The Gazette

Australian Invasion Rocks Metropolis

Author: Jordan Zivitz

Three out of four ain’t bad, with only the Vines failing to live up to the hype

The conquistador of the mission wasn’t in fighting form, but as far as Aussie invasions go, Monday’s quadruple bill at Metropolis was infinitely more entertaining than Yahoo Serious and Crocodile Dundee. The Vines, Jet, the Living End and Neon are all potentially demon live outfits, and three out of four ain’t bad.

From the top: It might have been the band no one came to see, but Neon still found itself playing to an impressively full room. Highlighted by wonderfully frayed harmonies, the quartet refracted Jet’s retro riffing through a slightly darker looking glass.

The Living End earned the highest marks for effort, as the trio came out ready to stun-gun a crowd that didn’t need convincing. The mainstream polish on the recent Modern Artillery album was mercifully down played, leaving a battered punk/vintage rock ‘n’ roll hybrid.

Accusations of musical larceny clearly haven’t deterred Jet; after 90 seconds on stage, singer Nic Cester was making off with Pete Townshend’s windmill strum. It barely matters who gets ripped off – with its twin guitar delirium, with a bass that sounded like Godzilla tearing through the floorboards, and with Cester unleashing the booziest howl this side of Bon Scott, Jet made sure everyone was too busy partying to confiscate its cheat sheets

Between the band’s 1970s arena-rock heart and an A-level light show (complete with vomit inducing strobes in Take It or Leave It), this was a Bell Centre performance crammed into Metropolis. Wisely considering the mood of the crowd, Jet down played its mellow side. The sole exception, Look What You’ve Done, was greeted with much arm-waving and Bic-flicking – none of it ironic. Leave it to the Darkness to wink at retro rock. Jet just wants to give it a big sloppy kiss.

Only a supremely self-confident group would play its smash hit mid-set, and they don’t come any more self-confident than this. Are You Gonna Be My Girl was dedicated to CĂ©line Dion and given an amphetamine rush, with Cester goading on an already delirious crowd. It was enough to win control of the song back from that damn iPod commercial.

Jet’s too-brief rave-up ended with a tear through That’s All Right, Mama that sounded like Elvis on a bender. It was a tough act to follow, and instead of trying to meet the challenge, Vines singer Craig Nicholls seemed intent on making his mark through a lesson in self-defeat. The Vines walk a fine line between raw power and shambolic confusion, on Monday the latter ruled.

Along with a perversely paced set list that killed momentum by alternating fast song/slow song over and over until just before the encore, blame for the Vines performance rested on Nicholls’s psychotic little shoulders. As his bandmates tried valiantly to make Outtathaway a bruising opener, the singer sabotaged the number with a bizarre goatherder’s yelp. In Winning Days – the group’s loveliest song on album – Nicholls’s vocals gave an impressive approximation of a guitar being tuned.

When the band jelled, you could almost feel the heat. Get Free and Ride were vicious, and Nicholls got the spooked voice right on Autumn Shade II. More often, the audience’s reaction – a fraction as rapturous as the one that greeted Jet – told most of the story. Nicholls told the rest by bonking his head repeatedly against the microphone in a moment that summarized his performance: a bit freakish, and kind of depressing.

It’s hard to tell whether Nicholls is genuinely troubled, or just a jerk. In either case, his affectations kept anyone – band or audience – from getting too close. In one of the few coherent moments of stage patter, the singer said: “There’s a guy trapped at the front who wants to leave, but he can’t.” Feel his pain.