The Metro - Sydney, Australia (Surfrider Foundataion Benefit)

Pure and simple silverchair

silverchair, The Metro, October 2


Let's say it out loud: silverchair is one of the best rock bands this country has ever produced.

Not since the Easybeats and AC/DC has there been a band with so few pretensions and so much talent. Forget about the agitprop posturings of Midnight Oil, the narrowly localised pub rock of Cold Chisel and their ilk and the mannered summer fun of Australian Crawl and Men at Work. silverchair is a reminder that rock music, at its very best, is simple, loud, driven by raw energy and teen attitude.

This is an important time in the band's evolution. The trio's debut album, frogstomp, has now sold three million copies worldwide and their follow-up is due for release in February. Can they sustain the initial momentum? Can they write more songs of the stature of Tomorrow and Israel’s Son? Now that they look like young men (bass player Chris Joannou looks as if he just stepped out of The Jam) will they liberate themselves from jokes like "Nirvana in Pyjamas"?

On the evidence of this truly remarkable, powerhouse, hour-long performance not only are they going to be the hottest act this summer (a point which seemed to be anticipated by the endless surfing music which preceded their performance) but they have the ability to be one of the greatest bands to emerge in the 1990s. Oasis should be worried.

New songs, particularly the excellent Freak and the sinuous and wittily titled Pop Song for Us Rejects, are destined for the charts. Old songs -– particularly Israel’s Son which boasts one of the most powerful bass riffs in modern rock –- were delivered with urgency and fire.

There was a blistering, economic version of Madman which was introduced by Daniel Johns as, "This is a love song -- about hate." Equally the encores which included the timeless Trashmen classic Surfin’ Bird (which Daniel Johns delivered with suitable speed and panache) were sharp and energised.

But the greatness of silverchair lies in the way they mix artlessness and energy into one of rock's most potent and seductive brews. Ben Gillies has become a talented, driving drummer and Chris Joannou's bass playing is both intelligent and hard. It is the nature of three-piece bands that the guitarist/lead singer is the centre of attention and Daniel Johns has evolved rapidly into a compulsive focus for the band, a singer of depth and urgency and a guitarist of simplicity and power.

For once the mosh pit, often an area of drunken danger, was a celebration of music which was loud and exhilarating. It operated like a human fountain with people cascading out of a bubbling geyser of arms and legs, their faces wreathed with grins, only to hurl themselves joyfully back into the maelstrom.

The Drum Media -- October 8, 1996
silverchair -- The Metro, Oct. 2, 1996

Very few gigs do you walk away from with your mind absolutely blown apart by what you've just seen. But tonight silverchair made it nearly impossible for your brain not to be spinning after they left the stage.

Starting out with an absolutely rockin' version of Leave Me Out, it was obvious that silverchair were about to put on one of those gigs, as the massive wall of guitars and drums gave way to Daniel Johns' mind blowing vocals. Than it was on to the first of the new songs, with a wonderful heavy rock rhythm (Slave) which was as full on and tight as the proverbial.

From there it was on to Findaway with Johns' blistering vocals once again making you watch in amazement, before another new melodic hard rocker made you start to salivate for that new album. But the test of just how good this band has become came with Suicidal Dream (which was described as "coming off a record we once did") with Johns' vocals having no problems reaching the lower end of his range before exploding into the chorus. And that was further backed up by the next new song which featured Johns solo for a much more laidback track.

Another addition to silverchair's live show is that the band seem a lot more comfortable with the crowd as bassist Chris Joannou jumped around. drummer Ben Gillies was his usual energetic self, and Johns joked freely with the crowd about how they just weren't loud enough. And while silverchair have always been a tight unit, tonight proved that scarily there is still room for improvement, as they moved smoothly from another new song with quite a rapid rhythm into the much slower Tomorrow without even a hint of effort.

Other highlights were the absolutely kick-arse version of Madman, Johns' once again magnificent vocals on Faultline, and another new song (probably only for the live arena) along the lines of Rage Against the Machine which featured a scream from where I don't know.

I’ve seen some pretty fine gigs this year (You Am I and Regurgitator come to mind), but they've all been blown away by tonight's most excellent performance. It really was scary.

The Australian - October 4, 1996
silverchair -- The Metro, Sydney

Teenage grunge idols silverchair showed this week in Sydney that they are approaching that vital second album with the same insouciant confidence that brought them global success with their first.

Any Australian band that achieves worldwide sales of more than 3 million for a debut album should regard the release of the second with some trepidation, but the band's showcase gig betrayed no such uncertainty.

From the rapturous response that greeted a selection of cuts from the forthcoming -- as yet untitled -- album, songwriter Daniel Johns, 17, and his equally youthful sidemen, drummer Ben Gillies and bassist Chris Joannou, have little reason to imagine they might fade into second-record obscurity like so many promising acts before them.

The selection of new material on show this week indicates that silverchair are moving away from the sound that had them dubbed "Nirvana in Pyjamas" toward a more heavy metal sound. Whether this will enjoy the same commercial success as their debut album Frogstomp remains to be seen, but a packed mosh pit at Sydney's Metro certainly greeted the new sound with enthusiam.

silverchair was supported by Everclear, a United States three-piece who are supporting the band on their Australian tour. A fair proportion of the show-biz crowd who turned out in force maintained they were really there to see Everclear, who seem to be the flavour of the month in the rock industry. But by the end of the warm-up set die-hard Everclear fans seemed to have disappeared into the woodwork and Johns had to work hard to get the audience going.

