificent "Zeno Beach" is as an album, i.e. the best Aussie album in recent memory. To tell the truth would sound like exaggeration at best, or just plain sycophantic. Do these blokes know how good they are? Again, we'll probably never know.
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