The Living End Retrospective Tour

Author: Brendan Hitchens

Corner Hotel: 11/12/12-16/12/12

Tuesday: The Living End walk on stage to a news montage of events from 1997 including the death of Princess Diana, the Thredbo landslide and also, fittingly, the release of their breakthrough EP Second Solution/Prisoner Of Society. The precursor to their self-titled album to be released a year later, it seems half a lifetime ago. For many in attendance, it is.Tonight is the band’s first of 11 shows at the Richmond venue they cut their teeth at and part of an ambitious 39-show retrospective national tour. Renowned as a live band, the tour is not just an opportunity for the trio to revel, but a thank you to a generation of fans. The record they are playing in its entirety, much like The Clash’s eponymous debut, explores British punk, ska and rockabilly elements with as much vitality as their idols displayed 21 years earlier. It’s their most successful commercial album and seemingly a hit parade, which spawned single after single. As per tracklisting, they begin with Prisoner Of Society, a song often reserved for encores. Like a watered-down version of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name, the rhetoric is youthfully vague, nonetheless appropriated by the crowd as, fists in the air, they shout the refrain, “We don’t need no one to tell us what to do.” Sure,the context of the lyrics for both band and crowd has changed, Chris Cheney now resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two children, but it’s delivered with the same punk-rock disobedience that Cheney (who wrote the song aged 22) would have belted it out back in theday. It’s the song that broke the band and fitting that it’s the first song they perform on this run of dates. Soon followed by Second Solution, which Cheney introduces as “our first real single”, he incites the crowd, telling an anecdote of how the song’s clip was shot at the same venue in 1997, adding that the underage crowd back then were more energetic. Naturally it provokes a frenzy of movement, which doesn’t stop for the remainder of the night. The themes of tonight’s songs – the Dunblane school massacre of Monday or the industrial development of the Kennett government in All Torn Down – seem distant, but it’s not so much about the meaning of the songs, more the memories associated with hearing them. Many of the songs that bookend the album haven’t been performed live in years, if ever. Tonight they are reinvigorated, most notably Trapped featuring the makeshift Area 7 horn section. Despite the guests, there’s no sign, nor acknowledgment of original drummer Travis Dempsey, slightly tainting the legitimacy of the album he helped create. “We’re just a rockabilly band from Wheelers Hill,” says Cheney. A retrospective show with integrity, they race through the album with little sign of self importance. It’s a typical punk show of yesteryear: fast, furious and for the fans. With ten more shows to go, it will be hard to top tonight.

Wednesday: Where The Living End initially looked to the UK for inspiration, White Noise is unashamedly Australian. Steeped in the country’s long-running pub rock tradition, the record centres on big riffs and even bigger choruses, just like heroes AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, whose Most People I Know they briefly cover tonight. It’s a record that seems at home when played at a pub rather than the festivals or stadiums they have become accustomed to, so the Corner makes an ideal setting. White Noise was the band’s first release on an independent label since the ‘90s and it shows. The radio singles are there, in fact they cram into the first third of the album, but once out of the way it’s Chris Cheney left to his own devices as he lets his guitar do much of the talking. Performing the album, and many of the tracks, live for the first time in years, Cheney embellishes each song with extended solos (aided by the addition of an extra guitarist), evidence he is more comfortable as a lead guitarist than a lead singer. The record that, supposedly, refuelled his passion for music, it seems onstage and in full flight he couldn’t be happier. As an album, and indeed a setlist, White Noise is disjointed. The title track, the band’s most successful radio single, is a clear crowd favourite as the back-and-forth chorus is chanted at full volume. The album’s boldest statement perhaps comes in the Calypso-inspired Sum Of Us that closes tonight’s performance, Cheney channelling Bob Marley as he sings, “God help those who don’t help the others/Some of us have more rights than the others”. Though White Noise is far from The Living End’s strongest album, they deliver it with such passion and verve that it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment.

