I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: I was quite late jumping on the City Calm Down train. I’ll happily admit that. My first real exposure to the band was at Splendour In The Grass a few years back, when they covered David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. At the time, I was a few beers deep and thought it was the best cover I’d ever seen. This was the turning point. Managing to sell out Sydney’s Metro Theatre is no mean feat, and to do it on the back of one of the years better Australian releases only made it that much better.
Acting as main support for the night was Woodes. Having accidentally seen her open for Montaigne back in 2016, I’ve closely followed her progression as an artist, through the release of her two EPs. Seeing her the first time, she was shy and seemed quite nervous about playing to such a large room. Based on her 45 minute set on Friday night, she’s put those fears behind and now manages to put together a solid and confident set. Embracing the sounds and ethereal tones of Sigur Ros, she showcased the best of her two EPs, as well as her Like A Version of Vance Joy’s “Lay It On Me” and a new track. Closing on fan favourite “Dots”, Woodes thanked the near capacity room and bounded off stage with the spring of someone who knew they just crushed their set.
Entering the stage just on 10:30pm, City Calm Down embraced the packed house before moving into the frenetic and entirely fantastic “Distraction/ Losing Sleep”. Coming into the night, this was a personal stand out from their recent release Echoes In Blue. From the get-go, you just knew the set was going to be tight. The band seemed to be telepathic with each other, as they segued seamlessly into “Blood”. It’s a bold track, and as the first taste of Echoes In Blue it had been around long enough that everyone in the room knew it well.
The first big response of the night came from “In A Restless House”, as the two ladies in front of me frothed on the opening chords and seemingly transcended to another dimension. Moving back to their newer material, the daunting “Blame” darkened the mood of the room, before the gallant and reflective “Pride” popped up.
The middle stages of the set were very heavy, as the slower tracks and more depressive moments of their catalogue took precedent. Whilst at work the day of the gig, I had a colleague ask me what type of music City Calm Down played. After responding with ‘something somewhere between The Killers, Nick Cave and David Bowie’, the brilliant “Son” more than justified my comparison, as the touring seven-piece truly hit their straps and entered the second half of the set.
I had the chance to review Echoes In Blue prior to its release earlier in the year, and at the time said that “Joan, I’m Disappearing” was the crowning moment of the album. This easily transfers into a live setting. It’s a heartbreaking song at the best of times, and when performed live by front man Jack Bourke, definitely set a high standard for what the band are doing in the Australian music scene.
What followed “Joan, I’m Disappearing” proved to be the best four-song run of the night. With “Kingdom” and its commentary on how ridiculous Australian property prices are for the average punter setting it all up, “Rabbit Run” was the track that garnered the greatest response of the night. Sentimental fan favourite “Your Fix” (complete with a 10 second break before the last drop – which seemed more like 30 minutes) justified its spot as main set closer.
Re-entering the stage to play the album titular “Echoes In Blue”, the band closed on “This Modern Land”, complete with horn and saxophone and true stadium rock euphoria. Reflecting on the track, this was the peak in the set that hadn’t been reached just yet. It’s an absolute tune, and more than rightly should end City Calm Down sets for the indefinite future.
There’s no doubt City Calm Down are absolute weapons when it comes to playing live. There’s plenty of momentum behind the band at the moment. And for the sake of the Melbourne group, I hope more people jump aboard and enjoy the ride.
The reviewer attended this event on June 22nd.