Ten seconds in: hands are thrown in the air, heads are banging, hair whipping, water bottles spraying, a couple both wearing spikey chokers are making out – as soon as Grinspoon hit the stage the crowd instantly transitioned from relatively chilled, to nostalgic 90’s punk rock! Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their album, Guide to Better Living (now available in a deluxe edition), Grinspoon kicked off their second show for their tour of the same name at Margaret Court Arena (or as lead singer Phil Jamieson called it, ‘Marriage Equality Arena’) in Melbourne on Friday.
Before the band had hit the stage, I’d mentioned to an older gentleman in the smoko area that I hadn’t seen Grinspoon live before, he yelled, “WHAT!” and then proceeded to say, “Mate your life is about to change, you don’t even know what live music is!” At the end of the night, as the crowd walked away drenched in beer and other people’s sweat, I couldn’t help but agree.
The evening began with local Brisbane lads Good Boy, whose indie-rock vibe got people swaying. The set was short and the crowd scarce, but the boys still put on a great show, proving to be one band to watch.
Next up was Hockey Dad, a two piece from Wollongong, and oh boy never have I laughed and simultaneously rocked out at the same time. These guys were insane. And also possibly a little drunk. The crowd took a few songs to warm up to the band as I don’t think a lot of them knew who they were. As they dove into more tracks like “Can’t Have Them” and “Laura”, everyone started to feel their vibe and really get into it.
Lead singer Zach Stephenson’s Aussie charm also helped grab people’s attention with his banter and one liners off the rails. Particularly when he introduced a roadie by the name of Sweeney, who he called his ‘alcohol technician’. The crowd loved it. He confessed to losing the set list, but still carried on gleefully. Above all the banter though, they absolutely killed their set. For “Sweet Release”, drummer Billy Fleming tackled vocals for the first time ever (or so they claimed) and nailed it. He pulled his beanie down over his eyes, and smashed the hell at of the drums, not missing a beat, all the while spitting out lyrics. They moved on to “A Night Out With” and the mood had significantly changed from the start of the set. Everyone was bopping along, some even singing. They finished up with “So Tired” and it was one of those moments where you almost forget that they aren’t the headline act.
The crowd waited patiently for Grinspoon to grace the stage. A light buzz swarmed over the audience and a few giggles as Mary Poppins’ “Spoon Full of Sugar” played. As it started to fade, the lights went out and there was a brief hush as the cheery tune transitioned to a deep guitar riff. Entering the stage with a bang (aka bright lights), Grinspoon went straight to it, ripping into “Pressure Tested”.
The first half of the set was a tribute to Guide To Better Living. Tracks like “Sickfest” and “DC X3” being pumped out effortlessly, making the audience go insane (people crowd surfing second song in). Jumping around the stage and hitting every note with intense power, it was evident that the band were seasoned pros. Phil Jamieson’s energy was infectious as he danced and jumped off platforms and Pat Davern‘s guitar solos tore through the arena. “Champion” was a crowd favourite, and then led into a momentary break and the band left the stage for a costume change.
When they returned, they returned somehow even more commanding, and thrashed out some of their biggest hits. Running through songs like, “Lost Control”, “1000 Miles” and “Hard Act to Follow”, they demonstrated just why they are one of Australia’s much loved bands. The set closed with a massive performance of “More Then You Are”, with red streamers falling from the sky, and some dudes even getting out their lighters.
The night was a perfect example of why live music is so great. It has the power to stop time and transport you to a different place, even if it is for just a brief moment. Looking around at the crowd’s faces, you could tell that each one them felt like that back in time; back 20 years ago when they first listened to Guide to Better Living. As that guy had said to me in the beginning of the night, “Mate you have no idea.”
Grinspoon live are something else.
The Guide to Better Living Tour heads to Sydney’s Enmore Theatre next. Visit http://www.grinspoon.com.au for more details and full tour dates.
Photos by Rebecca Houlden.