Look, if you came here looking for an unbiased review of Belle Haven’s live show, then I am afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.
These Melbourne heroes were the first band of the night to play on Arrow’s second, smaller room stage, yet the smaller stage/floor show aspect of this gig is perhaps the best setting to see Belle Haven in. Why? Well, because this post-hardcore band consistently puts on a highly engaging set, one that is filled to the brim with kinetic energy and a true feeling of ‘blink and you’ll miss something fucking awesome’.
Most interesting about their performance this night was that they began with ‘The Looking Glass‘, easily one of their most melodic and lighter songs, and there was a rather low-key element about it. Which was exacerbated by the fact that there was only around 100 or so punters in attendance for this event, and being held within Arrow’s second, smaller room, everything had a noticeably empty feeling. Yet never to be a band that phones in their music or their live performances, the band powered on without a care in the world.
From there on in, it was the band’s usual live set of ‘Rolls & Fame‘, the short but hectic ‘Hunt For Health‘, the destructive fan-favourite ‘Closet‘, and of course, a fine finale by ending with their banging new single, ‘The Carving Knife‘. Which was all great stuff, for sure, and as I stated in my write-up on their Invasion Fest set last month, they aren’t the tightest band on the planet but to be so would intrude upon the high-octane performance they so strongly deliver. However, while I love seeing this band live, I am finding that their set is starting to now wear a little thin with those five very expected songs. However, with inklings in the local scene of the band getting signed up soon and with new music supposedly being on the way in the near future, I really do believe that 2017 will truly be Belle Haven’s year.
Take it by the balls, lads.
All the way from Ontario, Canada was Counterparts, who were last here in December 2014. The last Melbourne AA show they played was to a packed out Wrangler Studios and that still stands out in mind as one of the best shows I’ve seen at that particular venue. While it’s been a while between drinks for us and the band, the same vibe remained, and that was fully realised when the band kicked off their solid set with the pairing of ‘Stranger‘ and ‘Stillborn‘ from 2015’s ‘Tragedy Will Find Us‘ (a decent record to be sure, but far from their best work).
What stuck out to me most here was the change of pace from the Canadian’s set and the local act before them. Whereas Belle Haven’s on-stage presence was one of movement and sheer intensity with some crowd participation, Counterparts were quite stationery on-stage with many fans going rowdy for them. To be fair, though, their songs were, by and large, a lot faster than that of the opening act and they have a lot more focused drumming (touring drummer Kyle Brownlee never ran out of steam) and melodic guitar work to deliver in their songs. Oh, and speaking of the guitars, guitarists Adrian Lee and recent addition Blake Hardman really gave Every Time I Die a run for their money with the high output of tasty riffs they were filling Arrow up with during their half hour set.
With a quick detour back to 2013’s superb ‘The Difference Between Hell & Home‘ (now, that’s their best work) with the three-pronged attack of the blistering ‘Witness‘, the melodic ‘Outlier‘ and the emotionally and sonically crushing ‘Compass‘, the band sent the fans in attendance into a frenzy, and the mosh pit was well and truly whipped up. After a couple more ‘Tragedy Will Find Us‘ songs, the band revealed the late game ace up their sleeve to be long-time fan favourite, ‘The Disconnect‘, and the song’s cathartic climax of ‘I fucking hate the world/I fucking hate myself/I swore I’d never feel like this‘ garnering one of the most intense crowd reactions of their whole set, with fans clambering over one another for a fabled mic grab.
Counterparts then ended their set with ‘Burn‘, but you know, ‘The Disconnect‘ would have been a far better ending to their proceedings. Just sayin’.
Since 2013, I have seen Letlive. on both of their previous two Australian tours, and I was sure as shit not going to be missing this one! Opening with the enthusiastic and livid ‘Renegade ’86‘ only reminded just how damned good 2011’s ‘Fake History‘ was, and the potent mid-set duo of ‘Le Prologue‘ and ‘Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion‘ left my voice raw as I recited back the lyrics that I had memorised down to the last line almost six years ago as loudly as I could. However, while that record and the strong follow-up that was ‘The Blackest Beautiful‘ are both great albums in their own right, I was left rather disappointed with last year’s release, ‘If I’m The Devil…‘. See, that album is the polar opposite of ‘The Blackest Beautiful‘, which had some truly exceptional songs that were let down by a poor mix and recording quality, whereas ‘If I’m The Devil…‘ is a pristine, sonically polished release with sadly subpar songs; songs that showed Letlive. easing their collective feet off of the energetic accelerator, just not in a good way. I personally come to this band for songs like ‘Punks Not Dead, Jesus Is‘, ‘Empty Elvis‘, ‘27 Club‘ (which they also played, and yes, it was amazing) and ‘Casino Columbus‘, and not for songs like ‘A Weak Ago‘ and ‘Foreign Cab Rides‘. Prior to their set, I thought that their latest album would be much like Northlane’s ‘Node‘ for myself; an album I had to see live in order to “understand”. And while the emotion behind the aforementioned ‘A Weak Ago‘ and ‘Foreign Cab Rides‘ did become more palpable live, I won’t be sitting down to hear that album in full anytime soon. Shit, even that records most chaotic cut, ‘Another Offensive Song‘, which was an early set addition, just did not resonate with me live like ‘Renegade ’86‘ before it and didn’t fill me with adrenaline like the unrelenting ‘That Fear Fever‘ did after it (which was simply wicked live).
