Live Review: Jimmy Eat World play the Futures album at the Auckland Powerstation

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Jimmy Eat World playing at the Auckland Powerstation

Jimmy Eat World (Mesa, Arizona, USA)

w/ The Sinking Teeth

The Powerstation, Auckland

Saturday 8 November 2014

Jimmy Eat World released their fifth album, Futures, ten years ago. This was as good a reason as any for the band to do an anniversary tour with the premise of playing the album start to finish at each show.

It is always interesting when a band plays a notable album in its entirety. You know most of the songs that will feature during the set, but can never tell if the band is going to do something more. Weezer did it well when they played their eponymous Blue Album at Vector Arena last year. They started off with a greatest hits set, followed by an intermission that featured a presentation from a long serving roadie about Weezer’s formative years, before wrapping it up with the Blue Album. When Shihad played Killjoy and The General Electric they had a rule that the encores could only feature songs that had been released prior to the album they’d just played live. I was happy to see Jimmy Eat World play Futures, but was hoping that they would play a selection of other songs as well.

I needn’t have worried. As promised, the band played all eleven songs from Futures, commencing with the title track and finishing with album closer23″. But then they played a selection of songs that spanned a good portion of their catalogue, enough to please everyone present.

The musicians were stationed onstage with drums and keys at the rear, and the bass and two guitars at the front. This added an interesting visual dynamic. The symmetry was nice, but the band was mainly lit from behind, leaving the forward standing members silhouetted for most of the night. This seemed deliberate, because it was clear that the lighting technician knew what he was doing. The lighting wasn’t spectacular, but it added a lot to the show in a subtle way.

Silhouetted

The bass and guitar players at the front were frequently silhouetted

There’s something special about seeing a band play their entire album live. They sounded just like the CD, from the rousing “Futures”, to the solemn “Drugs or Me”, to the tender “Night Drive” and the album highlight “Pain”.

My one critique was that the band had a backing track of string section during the song “Drugs or Me”. This is me being purist and nit-picky, but when I go to a live performance I expect it to be exactly that: performed live. It didn’t take away from the experience, and actually enhanced the mood of the song, but I prefer not to listen to pre-recorded music in a live context.

Futures is a great album, it sets a mood and simmers away. But the following set added urgency and unpredictability to the show because we no longer knew what was coming next.

The second half of the night showcased another side to the band. They seemed to become more energetic and less restrained. Lead guitarist Jim Adkins became increasingly wild with each guitar solo. Rhythm guitarist Tom Linton sang lead vocals for “Blister”. It was a good mix of songs from various albums and the audience became more enthralled as the band kept delivering by playing songs that we had hoped for.

For their final encore the band inevitably concluded with the two yet unplayed singles from their 2001 album Bleed American: “Sweetness” and “The Middle”. I’m sure that everybody had been eagerly anticipating these two hits, and judging from the crowd reaction the band chose well to end on such a high.

Because this was my first time seeing Jimmy Eat World, I think I would have preferred to see a standard show. That said, it was pretty unique show. They played a range of songs, old and new, but I got a glimpse of the band that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It was a great night and I’d certainly like to see them play again.

Joseph James

Lead guitarist Jim Adkins became increasingly wild with each guitar solo

Lead guitarist Jim Adkins became increasingly wild with each guitar solo

Live Review: Biffy Clyro at the Auckland Powerstation

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Biffy Clyro

Powerstation, Auckland

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Last night at my dreams came true.

In the form of three topless bearded Scotsmen, no less!

Biffy Clyro have been my favourite band since I was 15. I finally got to see them live last night. This was the first time the band has played in New Zealand, their performance at Rhythm and Vines in 2009 having been cancelled due to illness.

Biffy Clyro have packed out Wembly Stadium, headlined some of the UK’s biggest music festivals, and toured with rock heavyweights such as Foo Fighters and Muse. Despite this, they are largely unheard of in New Zealand. Not that this was evident last night, with the Powerstation at full capacity, brimming with diehard fans yelling their trademark chant: “Mon the Biff!” (Mon being an abbreviation of “come on”).

The band made a grand entrance. They stormed the stage to a frenzied pre-recorded Scottish shouted chant, one sounding rather like a Maori haka in my mind. If the chant wasn’t enough to rev up to crowd, opening song ‘Different People’ from Biffy’s latest record Opposites made sure to finish the job. The song has a slow build up, but every person in the crowd knew that after a few minutes the band would reach a verse and let loose. And let loose they did.

The show was saturated in energy. The musicians threw themselves around the stage with abandon. The anthems were huge. The ballads soared and the heavier songs were explosive.

“We’re monning as much as we can!” front man Simon Neil shouted to the crowd, “This is our first time in New Zealand, so we’re going to play some older songs. If that’s OK?”  The band then played ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’ from their 2004 release Infinity Land. This was the first time they’d played it in seven years.