Thursday: A temporary redemption after Modern ARTillery, State Of Emergency, released in 2006, is the fourth album from The Living End and the third they perform in a run of dates at the Corner Hotel. According to the video that plays before they walk on stage, it’s the record that won back wavering fans and earned them a legion of new ones. Regardless, like most shows on the tour, attendance is at capacity. Rarely deviating from their trademark sound, only adjusting intensity, State Of Emergency is a superbly produced record ,but in a live context that counts for nothing. What separates tonight from normal shows is the fact that they perform a full album from start to finish for the first and only time. It’s the sense of witnessing something rare that validates the concept. State Of Emergency is vintage The Living End, full of punk-inspired rock’n’roll and Chris Cheney’s distinguishable lyrics. Wake Up is a contemporary take on Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall, as Cheney sings, “Wake up to the situation/Suicidal education.” It’s full of gloom and cynicism, until a stirring chorus kicks in; tonight the role of youth choir is played by the front five rows of the audience.The record’s first single What’s On Your Radio? is surely tongue in cheek. Coming in at under three minutes, it seems written for the airways with its repetitious verse/chorus structure that sees Cheney drop the word “radio” 27 times. Like so many of the band’s songs, it was warmly embraced by national radio, making Cheney’s line “Do you trust what’s on your radio?” seem daft. At 51:45 it’s their longest album and, to accommodate, the banter is kept to a minimum tonight. Although this means proceedings are wrapped up by 11pm, you lose the connection to the band and, to the detriment of the concept, feel like you’re just listening to the record from start to finish. “Playing a record eliminates the surprise option,” smirks Cheney, as a fan shouts out a request, offering a rare insight into his personality, but also highlighting why such shows are hit and miss.

Friday: At the time of release, The Living End’s Modern ARTillery was met with a lukewarm response. Rolling Stone gave it a safe three-stars, it entered the charts lower than their previous albums, and many fans and media alike slept on the record. It came after Chris Cheney’s life-threatening car accident, was their first with a new line-up and, as the years passed by, got lost amongst their six-album deep discography. But with time comes clarity and benefiting from its start to finish performance tonight, Modern ARTillery, to this day, stands as the band’s strongest release. At just under 90 seconds, What Would You Do? begins the album and set, one of the rare tracks written by double bass player Scott Owen. Subtly wearing a Mr Cassidy shirt, his Byron Bay-based bluegrass project, it’s surprising he doesn’t have more writing credits to his name. Followed by Tabloid Magazine, a song, in the wake of recent News Of The World and 2Day FM scandals, that seems as relevant today as the day it was written. Who’s Gonna Save Us? follows, the first single from the album and showcasing Chris Cheney at his questioning socio-political best. A song that infiltrated the US charts and was used in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary, it’s punchy and to the point. Tonight Cheney is in fine form. He dedicates End Of The World to the Mayan calendar, there’s a brief cover of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday and the greatest glimpse into the writing process of the album and events leading up to its release is provided when he introduces Rising Up From The Ashes as a song about “bouncing back after a tough, tough time”. Cheney, and the entire band for that matter, are forever grateful to the fans. “The previous record of the Corner was five shows,” he gleams. The Living End haven’t just eclipsed the record, jointly held by Megan Washington and Matt Corby in 2010 and 2012 respectively, they’ve smashed it.

Saturday: The lights dim and a documentary-like montage plays, before The Living End walk on stage one by one. It’s a daily charade, and for the fifth night in a row, goes to script. The band’s sixth and most recent record, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, is less than 17 months old. It is also their most disappointing. The singles seem forced and the lyrics clumsy, as they loosely appropriate rockabilly sounds with influences of U2, Midnight Oil and The Police. They play to their strengths, Chris Cheney’s guitar work, but those moments are few are far between, on a record that’s slow and restrictive. Tonight, a reprised version of E-Boogie and a semi-ironic cover of The Wiggles’ Hot Potato, both of which don’t appear on the album, are highlights, as too the title track that closes the album. “We’re at the tail end of the tour, enthusiasm can wane, but it’s not going to. We thank you for that,” says a mortal Cheney mid-set, as he looks to the crowd for inspiration, 33 shows into a tour and with six more to go. “Everything goes away but comes back some day/The ending is just the beginning repeating,” Cheney sings to close the album, with a sense that this might be more of a farewell tour than retrospective. If these lyrics ring true, it will be sombre not only to see such a band call it quits, but also for The Ending Is JustThe Beginning Repeating to be their final legacy.

