I walked into The Tivoli just as Allison Weiss took the stage. As the crowd was still forming, I headed upstairs to grab a drink, then settled by the upper balcony. Allison and her band delivered a lashing of pop-infused indie-rock with a joy that was contagious. She took a moment to say that if anyone was coming back for the show on the following night, her life would be a little more complete. By that time, she said, she would have cuddled a koala.
CERES were up next. They’re a band going from strength to strength, belting out songs written with such candid lyricism that it seems almost like destiny to share a stage with The Smith Street Band. The crowd swelled as they smashed out a brilliant performance. I enjoyed their recorded songs, but I loved them live.
With a harder edge than Allison Weiss and CERES, Joyce Manor were the perfect transition to the main event of the night. They played with heart to a growing crowd. Joyce Manor put on a great show, but CERES were a hard act to follow. As their set wound down, people lined the balcony, and the standing area downstairs filled out.
The curtains fell and The Smith Street Band exploded onto the stage, to the roar of the crowd. It was apparent from the moment they appeared that frontman Wil Wagner’s voice had taken a beating on tour. It was fitting that they opened with Suffer, because it sounded like he was suffering. Despite his initial discomfort, Wil pushed through the pain and delivered a brilliant performance.
There aren’t too many perfect moments in life, but that felt like one of them
In the downtime between songs, Wil said that we were just going to have to sing louder to make up for it, and everyone was more than happy to oblige. I’ve been to the Tivoli a fair few times, and I have never heard a crowd singing a band’s lyrics back as loud as the crowd on Saturday night. Hell, I’ve been to gigs in arenas where the crowd didn’t sing half as loud as they did to The Smith Street Band.
Off the back of their new record, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, the tone of the show was mostly shiny. Their previous albums were all a little on the melancholic side. Sad songs to smash beers and smoke ciggies to. That element is still there, of course, but there’s a hope and a hunger for a better future that really lifts their new album to another level.
To match their newer sound, they’ve expanded their line-up, adding in Lucy Wilson on keys and vocals, and Pool House Records inaugural signing Jess Locke on guitar and vocals. The Smith Street Band is now a six piece, with a stage presence to match. Every member of the band gave a killer performance, with the vocal rounds at the end of Run Into The World being one of the highlights of the night. Shine, I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore and The Arrogance of the Drunk Pedestrian were my favourite performances of the night.
Towards the end of the show, Wil asked the crowd how many of us were seeing the band for the first time. A few of us, myself included, made a bit of noise. He welcomed us to the family, then welcomed everyone else back into the fold. He shared with us the origins of Laughing (Or Pretending to Laugh), then launched into the song. Something about the atmosphere of the night, the crowd and the story of the origin of the song really resonated with me. There aren’t too many perfect moments in life, but that felt like one of them.
After the lights went down and the crowd began to shuffle out I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. Sometimes coming home really does feel more like leaving.
– Matthew Barbeler