Axver (axver) wrote,

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The awesomeness of Sound Relief

So, Sound Relief today. Yesterday now, actually. Huge festival at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (with a sister concert up at the Sydney Cricket Ground) in aid of bushfire relief. For the Melbourne show, all three of Hunters & Collectors, Split Enz, and Midnight Oil reformed. Unbelievable line-up. Yes, I somehow got tickets. Pretty decent seats actually, mercifully sheltered from the rain and with a good view of the stage.

And what a concert! Holy shit. I've seen a lot of great concerts, but this is going to live in my memory as one of those really special events. I'll try to provide some brief thoughts.

We missed Jet at the start (boo-hoo). We did plan to get there in time, but these things don't always work out. The weather at this point was fucking miserable - Flinders Street was a veritable river around the Market Street intersection. But we made it into the MCG during Gabriella Cilmi's set as she sang that Sweet About Me hit of hers to a mostly disinterested audience, and found our seats nice and dry. The sound was certainly a bit iffy around our spot, but the view and shelter balanced that out. Didn't matter for Cilmi anyway. Once she was gone, we got Kings Of Leon. I'm not a fan. They blew spectacularly when they opened at the three U2 concerts I saw in Boston in May 2005. But I must credit them - they have certainly matured, got a more listenable sound, and discovered some stage presence. I thought their set was decent.

Paul Kelly was next, and he was the first act I really wanted to see. Unfortunately, he was really hard to hear - the sound just was not loud enough for him, and the ignorant crowd around us just didn't seem to care. That said, Leaps And Bounds was great, with much of the MCG singing along to the lyric about the, uh, MCG. He was followed by Augie March, another band who I've seen play an atrocious opening set before - this time for Crowded House in 2007, when they chose to begin their setlist with the most plodding, dull song. Luckily, this time they stuck to uptempo material and were more enjoyable. We then got a couple of artists from genres I don't usually listen to. Firstly was Aussie hiphop group Bliss N Eso, who certainly worked the crowd well, did a good job responding to a technical fault that cut the sound, and sort of interested me - though we had some great jokes about creating drinking games around mannerisms and gimmicks they kept doing (such as getting the crowd to yell "hell yeah"). Secondly were country artists Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, and Troy Cassar-Daley ... who we completely ignored. Terrible music.

Then the show really went into the stratosphere. Liam Finn was scheduled to play a solo set. For those of you who don't know, Liam is the son of New Zealand's greatest musician, Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz fame. He began with a couple of really sensational tracks highlighting his multi-instrumental talents and serious stage hyper-activity; I've got to see him in a club sometime. Then we got one hell of a surprise. I had worn my Crowded House t-shirt today since it's the closest shirt I had to a band playing (Split Enz). I didn't fucking expect to see them. But lo and behold, Liam announces some friends, and before I know it, Neil Finn and Nick Seymour are on stage and playing Don't Dream It's Over. I don't know if Tim Finn was there for the first song, but he was certainly there for the second song, Weather With You (which some ignorant journalist for The Age thought was Four Seasons In One Day!), and the set ended on a rousing Better Be Home Soon. Fucking fantastic stuff. I wasn't quite sure how the gig would get better, though we knew it would, given who the final three acts were.

Between Crowded House and the final three, we still had two acts. Jack Johnson was first, and unfortunately, he was plagued by the same problems as Paul Kelly. I could barely hear him, so I made a toilet and food run and called my mother to tell her about the Kelly and Crowdies sets, since she's a fan of both. Then we got Wolfmother, who I can't say have ever terribly interested me, and they were plagued by atrocious sound for the first couple of songs, but it improved over their set, and I've got to give the frontman credit for playing all the classic rock cliches and actually getting them right. It fit. I should also mention here something that was shown on the big screen from Sydney sometime in the early evening between two of the sets (I forget precisely which two). Coldplay performed at the Sydney show, and the big surprise there was ... John Farnham. And they played, surprise surprise, You're The Voice! Simultaneously the best, worst, and funniest part of the gig. The best part? We actually heard almost none of it. The MCG was in such fine voice that it sung so loudly we could not hear the Sydney audio one bit ... except for one brief point where we caught Chris Martin attempting and butchering the chorus.