Biffy Clyro front man Simon Neil playing 'God and Satan' solo on acoustic guitar

Biffy Clyro front man Simon Neil plays ‘God and Satan’ solo on acoustic guitar

 

And that wasn’t the only treat for the crowd. The set list was well balanced, drawing from material old and new, acoustic and electric. There was even a B-side thrown into the mix. My personal highlight was ‘57’ from the band’s debut release Blackened Sky.

It was impressive how talented the band was. Each of the three members (front man Simon Neil on guitar, and twin brothers Ben and James Johnston, on drums and bass, respectively) shared vocal duties.  Also onstage were two touring musicians helping to fill out the sound (Mike Vennart on guitar and Richard Ingram on keys). When five musicians can play weird time signatures like that without missing a beat you can tell they’ve had a lot of practise. Just listen to the ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’ and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. They had clearly spent a lot of time tightening up their playing to get that unified.

It was obvious that most of the audience were long time fans. You don’t usually see that many people singing along with the band at a show, especially when the lyrics are as off kilter as Biffy’s. But the fans were all singing along, many waving Scottish flags about. Vennart, the rhythm guitarist, even changed from his suit into a red kilt that a punter had thrown onstage.

It was a special night for Biffy Clyro fans. It had been a long time coming, but the band more than made up for the wait.

Joseph James

Set list for the Biffy Clyro Powerstation show in Auckland. Note that the actual set deviated from the plan. 'The Rain', a B-side from Similarities was played after 'Victory Over The Sun'. For the encore 'Folding Stars' was played in place of 'Machines'

Set list for the Biffy Clyro Powerstation show in Auckland.
Note that the actual set deviated from the plan.
‘The Rain’, a B-side from Similarities was played after ‘Victory Over The Sun’.
For the encore ‘Folding Stars’ was played in place of ‘Machines’

Live Review: Foo Fighters at Western Springs, Auckland

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Foo Fighters

w/ Cairo Knife Fight, Fucked Up, Tenacious D

Western Springs, Auckland

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Fucked Up

Canadian hardcore act Fucked Up brought the party. As far as openers go, these guys definitely knew what to do to hype an audience up. The band played well; energetic and fast paced. The five musicians stuck largely to their own spots on stage, while vocalist Damien “Pink Eyes” , spent a majority of the set walking throughout the crowd interacting with the punters. A beast of a man, topless with his hairy belly hanging out and a cup sitting atop his head, he threaded though the sea of people at random, sharing the microphone, giving hugs and high fives, even picking up one guy and carrying him around on his shoulder for a period. Most songs sounded the same due to the terrible live mix, but braving the moody weather and arriving early enough to catch the set definitely paid off.

Tenacious D

Tenacious D arrived onstage to a more rapturous reception. Their set was entirely what you’d expect if you’re at all familiar with the band: that is, two fat men with acoustic guitars singing songs about rock, weed, and all things crass. They gave a faux-storyline to the set, so that they could incorporate some of the narrative styled songs from their second album into the mix, along with some light drama to match.

With the help of their band, Kyle and Jack played a good mix of songs from both albums, as well as a yet unreleased song dedicated to their roadie, and a medley of Who songs. The backing band was great, each having a solo when being introduced to the crowd. I particularly enjoyed watching drummer Brooks Wackerman (of punk band Bad Religion) playing drum parts that were originally played by none other than Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl. The set was juvenile, but entertaining nonetheless.

Foo Fighters

From the moment they charged onstage to the palm-muted strums of All My Life, to the final lingering notes of set-closer Everlong, Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. It’s almost as if even the rain subsided for him, because as he came into view scores of people removed their flimsy plastic rain ponchos and threw them into the air or started spinning them above their heads.

A Foo Fighters show is one hell of a ride. Hit after hit, both old and new, complete with lengthy solos, guitar duels and extended jams galore. They have some cool screens and lights, but the strength of their performance comes from the great music and crowd interaction. A lot of the charisma came from Grohl, who, after 17 years of fronting the Foos, knew how to work the crowd like a seasoned pro.

The band seems to have a genuine love of New Zealand; quoting a show they did at the Auckland Supertop years ago as one of the favourite they’ve ever played, and having done a charity show at the Auckland Town Hall earlier this year to raise funds for the Christchurch earthquake. Grohl loves playing Auckland so much that he chose to film the crowd for a live music video for the song These Days. He also showed a real appreciation for his fans, specially playing a few acoustic songs for the people way down the back, and sincerely thanking everybody involved, before the band finished.

After doing a bit of bartering with the crowd via a video camera backstage, Grohl came out to encore with some acoustic numbers like Wheels and Times like these, before rocking out a few final tunes with the band (including a cover of Queen’s Tie your Mother Down featuring guest appearances by Tenacious D wearing nothing but underwear and suspenders) and inevitably ending with the classic hit, Everlong.

All up the Foos played for just under three hours. With live shows such as this it’s little wonder that they’ve lasted so long, and built up such a large fan base. I just wonder how they’re going to fit everybody in next time when they play Auckland Town Hall.

 

Joseph James