Sunday: It’s testament to The Living End that they’re still playing, let alone returning to the Richmond venue that helped forge their career. Tonight sees them perform their 2000 album Roll On. Where their debut, two years prior, was on their own terms, Roll On had the fingerprints of EMI. Ultimately it sounded like a major-label record – polished and elaborate. When performed live tonight the sheen is gone, the band thrashing out the songs with a refreshing rawness. Opener Roll On is a declaration, as much about the band saying “we’re back” as the industrial wharf dispute it was commentating on. Beginning with a riff that sounds suspiciously like Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols, it builds on the momentum of their debut and is the perfect start to any setlist. Pictures In The Mirror follows and it’s one of their finest works in an extensive catalogue. The album is a fan favourite, evident by the show’s early sold-out status and the need for an extra date to be added. Chief songwriter Chris Cheney admits to listening to Midnight Oil, The Angels and AC/DC at the time of writing and it shows. But, again, there’s elements of ska (Blood On Your Hands), pop (Revolution Regained) and also bar room sing-alongs (Uncle Harry).Tonight, at just over an hour, is their most entertaining set of the week. Covers of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues, The Stray Cat’s Rock This Town and Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love enhance the atmosphere and offer a snapshot of the artists that inspired the album. There’s no doubt The Living End are superb live, but it’s the songs they will be remembered for and Roll On is full of those.

Chris Cheney

Author: Unknown


“The Retrospective tour has been a whole different can of worms, it really is. It’s kind of setting up the rig to play different records. I’ve got a whole lot of different stuff. The first two records are pretty easy, it’s just slap delay and an overdrive pedal, that’s about all I had at that point (laughs). Then after that I started using different delays, some stereo delays and ping pong effects on a few songs, so it’s been fun kind of dialling those in.

“Guitar-wise, I’m kind of tempted to grab a couple off my older Gretschs. I’ve got a couple of ‘60s ones that I used to play that have become semi retired, I suppose. It’s just because the newer ones stay in tune a little better, they’re a bit more roadworthy and a bit easier to throw around. My sound hasn’t changed that much over the hears, it’s really just down to the way I play certain songs. There’s a whole lot more rockabilly sounding songs off our first record, it’s just a matter of cleaning up the sound a little bit. It’s not like I was using radically different kinds of tones to what I am now. “Amp-wise, at the moment I’m using a Wizard 50 watt, which has kind of been my staple amp for over 10 years or something now. I’ve got an old Fender Bassman which I’m playing alongside it. The I’ve been plugging into this Divided By Thirteen amp, which is really, really nice. I’ve got an old Vox AC30 as well. I’m kind of putting all of those alongside my Wizard amps and seeing what sounds best, but they all seem to sound good. So, it’s a problem, but a good problem (laughs).”

The Living End

Author: Zoe Radas

Towards the end of the ‘90s, the Antipodes was good to guitar-heavy Australian music with Jebediah, Regurgitator and The Whitlams hauling arse up the indie charts. When Melbourne trio The Living End unleashed their double A-side release Second Solution/Prisoner Of Society, it promptly collected jewels across genres when it was the only Australian single to get up there in the sales charts, standing out in a sea of Ricky Martins and Shania Twains. Its success signalled the start of Australia’s long, respectful admiration for The Living End and beginning Tuesday December 11, the band will play a run of 11 shows at The Corner Hotel, each featuring one of the rockers’ six studio albums.