Then we hit the reformed bands. I had the pleasure of seeing Split Enz at the first show of their short reunion tour in 2006, but I had never seen - nor thought I would see - Hunters & Collectors or Midnight Oil. I admit, H&C are one of those legendary Aussie bands that I know and enjoy without ever really paying close attention. Plus I'm one of these people who thinks that Crowded House/Neil Finn do the definitive version of Throw Your Arms Around Me, not H&C. Those caveats aside, they were fucking fantastic. When The River Runs Dry was a sensational opener, and possibly my favourite song that they did. From the moment it began at 8pm until the concert's conclusion almost three hours later, it was just non-stop quality. Holy Grail understandably got the biggest roar (come on, you're not living in Australia if you don't know Holy Grail), and Throw Your Arms Around Me was awesome, enough to rank up there with my favourite Crowdies versions.

Split Enz were the band of the night for me. What do I say? I love the Enz. One of my country's finest, most creative musical exports. The setlist:

1. Shark Attack
2. Poor Boy
3. I Got You
4. Message To My Girl
5. Dirty Creature
6. Pioneer -->
7. Six Months In A Leaky Boat
8. History Never Repeats
9. I See Red

Nothing I didn't hear back in 2006, but holy shit, what a scorching set. The band were in rare form, Tim Finn especially. I probably sung every damn word, not to mention jumping, dancing, and rocking along. Just to make it even better, Alison and I got news during Poor Boy that our friends had scored us tickets to the second concert U2 are playing in Amsterdam in July! Dirty Creature was incredible. I Got You was incredible. History Never Repeats was incredible. Shark Attack was incredible. Well, they all were. But ... Six Months In A Leaky Boat? I could have just about :cornflakes:ed, or for those of you not up with the Superthread in-joke lingo, cried from joy. Absolutely one of my favourite live moments ever. Most of the crowd seemed completely oblivious to what Pioneer leads into - and then the band just burst into Six Months. One of the great songs from New Zealand, about New Zealand, at the MC-fucking-G, that icon of Australian sport. Greatness of my homeland and greatness of my country of residence all at once. I kind of feel sorry for the ... rows and rows of people near me who had to put up with me singing the second verse as loudly as I could (particular apologies to Alison and U-Wen). But come ON:

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glistens like a pearl at the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance couldn't stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me?
We'll conquer and stay free

And to close the night, Midnight Oil. Midnight. Fucking. Oil. Never did I think I'd see the Oils. And I certainly never ever thought I would see a sitting minister in the federal government front a rock concert - but Peter Garrett, our Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and the Arts, was absolutely electrifying. The whole fucking band were. You could tell they were absolutely loving it. I don't have the exact set unfortunately, but it fucking slayed. I don't care for calling Garrett a hypocrite for singing some songs in light of Rudd ministry actions (I've done enough political science and gained enough cynicism about the political system to think such accusations are a bit superficial and misplaced). What I care about was the intensity, the energy, and the awesomeness of what I just heard. Songs such as Read About It, Beds Are Burning, and Blue Sky Mine were sensational; hell, like the Enz, they absolutely nailed every song they played. But the highlight of their set for me was, of course, my favourite Oils song, The Dead Heart. There's something about screaming its lyrics in a massive stadium that is out of this world.

And there are my "brief" thoughts. Oh dear. Apologies for typos - I'm going to post this without proofreading and go to sleep.

I'm exhausted. I'm going to go collapse somewhere for a long time. Fucking hope a DVD of this is released. 10 out of 10, Australian music community. 10 out of 10.
Tags: augie march, concerts, crowded house, hunters & collectors, kings of leon, liam finn, mcg, melbourne, midnight oil, music, neil finn, paul kelly, split enz, tim finn, u2

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