Astor Theater, Perth WA
December 15th, 2018
Supports: Fyre Byrd, Ragdoll
I love the Astor Theatre. the acoustics are second to none, and the half and half standing and seating set up caters for all walks. Whether you’re the crusty old dude whose days in the moshpit are a distant happy memory, or the young upstart who just has to be in the front row headbanging like there’s no tomorrow, this venue has it all.
Opening the night were Fyre Byrd, two young upstarts from Adelaide who are making a hell of a lot of noise. Confined to drums and guitar, it’s an interesting concept (and I’ll admit to a touch of scepticism) but these two pulled it off. It was my first outing to a live show, as it was their first trip to the west coast and I was left very impressed with their dirty rock/punk sound. Another thing they had in spades was attitude – so many opening acts just come out play the set, plug their merch and leave. Fyre Byrd put on a high energy rock show complete with instrument destroying theatrics, as Daniella Breeze danced around her drum kit, leapt onto the stool and smashed the shit out of the cymbals. Meantime, vocalist/guitarist Josh Samtre lay flat on his back, taking the feedback to fever pitch. The cacophony ended with an Epiphone flying across the stage and landing in a distortion inducing heap. Come back anytime Fyre Byrd, that was rock n fn roll.
Next up were Perth’s own Ragdoll. Now I’ve seen Ragdoll more times than I can remember and what they deliver each and every time is a tight as fuck set of hard rock. Tonight there was no fucking around as the trio of Leon Todd, Cam Barrett and Ryan Rafferty kicked things off with the stunning Shine. Rafferty’s vocals are sublime, with the barefoot bass player hitting every note every time. So many bands have trouble recreating their recorded songs live, but not so with Ragdoll. These boys are the real deal. Punters who turned up early were treated to a set of old and newIsh tracks but with the band currently recording their second album, I was hoping for a bit of “here’s a new one off our upcoming album” (that song that usually sends half the punters to the bar). Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, but nitpicking aside, songs like ‘Love On The Run’, ‘Playing God’ and ‘All I Want’ made it hard not to walk away happy.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR BABY?!
The answer is of course Living Colour. The New Yorkers are on tour to mark the 30th anniversary of their exceptional debut album Vivid. Thirty years later, every song is as relevant today as it was back then. After a stop in Auckland and Wellington the quartet made the long trip across to Perth to kick off the Australian leg of the tour. If the boys were feeling a bit of frequent flyer fatigue, it didn’t show. They hit the ground running with ‘Middle Man’ and just didn’t stop. Corey Glover’s vocals are from a different dimension, hitting notes I’m sure only dogs can hear, effortlessly, every single time. Decked out in a bowler hat, white suit and bow tie, Glover was certainly the best dressed rock star of the night. The man just oozes cool as he led us on a funk infused hard rock joyride. Speaking of cool, one of the best guitarists in rock, Mr Vernon Reid, stamped his mark early in the set with a blistering solo. If, like so many others, you’d come to see the man in action you wouldn’t have been disappointed. It was to be the first of the many “holy shit!” moments of the set. Touted as a set of highlights from Vivid (with a few other favourites) it was an absolute joy to hear so many classic tracks live. The setlist was obviously Vivid heavy, but Times Up and their latest release Shade got a share of the spotlight as well.
There’s something hypnotic about Doug Wimbish’s bass playing: smooth, atmospheric and very funky, and Wimbish played a bass solo the likes I’d never seen before. Loops, effects pedals and with an almost impossible amount of talent, the dreadlocked one had the whole of the Astor Theatre absolutely spellbound. To see someone shred on a bass like it was a six string was, by no exaggeration, jaw dropping.
Not to be outdone, when it was his time, drummer Will Calhoun took that clichéd rock n roll drum solo to another level. Just as I was thinking of slipping to the bar for a sneaky ale, Calhoun produced a solo incorporating loops, pedals, effects and electronic tom-toms that had me rooted to the spot! Just as Wimbish had done earlier in the evening, the percussionist crafted a soundscape of experimentation and innovation.
The funk/rock pioneers may have played at nostalgia show, but they proved they haven’t stopped breaking new ground – and rules along the way. Since 1988 Living Colour, has been, and will always be my favourite colour.
Reviewed by Gareth Williams
Revisit our interview with Vernon Reid of Living Colour right here
Then, see what Ragdoll‘s Leon Todorovich thought were the best releases/gigs of 2018 with his contribution in our Wall of Sound Year In Review series here
Living Colour – Australia Tour 2018
17 DEC @ THE GOV, ADELAIDE
19 DEC @ 170 RUSSEL, MELBOURNE
20 DEC @ TRIFFID, BRISBANE
21 DEC @ THE NORTHERN, BYRON BAY
22 DEC @ METRO THEATRE, SYDNEY