LIVE: Kaiser Chiefs, live at the UC Refectory, Canberra (03-08-11)

It was always going to be an interesting night. Only being familiar with singles from all three acts on the night meant that, in a sense, I was going in blind (or deaf). Which was kind of exciting.

In comparison to the Chief’s Sydney and Melbourne sideshows, which I’m sure will sell out, Canberra’s reception for the international band seemed a little lukewarm at first. Word from one of the event organisers, before doors opened, was that around 600 tickets were sold, and my friend and I (who both arrived an hour before doors to get a good spot) were the only ones there for quite a while. Which surprised me, to be honest. But we were the first ones in, so I can’t complain.

First up were Stonefield, and they showed everyone exactly why they’re starting to make waves in Australian music. Although they didn’t appeal to me stylistically, there’s no doubt that their playing was tight. Their brand of early rock was huge and expansive, filling the Refectory, and they did a good job of getting people excited, especially considering their job was to support Kaiser Chiefs. Vocally, all four girls had lots of talent, and I think if they continue playing that well, along with solid touring, they’ll develop a very strong fanbase.

Next up were Papa Vs. Pretty. These guys have been getting a fair bit of support from triple j lately, and their live show is a good indication of why. Thomas Rawle’s voice really shone on single “Heavy Harm”, and from then onwards, their set seemed to get better and better. They manage to move musically between lighter, melodically diverse moments, to harder, crashing rock, in mere moments, and there was no doubt that they put all of their energy into the set. Unfortunately, whether it was my position in the crowd, or the sound set up, it felt as if the music wasn’t very clear during a few points. Ultimately though the band played well, and like Stonefield, have the potential to get much bigger. While I think Stonefield are more likely to satisfy a niche audience in comparison to Papa Vs. Pretty, both bands were excellent as supports.

By this time the Refectory was actually looking quite full, which was a nice feeling. Canberra doesn’t get many international acts visiting, so I feel it’s important that when they do come out, we encourage them to come back. The compulsory chants started, and then we got a couple of minutes of some pre-recorded jam playing while lights flashed. It was pretty exciting, even if it was a less conventional way to see a band come on stage.

Starting off with “Everyday I Love You Less And Less”, the band wasted no time in launching into a series of some of their most popular hits. Despite this, the mosh was surprisingly tame for the whole night, which was actually quite nice. Second row and not being pushed around? Sounds good to me.

Frontman Ricky held the band’s performance together in terms of stage presence. Leaping all over the place, he proved to be a gigantic ball of energy throughout the course of their set. Seriously, solar power? Wind power? Screw it, just get this guy on a treadmill and we’ll be fine. Drummer Nick Hodgson also put a huge amount of energy into his playing, however both guitarists looked a little bored. That said, I can’t fault the band’s playing one bit at all. I probably only knew just over half of their set, but what I knew sounded spot on.

On top of that, the band (and Ricky in particular) definitely know how to engage a crowd. Standing on the barrier a few times and encouraging everyone to sing along during certain moments (which there were plenty of), the band really showed everyone why they are big enough to tour internationally – whether or not you love their music, they really are entertaining.

Their set consisted of every single I knew (and one I’d forgotten I knew), with the notable exception of “Na Na Na Na Naa”. I also heard new songs from The Future Is Medieval that I liked, so all in all they really know how to please a crowd and balance out their material, which becomes an important skill to have when you’ve written four albums.

It’s a shame some of the other band members didn’t seem so enthusiastic, but maybe that’s their playing style. Kaiser Chiefs brought down the Refectory with their infectious rock, and I hope their show encourages more bands to do the same, because it was a great night at a venue with lots of potential.

Some of the photos courtesy of Nick Beecher.

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