-By Luke Keatinge
Off the back of their hugely acclaimed seventh album Feelin Kinda Free, alt rock royalty The Drones were back in Perth last Saturday night at the Rosemount, with support from local artist Benjamin Witt and his band.
The Benjamin Witt Quartet kicked things off with some pretty inventive instrumentation. The band’s hybridization of bluesy indie rock and experimental guitar work was a big hit with the early crowd, filling out the main room in the Rosemount very quickly. Slick use of a double bass, drums, guitars, saxophone solos and impromptu harmonica from Witt made for a thrilling opening set.
The Drones entered the stage to mass applause, opening their set with the seven minute opening track of the new album, Private Execution. The track’s storm of scratchy guitars and chaotic melodies was a pretty solid representation of what was to come. Known for doing everything against convention, The Drones maintained their signature brash messiness for set standouts like Boredom off the new album, with its off-kilter grooves and screeching climax, and the lo-fi minimalist beats of Taman Shud, with front man Gareth Liddiard spitting the song’s anti-nationalist message with as much grit and conviction as one would expect from this band.
A trio of female back-up singers jumped on stage for the double performance of Then They Came For Me and the powerfully stirring, balladic To Think That I Once Loved You, both from Feelin Kinda Free. But the new album didn’t dominate the entire set, and The Drones made sure to include all the classics. The erratic guitars and vocals of Jezabel from the 2006 record Gala Mill got one of the biggest responses from what was, for the most part, a pretty tame crowd.
The aggressive punch of The Drone’s frenzied tempos, low tones and chaotic marriage of untethered guitars, frenetic basslines, drums, and Liddiard’s brash vocals was sustained for the entire night, with the Melbourne band closing their massive 90 minute set with as much intensity with which they opened. The swelling climaxes and sprawling messiness of their songs had the Rosemount crowd captivated, with songs both searingly loud and beautifully tender always underscored with an alluring air of menace and sorrow. Liddiard’s snarling, crazed expressions and deranged playfulness with the crowd were always an entertaining focal point, with his confronting demeanor the perfect embodiment of the band’s nihilist lyrics and Brit punk influence.
The Drones have come a long way in their two decades as a band from their early garage punk rock days here in Perth, and their new album is an impressive showcase of the different styles they’ve infused over the years. There’s a prominent presence of synth, post-rock and even hip-hop influence on the new album, with strong undercurrents of electronica beneath their vintage sound. But the band haven’t lost their in-your-face edge and rawness that made them The Drones. Their music is as wonderfully dark and exciting as it’s ever been, and their live show is an incredible display of music that just isn’t being made anywhere else.
Photo Credit: Amber Bateup Photography