Before going any further, the real standouts of Letlive. are without a doubt their terrifically tight drummer, Loniel Robinson, who is a beast behind the kit. And then to nobody’s surprise, the captivating personality and energy of singer Jason Aalon Butler, who sadly had no death-defying stunts save for a well-timed backflip off one of the venue’s support columns at the end of their set.
At the tail end of their set, and with such a small attendance, Butler steps back the mic and talks honestly to the women in attendance, saying that it is only up to those women alone what is done with their bodies – not anyone else’s. No one in the room challenges that impassioned sentiment and Butler then spoke openly about the medical issues of his younger years and how his mother and sister were there for him in his dire time of need, showing him pure, unconditional love. It’s a touching story (one that he also spoke about at their 2014 Melbourne Soundwave performance during the earth-shatteringly beast that is ‘27 Club‘). Of course, those who know the band’s older work knew exactly where this speech was heading – ‘Muther‘. Despite the deep, emotional value embedded within that song, and the message behind it, I’ve always felt it was one of the band’s weaker songs – which still classifies it as ‘good’, mind you – and it’s a song that I find is far better experienced live. After dedicating their last song, ‘Good Mourning America‘ to the time that Butler headbutted a police officer in the face, and how he’d do it to that “cunt” again (I don’t know the full context of that story, sorry), another Letlive. show sadly comes to an end.
But what the fuck, guys? No ‘Casino Columbus‘ included in the set? Yep, that is indeed worthy of a paddlin’.
While standing out near the doors of Arrow to get some of the cool night air coming in to cleanse my sweaty body, I suddenly realised that I have never seen the shinfo lords that are Every Time I Die live before. “No, that can’t be right” I think to myself, as Every Time I Die begin to setup downstairs. But as I rack my brain for a memory that didn’t actually exist and as I take my place in the crowd when the band launched into a killer, groovy, riff-heavy set that saw plenty of crowd movement and headbanging that I did in fact realise that yes – I hadn’t seen this band live before.
Well, fuck me, there’s a first time for everything, and I was more than happy to lose my live Every Time I Die virginity in this manner!
The band’s hour-long set was chock full of both old and classic tunes, from ‘We’rewolf‘, ‘Apocalypse Now And Then‘, ‘No Son of Mine‘, ‘The New Black‘, ‘Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space‘, ‘Decayin’ With The Boys‘ and in a real throwback, ‘Floater‘ (*salivates at the mouth*). I’d say that one couldn’t argue with a set like that but I’d be lying as there was most noticeably a complete absence of any ‘New Junk Aesthetic‘ material; an album which I consider to be the very pinnacle of their discography. Seriously, not even ‘Wanderlust‘, ‘Roman Holiday‘, or ‘The Marvellous Slut‘ were played!
Not cool, ETID, not cool.
Of course, many other ‘Low Teens‘ songs got a good look in with ‘C++‘, ‘Petal‘, ‘Glitches‘, the brisk ‘The Coin Has A Say‘, and the Southern twang of ‘It Remembers‘. So it maybe goes without saying that the band presented a great showing of their latest material, material that has been unsurprisingly lauded by everyone and their damned dog. I fall into the minority that thinks that ‘Low Teens‘ isn’t THAT good, but man…when those five dudes get together in a room and play that record, those songs are a finely tuned, infectious bunch!
That album’s swan song ‘Map Change‘ lead into the Buffalo quintet’s final song of the evening, the soft piano and vocal duet of ‘Moor‘ which ripped into last thrashy, blissful mess and that was all she wrote for Every Time I Die’s AA Melbourne show. The band was then off to Melbourne’s iconic, Airbourne defending venue, Cherry Bar, and I was off home because I live like two fucking hours outside of the city and I was woefully tired by that point.
But before I wrap this piece up, if you went Unify this weekend and you didn’t see Every Time I Die live, then you have really done fucked up!