LIVE: The Living End, live at ANU Bar, Canberra (07-09-11)

There’s no doubt about it: The Living End still have it.

On Wednesday night I relived my first ever gig. Just over five years ago I saw The Living End at the Albury Wodonga Civic Centre – they were touring their then freshly pressed album State of Emergency. As a three-piece, their performance set the bar for years to come. It’s nice to see nothing’s changed.

King Cannons opened the night, blasting through the quickly growing crowd with their hard-edged catchy rock. Although their sound builds itself on pop hooks, don’t be fooled – these guys have got it in them to bring the house down. Although I rarely mention this aspect of a band, you’ll struggle to find a more consistently fashionable group – with black shirts, slick hair, and tattoos aplenty, they not only sounded great, but they looked the part.

Hunting Grounds filled the stage with their band, and it was interesting to see them swap instruments and roles over the course of their set. Without a doubt, their explosive rock really came to fruition with the final song – drums being smashed, a guitarist in the photo pit, a beaten up cymbal being thrown around, and some drumstick duelling all made it an amazing closer. Like King Cannons, they have live energy and talent – it’d be nice to see both bands go somewhere further in the future.

The Living End took to the stage, and surprisingly I didn’t break any ribs against the barrier in the “surge”. Well, it wasn’t so much a crowd surge as a gentle push. Not that I was complaining, but the crowd did take a little while to warm up.

Which got me thinking about the kind of band TLE are. The first songs were from their latest album, The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating, and don’t get me wrong – the reception for them was great, but it was still lukewarm relative to old favourites like “West End Riot” and “Roll On”.

“No kidding”, you’re thinking. “Generally people know a band’s older songs, of course there’s going to be a stronger reception.”

Well, that might seem logically right, but it’s not always true. There are plenty of bands that release a new album, get flogged by radio, and most will only know those songs. Everyone knows “White Noise” got one hell of a flogging. But despite that, TLE are still different. We had 99% of a room screaming along to tracks like “Prisoner of Society” and “All Torn Down”, both of which were released years and years ago.

Does this mean their albums are getting worse? No, of course not. But it shows that The Living End are one of the few contemporary Australian bands that have written songs that generations will consider “classics”. This is a band with longevity, who have paid their dues and toured relentlessly. This is a band who consistently draw all sorts of people to their gigs – from teenagers to adults who’re over 50. Plenty of bands can write decent hooks and memorable songs – only a rare few can write classics that stay with a generation for years upon years.

And only a rare few can play their songs so damn well! Chris Cheney commands the stage like a seasoned veteran, and his guitar is played so effortlessly it’s like another limb. Andy and Scott tear through their respective parts, and as proficient as the band is, you can’t deny the work they’re putting into the performance when they’re sweating all over the stage.

The Living End are not only skilled musicians, but skilled showmen – they all know how to present themselves on stage and get the most out of their music. This latest tour has seen another guitarist, Adrian, playing live, and he’s a welcome addition – he really does seem to flesh out the band’s sound.

There are few bands of this calibre. The Living End set the bar for music fans, inspire musicians, and are good at what they do – let’s hope they stick around for many years to come.

I didn’t take many photos. You can check out some nice ones over at FasterLouder though.

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