‘In Love And Death’ by The Used is hailed as a classic album in many musical circles, with many hearing the album at a young age, allowing the band’s music to shape their musical preferences and leading them down the punk rock road. That was very much the case for me, and that album is the reason why we are gathered here tonight, to hear timeless songs played and to re-live our youths.
But before The Used came onto the stage and rocked out like it was 2004 all over again, the early birds in the crowd were greeted by the garage rock duo of Corpus, whose wall of noise pummelled through the chests of the building crowd. These past two nights have been my own introduction to this band and as a fan of another dynamic duo, Royal Blood, I was really digging what these guys are dishing out. For a two piece these guys kick out a huge sound, mostly thanks to guitarist Keiron Steel’s array of pedals, making a single electric guitar sounds like six high-school kids who have discovered the distortion button on their amps, and not to be outdone, drummer Jack Bruun-Hammond smashes away at the kit like it’s his last day on earth.
Unlike the previous night, there was more crowd interaction for these two, with banter between songs over a long drone of guitar noise, this making the crowd a whole lot more receptive with moderate cheers and warm applause filling the room after each and every noisy song came to an end.
Next up were local stalwarts Storm The Sky; and oh, how the once six-piece former-metalcore band have spread their wings and flown into the beautiful skies with a pop,post-hardcore, ambient rock fusion.
I haven’t seen this band since their ‘Permanence‘ album shows in August of last year, but I have never seen the group more comfortable on stage than they are in their current form. The music stands out, their presence and stagecraft are very different to the current Australian alternative sound. The band announced before the tour that they will play a different set each night (much like The Used) so they could keep the fans who went to both shows, on their toes. Tonight they added the anthem ‘Only One and put ‘Alive‘ back on the bench, with a couple of other ins and outs from their recent record, ‘Sin Will Find You‘.
William Jarratt, as a frontman, is an incredible figure. He is the lead singer who makes the girls weak at the knees and the guys wish they could sing like him. His hypnotic appearance front and centre is exactly what Storm The Sky needed when they moved from their two vocalist metalcore setup. Also, the inclusion of abstract samples and live keyboards/sample pads, massive guitar FX and an incredible vocal effort have transformed Storm The Sky a local Melbourne band into an incredible live experience.
Last night is was 80’s bangers and tonight it was 90’s anthems such as Destiny’s Child’s, Backstreet Boys and Brittany Spears that would lead us into another much-anticipated set from our childhood heroes.
From the moment that The Used smashed the first chord of the iconic ‘Take It Away‘, the crowd were transported back to their respective youths, with everyone going crazy and screaming the words along with the favourite band of their high school days. Being so close to the band for the first three songs in the photography pit, I got a great view of this tight-knit live band belt out the frantic first ten minutes of their second album, with bassist Jeph Howard catching my eye, as he used every inch of his side of the stage, as the always impeccable Bert McCracken using his aura to get the eager audience to sing along with him at the top of their voices.
It was clear that ‘Listening‘ is definitely an angsty crowd favourite, with crowd involvement at a high and most of the song being sung by a very vocal crowd, much to the awe of McCracken, as he stood on the edge of the stage amazed the dedication of his band’s fans. A nice little surprise for the Star Wars fans in the room, as the end of went ‘Listening‘ was quickly transformed into the Imperial March. Very, very nice indeed.
“My favourite part of these anniversary shows is that we get to play the soft and mellow songs we never usually play,” McCracken states before he and his band plunged into soft rock ballad ‘Yesterday’s Feelings‘. This is something I too enjoy with these kinds of shows; you hear songs that you may never have heard live before, even if you have seen a band ten times or more. It also gives a great sense of personalisation to the set, as everyone in the room would have their own favourite songs from The Used that are just “album tracks” and are a live rarity.
Now, I personally believe that McCracken is easily one of the best frontmen I’ve seen, right up there with the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Corey Taylor, Ronnie Radke and Serj Tankian (I shouldn’t have to tell you which bands those singers front). He is just such a strong character live who draws your eye wherever he may be on the stage, with his elastic facial expressions and the energy of a six-year-old whose had too much red cordial, McCracken leads his fellow troops to a massive performance that never drops below 100%.
As the album spun towards its end, the crowd choir hit its full voice during the gut-wrenching ‘Hard To Say‘, and following it up with ‘Lunacy Fringe‘ (of course) and incorporating a slick reggae mashup of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ by Bob Marley and ‘Smoke Two Joints‘ by Sublime was a really nice touch. My personal highlight of the show was witnessing a capacity 170 Russell crowd reciting the poem at the start of ‘I’m A Fake‘, as all of the emotion and angst of our teenage selves was pushed out in the form of words. This moment and that song as a whole ended The Used’s set on a strong high note, not unlike how it all began 40 or so minutes earlier with ‘Take It Away‘.
I cannot help but feel that these two Melbourne shows have been something truly special. For someone who was substantially younger than the rest of the crowd, ‘In Love & Death‘, in particular, was a gateway album to punk rock and alternative music for me. Whereas this album could have been the record that helped the girl next to me get over her first breakup or emotionally help the guy in front of me when his life took a turn for the worse in high school. You just never know what a certain album can mean to someone else, but I assure you all that this album was deeply important to every single person present at 170 Russell that night.
PC: Digital Beard Photography (hey, that’s me!).