X + The Saints
Audience: 18 and over
154 Flinders St, Melbourne
VIC, 3000, Australia.
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It was the question on the minds of a lot of people entering Melbourne’s Forum Theatre on a warm and muggy January night. How do you continue a show when your greatest song – and arguably one of Australia’s – is the first of your set?
Such is the nature of the “Don’t Look Back” concert series, which sees a classic record played live in its entirety, that ‘(I’m) Stranded’ – track one on Side A of The Saints’ classic 1979 album of the same name – was going to be their first. But 20 seconds in, when Chris Bailey sung/slurred, “Like a snake calling on the phone”, over Ed Kuepper’s fuzzed-out guitar, it was clear this was going to be a special gig.
First up, however, was another iconic Australian rock’n’roll act, Melbourne’s X, blasting through their 1985 album At Home With You. Led by charismatic guitarist Steve Lucas, the band - Cathy Green (drums) and Kim Volkman (bass) – seemed to enjoy themselves up on the big stage playing to the faithful.
Looking like he could be a body double for Mickey Rourke in *The Wrestler’, Lucas and his aggressive guitar style led the band through hits such as ‘The Feel’, ‘TV Glue’ and ‘Degenerate Boy’. At the end of the set, Volkman and Green refused to leave the stage, forcing Lucas to return for another encore, which by the looks of it had the stage manager rather perplexed. Rock’n’roll dude.
The consensus after the Saint’s performance at the inaugural All Tomorrow’s Parties at Mt Buller earlier in the week seemed to be: Chris Bailey=smug turd, the band=still sounding great. Tonight didn’t do a whole lot to change that. The band sounded tight and Bailey, well, as a respected Melbourne musician standing next to me said, “I’d hate to be in a band with him.”
Unlike the tan leather gangster trench coat he wore at ATP that had him looking more sofa Moran than Lewis Moran, tonight Bailey sported a more tasteful black shirt with embroidered roses. He roamed the stage like it was his. Though his body and voice are still large, he’s lost some of the rebellious snarl with age, but that didn’t make songs such as ‘Erotic Neurotic’, ‘No Time’ and ‘Nights in Venice’ sound any less urgent and aggressive 30 years on.
It’s hard to believe that punk bands back in 1978 wrote ballads, but then again the Saints aren’t a typical punk band, and ‘Story of Love’ and ‘Messin’ With the Kid’ aren’t your typical ballads. Tonight ‘Messin’ With the Kid’, in particular, was stunning. And as the fourth song of the set, Kuepper seemed to have settled down after his quick-fire opening.
(I’m) Stranded is a short record, so people were expecting other songs from the band’s catalogue. ‘Swing For The Crime’, the first song of the encore, was met with an appreciative roar, and the horn-laden ‘Know Your Product’ was another crowd hit. Interestingly, some of the best crowd reaction came from non (I’m) Stranded songs.
Say what you will about egos, acrimonious break-ups and old dudes living in the past, tonight’s show was something special.
by Tim Scott