“Yeah I know, far out man: time is money, I believe,” says double bassist Scott Owen when the operator informs me we only have ten minutes to speak and I express dismay. It’s Owen’s first interview for the day and the coffee-head has undoubtedly already ingested his share of the devil’s brew, as photos on the band’s site attest to his addiction. For the record, he has the procedure down pat. “Before midday I’ll have a double shot latte with one sugar, but after midday I’ll have what’s called a double shot piccolo which is basically two shots of coffee and just half the amount of milk… you get the good stuff, but you don’t need that much milk after the clock strikes noon.” Owen will need the extra kick over the coming weeks as he and bandmates Chris Cheney and Andy Strachan thrash out multiple shows including some for the kids. “We used to do tons of [under 18s shows],” he says thoughtfully. “It was always on the cards to do over 18s and under 18s shows. I guess a lot of our fans are under the age of 18. It’s unfair to play all those shows and deny them!” My intro to the band came when they played at my high school in 1998, something I couldn’t believe our uppity teachers had allowed. I couldn’t recall Owen doing his now-famous move that heady day. “Maybe the show was a little bit toned down for the high school performance,” he laughs. “When the adrenaline kicks in it seems like anything is possible on stage, and I guess it is, if balancing on a double bass is possible then anything’s possible. I blame adrenaline,” he says decidedly.

The under 18s show will see folk-punk-rock foursome The Smith Street Band supporting, while other shows feature a mix of all kinds of acts including The Meanies, Money For Rope and Something For Kate.“We just sort of put the word out to try and get as many bands as possible,” explains Owen. “We figured there’d be quite a few people who’d come to more than one gig so I guess it’s good for them to have a bit of variety as well.” There’s also a pretty marvellous list of one-time DJs slated to appear in between bands at each show. “We just went to friends of ours that were in bands and asked them if they would do it,” he chortles. Fans can expect to see Johnny Mackay from Children Collide, Hamish Rosser of Wolfmother, two of the Gyroscope dudes, and Phil Jamieson from Grinspoon (using his inspired DJ moniker 2manyPJs) behind the decks. “There’s going to be a long changeover between and the first band and us,” Owen says.“They’re not huge stages, so we need to get all our shit off stage, have [it] off stage when the first band plays so they have room. You know, we don’t want to do that mean-spirited thing where you make bands set up in front of your own shit on a tiny stage so they have six square feet of room to perform in,” he says drily. “So that being the case, the crew have to set up all our shit after this poor band plays so there’s going to be a big gap. We thought we’d provide some sort of entertainment between.”

With Cheney arguably one of the country’s best guitarists and Strachan a master at thumping the skins in that perfectly simple punk style (“It’s not a massive kit, it’s pretty standard – there’s no friggin’ Virgil Donati or Lars Ulrich set up going on there” Owen states), it seems useless to bother layering on the superlatives about how good these shows are going to be. Despite not winning the Best Live Act ARIA this year, The Living End have already got six of the pointy statues and clearly don’t need another in order to sellout several of their shows in our city. If you haven’t yet got yourself a ticket there’s still time, but if you count to three (‘one two three’), you could miss out on these legendary dates.

…Just The Beginning Repeating

Author: Bryget Chrisfield

When Bryget Chrisfield joins frontman Chris Cheney, double bassist Scott Owen and drummer Andy Strachan on the eve of their current, marathon Retrospective Tour, she learns the band originally planned to call it, “The Living End – Tears Of Joy, Waves Of Emotion”.

“Oh look, I’m gonna come straight out and say this,” The Living End’s frontman Chris Cheney pauses for effect while his bandmates clutch their beers in anticipation. “I’m expecting tears.” Drummer Andy Strachan exhales, “Oh, that’s so much better than I thought it was gonna be.” Cheney is referring to how he expects the crowd to react during The Living End’s current Retrospective tour, which sees the trio play all six albums, back to back, over 39 dates nationwide. “I’m expecting tears of joy, waves of emotion. That was what we were gonna call the tour: ‘The Living End – Tears Of Joy, Waves Of Emotion’. Then we went, ‘Er, maybe just Retrospective.’” Sadly, they’ve already printed out the T-shirts, so this slogan won’t be emblazoned across them, but Cheney has a light-bulb moment: “We might get some hankies made up, though. As you walk in you get a hankie.”

