Ahead of their new album release and tour dates, let’s throwback a decade, to The LIVING END in 2006.
Relive the whole night and the rockin’ Living End experience.
The Living End have built up a fair reputation as one of Australia’s best live bands and this has been confirmed as the group and individual members have received numerous Jack Awards (publicly voted awards given for excellence as a live performer). In addition to live performance, one only needs to look at compilations like the group’s greatest hits release to see the significant contribution they have made to Australian music over the past decade.
As an aside, I would like to note that Rob Hirst spoke truthfully at the ARIA’s when he accepted the Hall of Fame award with other members of Midnight Oil. He was correct in denigrating some Australian musicians given their apathetic attitude towards writing songs of political substance. However, he probably should have noted that The Living End is a band that has had the courage to stand up and make anti-authoritarian snipes at our leadership.
But I digress; the first thing that strikes me with this DVD is that it has a sufficient mix of old and new material to satisfy almost any fan. In addition, the inclusion of video clips for their most recent singles: Wake Up, Long Live The Weekend, Nothing Lasts Forever and What’s On Your Radio? are awesome additions for the fans; as the DVD steps in where the greatest hits compilation had concluded.
The recording of the group’s show at Festival Hall in Melbourne begins with black and white footage of a pre-show warm up backstage. Chris Cheney practices the guitar in a shower, Andy Strachan is seated at a drum kit and Scott Owen walks out of a conversation he is adamant will not make it onto the release due to the very nature of its contents.
From this, the viewer follows the band as they enter the stage amid screams from a large crowd; it is a beginning burgeoning with pure class as classical music is played whilst the band’s logo is projected onto the screen and eventually the three guys appear onstage dressed in shirts and ties. But don’t let this fool you because without a beat, it is straight into a heavy and fast-paced version of What’s On Your Radio? Despite being a relatively new song, it is already a favourite for the audience as the band then careens off into Second Solution and I am flabbergasted to hear the audience sing along to every word. Chris, the consummate performer seizes the opportunity and plays relay with the crowd as they call “second” followed by “solution.” Finally, the song patters out courtesy of Andy and Chris.
The next track is I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got, which sounds a million times better live than on the CD recording; most probably due to the fiercer spirit afforded to the song as the guys push each heavy note from their respective instruments. Follow this up with Who’s Gonna Save Us and I now begin to think about the number of punchy songs the band has released and whether they can sustain this level of energy throughout the show.
Unfortunately the energy level does diminish a little as they tackle One Step Behind and are accompanied by members of the legendary group, Hunters & Collectors on brass. Although the extra instrumentation adds more body to the material, it fails to have that same incendiary effect on the audience that the better-known hits had accomplished earlier.
An interesting addition to the list, however, is the EP Medley, a remix of songs from 1996 that the band had played at smaller venues such as The Punter’s Club, the TOTE and the Richmond Club. The audience appears to enjoy this mix and they are most gracious, presumably as they had not heard this material being tackled subsequent to Trav Demsey leaving the group.
A loud cacophony of drums and slowed down bass ensued whilst Chris performed some more shout-outs, “Oh yeah!” and “Fuck yeah!” Cheney also proceeded to tease the crowd with guitar riffs of the song that was to follow. Some of the audience understood which song it was straight away, while others took a little longer to figure it out. Of course, it was the band’s “first big” single, Prisoner Of Society. It is great to see the crowd enjoy the song given its vintage when compared to material from State Of Emergency. However, it is a tad ironic to see a huge audience all dancing and singing in unison to the words, “We don’t need no one to tell us what to do” and “I’m a brat, I’ll do anything and I’ll talk back.”
The big brass is pulled out again after a short absence for ‘Til The End. The heady bass lines and drums ensure it is brought to a rousing end. Next is the groovy, instrumental interlude, E Boogie and Owen is reaching for the sky whilst atop his bass. Meanwhile, Chris plays slide guitar with a full bottle of beer and foam flies everywhere. It is quite the spectacle and Chris decides to finish the job off by ingesting the beer.
