Sweaty Brows and Sticky Floors

On Sunday night I joined the crush of music fans assembled to see New York art-punk trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Governer Hindmarsh hotel. I arrived late, but still managed to see most of the support band’s long set. Sydney’s Van She (what a horrible name!) are an Interpol/Bravery/Cut Copy hybrid playing radio-friendly rock songs. Unfortunately, the songs themselves were pretty dull, although it was refreshing to see a live band featuring a synthesizer so prominently in the mix.

Somehow, during the break, I found myself surrounded by some of the tallest people in Adelaide. I’d had a good view of Van She, but suddenly couldn’t see the stage at all. It was too late (and far too crowded) to move, so I had to make the best of things. By tilting my head to the side and leaning back slightly, I could just see the front of the stage as Karen O and the guys bounced into view. Karen was wearing a multi-coloured leotard and scarves of tinsel, and her face was decorated with ‘warpaint’. She gave a throat-shredding yowl and they were off…

The band was loud and fast and tight, ripping through razor-sharp versions of ‘Y Control’, ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Man’. There were plenty of songs from ‘Show Your Bones’ too, although these tended to vary in quality. Some of the heavier tunes like ‘Phenomena’ and ‘Honeybear’ suited an abrasive live approach. But the band struggled when a lighter touch was required. ‘Gold Lion’ started tentatively, while ‘Turn Into’ was a bit of a mess. Even Karen O seemed to struggle when required to sing rather than scream.

It was a very physical performance – Karen O skipped and bounded across the stage like a crazed marionette, a mad grin on her paint-smeared face. Nick writhed and shuddered like a guitarist possessed, while Brian attacked the drums with an effortless precision. For some of the set a fourth musician joined them, lending additional guitar and keyboards to the newer songs.

The show was over too soon – only a dozen or so songs – and we were ejected, blinking and sweaty, out into the drizzling rain. My ears were still ringing with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when I got home.

I went back to the Gov to see Death Cab For Cutie on Monday night. Surprisingly, it was even more crowded than the previous night. Unlike the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which seemed to attract a lot of young females, the audience for Death Cab was dominated by serious-looking twenty-something-year-old boys. I found myself in the midst of a group of boys who looked so similar they might have been members of a club. (Maybe they were!) All of them wore the same disheveled coconut hairstyle and brown vinyl jackets. They were also all very tall and positioned themselves in front of me like a wall. Once again, I was left to view the band by looking over shoulders, under arms, around big shaggy heads.

Death Cab opened with ‘Different Names For The Same Thing’, which started quietly with just Ben on keyboards and Chris adding guitar effects. Then, as the song progressed, drummer, Jason, and bass player, Nicholas, joined them. The band then moved swiftly through a polished set of songs, which featured generous slabs of their last two albums. Highlights included a moving rendition of ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’, which got most of the crowd singing along, and an extended, extra percussive version of ‘We Looked Like Giants’.

Hardcore fans expecting a lot of older material would have been disappointed, as these were few and far between (only two or three songs at most). But given the cheers greeting songs like ‘The New Year’ and ‘Marching Bands Of Manhattan’, I can only assume that few would have been unhappy. Otherwise, there was little to complain about. The sound was pretty good, the performances energetic and the atmosphere warm (actually too warm) and welcoming.

So how did I feel after two nights of rock ‘n’ roll at the Gov? Exhausted? Bored? Apart from the fact that couldn’t see anything for most of the time (I need to grow a few inches or wear platforms) I had a good time. Although it was a relief to get out into the fresh, clean, unsweaty air, and to walk on a surface to which my shoes did not stick.


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