The concept of opening for your childhood heroes is one that most bands would argue sit amongst the most daunting. Not once did that faze The Bennies, though, as the Melbourne dance-punks shattered through a set pillared on all of their most corrosive party anthems. Darting often between his mic and a microKORG, frontman Anty Horgan played at equal lengths messy and meteoric, his smoke-strained voice and twangy synth filling every of their raucous choruses with an inescapable sprightliness. Between cuts from their still-epic Rainbows In Space (2014) and older fan faves like “My Bike”, we found it painfully hard not to sing along.
That being said, the high-octane spirit seemed lost on a majoritively older crowd; while the front of house spun into a grubby mosh from minute one, the other two floors stood idle as if to protest their acid-washed energy. Coupled with a so-so mix, the foursome never hit the unrelenting highs they’re known to – it’s is a shame, given how loose their headline sets can be.
Such is the undying virtue of nostalgia that a band like The Living End – whose breakthrough moment dates back to ’97 with semi-punk scorcher “Prisoner Of Society” – can remain one of Australia’s most relevant rock outfits well into the 2010s. Their ability to draw new fans in may be up for question – again, tonight’s crowd was mostly comprised of yesteryear’s punks celebrating their annual Rock And/Or Roll Concert™ – but ageing crowd be damned, The Living End still know how to tear shit up.
Kicking off with a thunderous singalong in “Roll On”, the band laid out an immediate expectation for their hourlong set: luscious riffs, lofty theatrics, and enough seminal Australian alt-rock to spur a full-on revival of the mullet. And, thanks in no short part to Scott Owen’s operatic prowess with a double bass and frontman Chris Cheney’s dazzling charisma, they pulled it off without a hitch. Cheney in particular was at the top of his game, every last punter nestled firmer in his palm with each numbing hook and soaring melody. His signature Gretsch tone rippled through the venue, met in equal grade with drummer Andy Strachan’s simple, yet unmistakably dexterous stickwork.
Though cuts from last year’s Shift merely fizzled by, classic jams like “All Torn Down” and “White Noise” were met with fanatical acclaim, wolf whistles and indecipherable jeers feeling almost mandatory in the silent gaps. And rightly so: Cheney and co. battered out their battle cries so intensely and void of tire that even those who prefer to admire quietly from the back were jerked off their feet. Witty banter and stylistic mutinies (especially notable: a jangly Creedence Clearwater Revival cover) kept the set feeling fresh from start to finish, as did a generous buffet of extended guitar solos and double bass licks.
They may have lacked the extra grandeur of their zoo performances (where live orchestras and cameos from Jimmy Barnes were to be expected) but in truth, it’s here – amidst a crowd of degenerate punks rocking out on bourbon-stained floors – that The Living End really belong.
– Ellie Robinson