Movement later moves away from alcohol to a short, mock fight onstage to a musical soundtrack provided courtesy of the brass instruments. Subsequent to this is a tongue- in-cheek version of Uncle Harry and the show “ends” with Roll On. But the crowd cheer for more because they cannot believe the show is concluding.
Thankfully the show is not quite over as the boys grace the stage one more time with a few messages of gratitude. Suddenly, a George Orwell quote from 1984 is projected on the screen indicating it is time for the song that featured the quote in its video clip, Wake Up. Despite the audience singing along and Andy performing with such determination he looks like he is playing with twenty drum sticks, there is a fundamental element missing with the omission of the choir of children. Instead, the concert version fails to have the impact the original song and video had on its audience.
Finally, the concert concludes with West End Riot, a track unanimously voted as the best by the audience. Cheney also feels that towards the end of the song is an appropriate point to introduce each member of the group. Scott is the one who apparently put the “rock into rock and roll” and he relishes his moment whilst standing on his bass. He then sits down to have a smoke-o as Chris moves onto Andy. Chris is affectionate in his description of Andy as a fine looking gent, great cook and drummer. Furthermore, Chris is humble in introducing himself and decides to take a page out of John Lennon’s book by describing himself as playing “the fool.” The show ends with a climatic wall of sound and, just to make doubly sure you got the point, the words “The End” appear on the screen. Fade to black, and credits roll with vox pops of some extremely happy revellers.
So The Living End live experience is a good one and Live At Festival Hall is a great opportunity for you as the viewer to watch the band safely without a large, sweaty guy pressing up against you. (Oh wait, that was Homebake last year, it appears I’m having flashbacks.) Anyhow, take note that you can sit back in your lounge with a drink in hand and dance or jump around your lounge room till your heart’s content.
Unfortunately, as with most live recordings, some of the magic of the night fails to transcend from the venue and onto your television. And the drums occasionally drown out the other instruments and some poor lighting in parts do not help this. Added to this, the track listing lacks cohesion as brass appears, disappears and reappears in what was presumably organised in such a way so as to have the audience listen to upbeat, well known hits after a couple of lesser known songs. Instead, I found this organisation a little frustrating at times.
In sum, this release is a good mix for all Living End fans. As I sit back and consider it as a whole I am reminded of a quote from Pete Townshend who was describing concerts The Who held during the seventies. He noted that they usually comprised of the well-known hits, some newer tracks (to keep record company executives happy) and a few rare tracks to keep the more diehard fans happy. This description is also true of The Living End Live At Festival Hall and despite some small problems in the recording, the tracks should appeal to many as the contents are raw, and the energetic fun it embodies summarises the very spirit of true live music
The Living End Live At Festival Hall (EMI)
- What’s On Your Radio (Live)
- Second Solution (Live)
- I Can’t Give You What I Haven’t Got (Live)
- Who’s Gonna Save Us? (Live)
- Save The Day (Live At Festival Hall)
- We Want More (Live At Festival Hall)
- No Way Out (Live At Festival Hall)
- Tabloid Magazine (Live At Festival Hall)
- One Step Behind (Live)
- Black Cat (Live At Festival Hall)
- All Torn Down (Live At Festival Hall)
- Prisoner Of Society (Live At Festival Hall)
- ’til The End (Live At Festival Hall)
- The Room (Live At Festival Hall)
- E Boogie (Live At Festival Hall)
- Long Live The Weekend (Live At Festival Hall)
- Uncle Harry (Live At Festival Hall)
- Roll On (Live At Festival Hall)
- Wake Up (Live At Festival Hall)
- West End Riot (Live At Festival Hall)
- Wake Up (Video)
- Long Live The Weekend (Video)
- Nothing Lasts Forever (Video)
Mary Boukouvalas – first published in Beat magazine, 2006