Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Whitlams gig [29th October 2005 @ Corner Hotel]

I used to be more of a fan of the Whitlams. To paraphrase a Regurgitator song, I like their old stuff better than their new stuff. Their 1997 album Eternal Nightcap is one of the great Australian albums of all time, a sombre tribute to founding member Stevie Plunder who died tragically a couple of years earlier.

Unfortunately, time has proven that Eternal Nightcap was a fluke in the post-Plunder Whitlams lineup. They are a very different band thesedays, the passion that Stevie brought to the group seems to have been pushed aside in an attempt to establish a more commercial sound. It doesn't sound right to call them a sellout, because they are certainly not commercially successful, but they are such a different sounding band nowadays that it almost seems like trademark infringement to be recording under the Whitlams name. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. There's still Tim Freedman's vocals, and the style of music is still jazzy piano-based pop. Kind of like an Australian version of Ben Folds Five, if I had to describe them to someone who hadn't heard of them before.

But I was offered free tickets to this gig (thanks Sheri!) so it was hard to turn it down. I dragged my fiance Lorin along (definitely not a Whitlams fan) and while she didn't have a ball, it was still probably a bit better than she expected. It was a sellout gig, and we spent most of the first part of the gig right near the front, packed in like sardines. Hot night + Sellout gig + Corner hotel = Low comfort factor. We ended up moving towards the back of the venue about halfway through, and it was much more comfortable.

They played a good mix of songs from their 5 albums so far, but I was glad to see that they played a lot of tracks from Eternal nightcap and earlier. They also played several songs from their 6th double album, which is going to be released in February 2006 according to Tim. The songs they played from their new album sounded promising, in some ways stripping back to a rawer sound than their last two albums, which is definitely a plus for me.

Opening with Royal in the afternoon (one of the highlights of their latest album Torch the moon), they followed this up with the upbeat You sound like Louis Burdett. One of the surprises of the night was hearing Where is she, one of the lesser known cuts from their debut Introducing the Whitlams. Hard to believe that this album is over 12 years old now.

Tim introduced a song by saying that it about the 2nd girl he fell in love with from Melbourne. I expected him to play Melbourne from Eternal Nightcap, but it was actually No aphrodisiac from the same album, albeit a slowed-down version.

Highlights for me included the early classic I make hamburgers, their semi-title track Gough (which closed the encore and thus gig nicely) and Buy now pay later (Charlie No. 2) which is one of my favourite Whitlams songs and one of the most beautiful piano ballads I have heard. Great stuff.

All in all an enjoyable gig, but I just wish I could lose myself in the moment more instead of feeling sorry for myself in a state of discomfort.

3 comments:

  1. I think that ^^^ is spam!

    What are you smoking? The Whitlams are the most progressive politians in this country. If the govener gener... oh

    Anyway, on with the comment. Firstly, how can you complain about Torch the Moon when it contains a wonderful track like Kate Kelly.

    Secondly, I sympathise with your heat-related comments at the corner, or indeed most music venues.

    Thirdly, what was the banter like? Personally I think banter is the most important part of a gig, and having seen The Whitlams a couple of times, I found their banter to be rather mixed. Sometimes Tim would be great, and adlib and talk to the crowd, and other times, he'd just shutup shop, play his songs and thats it. I dont like going to a show and hearing what could be just a recording. Especially when you could be listening to the recording in air-conditioned comfort :)

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  2. ^^^ certainly was spam, which is why I removed it from the post. So if anyone is confused about Dave's comments, the spam is gone. I hate spam!

    Torch the moon is an okay album, but it's simply not as good as their earlier stuff. There are several good tracks, but they all tend to be near the start of the album. Very top-heavy album that one. The only exceptions are the closing track Ease of the midnight visit which is a great closer, and 2nd track Fall for you which still makes me cringe in pain whenever I hear it. Such cheesy pop fluff.

    Seriously, if you haven't heard early Whitlams you are really missing out. I listened to a couple of Undeniably cuts today, sung by the late Stevie Plunder, and I am still amazed at how passionate the performances are. A couple of the songs have creepy lyrics considering Stevie "plundered" to his death by falling off a cliff. Take the chorus of End of your world: "Going down down down. It's one hell of a way to go out!". Creepy stuff.

    As for the banter question, it was okay. Tim talked a little bit between songs, but not a heap. He also seemed to swear an awful lot when he did speak.

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  3. I have heard Eternal Nightcap end-to-end more times than I care to count and really should buy a copy for myself - brilliant.

    Aside from that album, I'm not a big Whitlams fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I did see them play at The Mountain View (of all dodgy places!) opposite The Glen shopping centre about 2.5 years ago.

    I was well impressed as they rocked out with all their "hits" and thankfully left their Chunky, Chunky Air Guitar at the pawn shop... I agree with Jigs, Charlie is a standout track, and Blow Up The Pokies was delicious as the entire pub was devoted to them aside from this live room.

    Tim was pretty animated and certainly worked up a sweat behind his keyboard. I remember he was stoked at the turnout - "A sellout in the suburbs in winter - You guys rule!". They did 2 encores, finishing with Louis Burdett IIRC.

    My overall experience was very much like yours Jigs, seems like The Whitlams are victims of their own popularity, as a packed room is never the ideal way to watch a band. I guess they're stuck between selling out pub gigs and not turning a profit at larger venues. Bummer.

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