The Living End, Bad//Dreems, 131’s
Author: Maxine Gatt
Forum Theatre is packed to the brim with anticipation for Australia’s punk rock masters, The Living End. Kicking things off for tonight’s sold out show is Melbourne punk outfit 131’s who do a great job of warming up the staunch crowd. Lead singer Luke Yeoward looks like he’s straight out of London’s Camden Town: bright red mohawk, tatts and chains. It’s an explosive mix of pop melodies and punk rock riffs and the heavy influence of the headliners is apparent throughout this opening band’s set.
Garage-punk quartet Bad//Dreems stumble onto the stage with their loose antics and pub-rocker attitude, which proves a sharp contrast to their tight instrumental work. Even though lead singer Ben Marwe’s harsh diction is unclear at times, he makes up for it with the way his vocals bend around the alternative riffs. They sound like a rough version of The Clash with some ‘90s Seattle rock elements blended in.
The lights dim and we hear a guitar lick from the shadows, which sets off frantic cheers and flailing limbs. Through the haze of smoke, Chris Cheney jumps out and runs straight to the mic, busting out recent single Monkey as we jump around like we’re back in high school. The Living End are explosive in their performance and it’s easy to see why this band has attracted a deafening buzz around them for decades. New songs from their latest album Shift are interwoven through a thunderous set of classic, road-hardened hits. You don’t need to be a fan to know which songs are the new ones; they stick out not only in sound but also in crowd participation. New track Staring Down The Barrel is a modern and evolved take on their signature sound. We soak up the new stompin’ tunes and rock out to the enormous hit catalogue in full nostalgic singalong mode. All the favourites such as All Torn Down, Pictures In The Mirror, White Noise are thrown in and Cheney’s non-stop riffage mesmerises. The powerhouse trio rips out Second Solution and the crowd turns into a frenzied singalong, while Scott Owen jumps up onto the ridge of his double bass, mid-song, and strums from this new angle with ease. We go mental for Prisoner Of Society and sing a whole chorus without Cheney having to chime in.
All good things must come to an end and we lap up the two song encore, How Do We Know and West End Riot. Cheney leaps onto Owen’s bass and belts out a guitar solo while balancing up on the instrument. Back behind the mic, Cheney teases the crowd with a version of Born To Be Wild before cutting it at the chorus. “No, we’re not doing it!” he says and finishes the set with one more chorus of West End Riot. We’re blown away, not for the first time and hopefully not for the last.