"A Butters show isn’t as much a rock show as it is a catharsis, a celebration, and the elated punters react with a decade of pent-up adulation."
(Pic by Kane Hibberd)
The Northcote Theatre has been around for a century, but has only recently been refurbished and reopened as a live music venue. Everything about it is fabulous, the look of it, the feel, the setup, the stage, the lighting. It’s the 1500-capacity music venue Melbourne has been missing since The Palace was tragically transformed into luxury apartments in the mid-2010s.
There’s only one problem: the sound.
Caligula’s Horse (who are usually so crisp and powerful) in particular, suffer somewhat in the high-ceilinged, comparatively cavernous room: bass and rhythm guitar lack definition, and the vocals get a little lost in the wash. The only parts of the sound that cut through the pea soup are the drums, and (thankfully) Sam Vallen’s superlative lead guitar work.
It’s a bit of a shame because the line-up is so incredible. Tonight is basically a triple-headliner, to the point where it’s a touch regrettable that someone has to open at 7:00pm, but the C-Horse step up to the plate as though headlining at 10:30. Tonight, it’s still more than possible to put the sound issues aside and get lost in the music and the performance (and frontman Jim Grey’s witty stage banter!), and the steadily-building crowd does exactly that. The C-Horse manage to cram something from most of their extensive recorded career into a 40-minute set, focusing strongly on the most recent album Rise Radiant, which they were unable to promote as much as they would have liked when it was released two years ago in the middle of the pandemic.
Ultimately, titanium-strength songs and world-class musicianship always win the day, and despite the sound-related issues, Caligula’s Horse still put on a scintillating opening set, wowing the growing throng of punters.
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Things improve a touch for Thornhill. This is a band that has gone through quite a profound change of sound and look from their debut, 2019’s The Dark Pool, to this year’s sophomore release Heroine, boldly morphing from a dark, atmospheric and progressive metalcore band, to sound more inspired by Deftones and maybe with just a sprinkling of '80s new wave. The opening of their set is dominated by tracks from the latest album, we are 15 minutes in before we get a taste of The Dark Pool. When the change comes, the sound goes from expansive and triumphant to apocalyptic, although the two styles still sit comfortably juxtaposed. Their metamorphosis isn’t so radical as to be jarring or disorientating.
Again the drums are very prominent in the mix, which is a good thing, since drummer Ben Maida is dynamic, creative and hard-hitting. Also worthy of mention is frontman Jacob Charlton, who writhes around the stage like a modern, Australian Jim Morrison, and sings and screams like his life depends on it.
Thornhill are a burgeoning force in Aussie heavy music, both on record and in a live setting, and it will be fascinating to see where they go next.
The Butterfly Effect. Supreme in the early to mid 2000s, the classic line-up of this band was torn asunder by personality and attitudinal clashes in the early 2010s, and we the fans were tragically deprived of their dark but warm musical embrace.
Now they’ve returned to the fold, they may not be as youthful, raw and hungry as they were, but with age has come maturity and perspective, and obviously a new, or at least rejuvenated appreciation for each other as well as an enduring love of the music they created together. The members have lost none of their creative and technical abilities, as they play and interact with the crowd with broad and appreciative smiles on their faces, and their classic songs have lost none of their potency and gravitas.
And now, as if stating in no uncertain terms that they were never coming back to be a nostalgia act, they have a fabulous new album to promote and play live. The tastefully selected new cuts sit beautifully alongside their crowd-pleasing classics, and receive almost as warm and enthusiastic a reaction as the older stuff, considering the new album has only been out for just over a month. Especially So Tired, which is an absolute ripper of a track, and Visiting Hours, which forms half the rousing encore with Reach.
A Butters show isn’t as much a rock show as it is a catharsis, a celebration, and the elated punters react with a decade of pent-up adulation.
The Butterfly Effect. It is so wonderful to have you back.