Once double bassist Scott Owen gets involved, it’s an in-jokefest. “What are we saying?” Cheney observes. “We spend too much time together, clearly! Well we were gonna have a day off today and not see each other, but here we are back at the pub, two pots in.” Owen disagrees with the picture Cheney is painting of their band as boozehounds: “No, we haven’t been going to the pub! We used to go to the pub every day for lunch, but we haven’t been to the pub at all. We went to the pub once two days ago out of the whole month [of rehearsals], so we’re like boy scouts.” Does this boy scout-like behaviour include working out to get match-fit for the tour? Owen stresses: “Yep. Fuck, yeah!” Cheney chuckles, “As he rolls a cigarette.” Owen defends: “Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike to rehearsal everyday.” “Andy, you’ve been doin’ a bit of Zumba,” Cheney teases.“Mind you, we do six-hour rehearsal days. That’s one of the things in the back of our mind is the stamina and the endurance, ‘cause seven nights is a lot – and different sets – so it’s gonna be brain-strain as much as anything else.” Owen directs the spotlight back Strachan’s way: “Andy spends hours running away from screaming women every day.” Cheney chuckles and continues on this theme, “He’s all four of The Fab Four in one!”

On the reasons behind tackling this beast of a tour, Cheney ponders, “I think it was just basically trying to do something that was gonna cause some kind of controversy, that it was actually gonna be a talking point, like, ‘Wow, are they really gonna be able to do that?’ We were the first ones to ask the question, you know, ‘It’s such a challenge, let’s just throw ourselves into it. What’s the worst that can happen?’” And how many songs across their six albums would they anticipate have never been played live before? “There’d be at least – half would you say?” Owen estimates. Cheney counters, “It’d be a bit more. I’d say, like, fifty. I mean, I think we’ve had to learn seventy-nine [songs] in total – not had to learn, but that we’ve been rehearsing. That is the catalogue: seventy-nine or eighty or something.”

“Let’s call it eighty,” Owen interjects before Cheney continues, “And of that I reckon over the past few years we’ve fallen into the trap of kind of playing maybe eighteen or ninetween or twenty of those; let’s say twenty.” Owen turns to Strachan: “So that leaves – you do the maths.” The drummer confesses, “Yeah, I’m not very good at maths.” Cheney: “[There are] quite a lot that we haven’t played very often. Some songs like Putting You Down and things like that, which we’ve never played live, you know: you write them, you rehearse them, you record them, you mix them and then that’s it! You never sort of go back to it, so there’s a few of those.” Revisiting these during the rehearsal period brought certain songs into focus that Owen labels “real tough customers”. “There’s one called Nowhere Town that’s been probably the biggest tough customer, hasn’t it?” Strachan concurs: “Yep, absolutely.” Owen muses, “Why the hell we’d have such a difficult song to play and then, three-quarters of the way through the song, go, ‘Let’s put a key change in! Just so we have to learn it in another position as well.’ But actually, it’s great – it’s a really fun song.”

Cheney offers: “You know what? I think it’s one thing to book a tour like this and just play all those songs, but we didn’t wanna bluff our way through and just sort of play it; we wanna actually [punches the table to emphasise each word] nail every single song. That’s where the nerves kinda crept in for me, it was like, ‘Holy shit! I don’t wanna just play track five and kind of get through it.’ We wanna slam it – every single album, every song – which is just an enormous amount of work, because you’ve gotta know the songs backwards and really do it properly. ‘Cause, you know, we‘ve built up this reputation as a live band that, ninety per cent of the time, has a pretty good show – just because we’re anal like that. So it’s like, ‘This could be our undoing if we don’t pull it off.’ [laughs] So we don’t want that to be the case. Each album that we do, there’s gonna be a handful of people in the audience who, you know, whatever track number seven is – that’s their favourite song,” Owen explains, “and that’s gonna be thehighlight of their night. So I wanna make sure we’re not just bluffing our way through [those songs], we wanna actually do them all justice so all those pockets of people are happy.”

“People that were, like, fifteen when our first record came out,” Cheney points out, “by the time the latest one came out, like,some of them might even have their own children – it’s quite bizarre. So there’s gonna be all different generations of people: People that got into State Of Emergency might have hated our first record. And then we’ve been lucky enough that we’ve got all these different generations of people [who] get into our records.” Babysitters will be in high demand, then. “We should have a crèche,” Owen jokingly suggests. “We’re doing our under-18 gig on the last day: we’re doing two shows,” Cheney explains, surprising Strachan: “On the last day!? Really? We’re gonna be so tired.”