"Pretend you are a football crowd," Johns shouted and the crowd obliged, warming to the selection of favourites such as the band's first big hit Tomorrow and a scattering of songs from the next album.

Seasoned by four U.S. tours in the past 12 months, Johns shows every sign that he is growing in stature as a frontman, matching guitar pyrotechnics with a vocal range astonishing in a performer of his age.

We live in an era dominated by the Britpop sound -- bands such as Oasis, Pulp and Blur imitating '60s bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

But, in their live shows at least, silverchair show a different influence. They encored with a cover of the Black Sabbath standard, Paranoid, which would have hit the Australian charts at least a decade before Johns and his sidemen were born. The crowd -- most of whom would have been in nappies at the time -- loved it.

silverchair ROCK the Metro... like never before

What can I say! UN-believable, they get better every single time.

I thought I was lucky when I got to see the new songs in Wollongong and Canberra, they were good and offered a lot to look forward to, but I never expected they'd come this far... This was... A W E S O M E...

Daniel's voice was the best I've heard! Cemetery was great, made last time look like a first demo! This is gonna be a killer on the album. I can really see what they mean when they talk about the "moody, dark" track -- add the strings, and you're in for a treat.

The Door... I have a new favourite song (move over, "Blood" -- sorry, Eddie!)

Other highlights were Suicidal and Pure Massacre... I felt the best versions of both I've heard this year!

Review: silverchair at The Metro

The evening began well: a purposeful pub-crawl which eventually wound up in the foyer of the Metro. The energy emanating from the masses was of a (deceivingly) higher amount than at You Am I a week earlier. The night looked promising.

After checking my bag in and investing in some refreshments, I headed to the second row of the tiered section, settled myself in and waited for the first band to begin.

As Hardware belted out their hard-hitting set, my attention was drawn to a young lad who had come to stand to the left of me. Chris Joannou tried to remain inconspicous as he leant against the wall, concentrating on the stage. Amazingly, he managed to go unrecognised for most of the duration, apart from when a group approached him as he made his way backstage.

With the sounds of Everclear still hanging in the air, I listened to the selection of tracks from MOM, along with other surf tunes, as the stage was prepared for the whirlwind that was about to follow. The anticipation was mounting!

As I was expecting the usual intro of the "llama meditation spiel", I was a little surprised when the trio fronted onto the stage around 10 minutes early, emerging from out of the strains of a more industrial sounding rendition. Launching into the unmistakable opening bursts of Leave Me Out, I knew that this 80-minute stint was going to be well worth the wait.

Slave saw me leaving my carefully guarded vantage point in front of the sound/lighting pose, and making my way through the somewhat dormant crowd to the front of the mosh (and I use that last word rather loosely), where I took my place against the barrier.

The erratic beat of Findaway followed, placing those who were inclined into a frenzy of vigorous self-expression. This would have pleased DJ after his pleas for us to jump and move.

"I can't see very well, but you're not jumping around very much," Daniel said. "Jump around and make some noise... if you're a girl, go 'ahhhhhhhhh,' and if you're a guy, go 'yeeerrrrhhh,' and if you're bisexual, go 'ahhhhhhhyeeerrhhh!"

Freak, by far one of the most enigmatic pieces from the all new material -- matched only by the sombre and emotive Cemetery -- was next in line. The new qualities in Daniel's already powerful voice made this tune hit home with a vengeance.

Suicidal gave us all a chance to catch our breaths as its haunting ring floated through the momentarily subdued mosh. As Ben and Chris left the stage, the moment I'd been waiting for was about to arrive: Cemetary.

After doing a short spurt of a guitar solo on call, DJ was asked to do (if I remember the exact words) a "dick solo," to which he replied something in the way of, "You must have a very big penis. All the guys in the crowd, turn to the guy next to you and compare how big your penises are, and all the girls can look at how big the penis is on the guy next to them."

With comments such as these (including replying, when asked to play some Tumbleweed, "If you want to hear Tumbleweed, go to a fucking Tumbleweed concert"), it's evident that our frontman has developed a great deal more self-confidence. Along with this, it appears, has come a greater involvement in, and dedication to, the music. His voice too has changed: it's become a lot more controlled, and has a profound raw edge to it. This only added to the impact of such cries as, "I live in a cemetery," as he presided over his audience, bathed in the blue spotlight.

Chasing down another newie -- Pop Song -- was the monster Tomorrow. An oldie but a goodie, this song'd have to remain one of my favourites, and I have got to say that it matures with age!

Madman (the "love song about hate," Daniel called it) hit us with all of its usual wrath. Unfortunately, as I was pretty much on top of the speakers, the guitars lost a lot of their definition and became a blur of energy. But the song still goes almost unsurpassed in my books. Daniel chose this time to do a few rather acrobatic moves mixed in with a couple of quite impressive jumps, all of which I only caught a glimpse of as I was too busy getting into it myself.

The Door, Faultline (in which Daniel actually performed the chorus album-style, which surprised me), and Pure Massacre (according to DJ, "Pure Mascara") preceeded Israel's Son. And yes, Israel's Son was actually ditched as the finale. The song's lost a lot of the hype that had previously been attatched to it, but that's not to say that it doesn't go down just as well.

As the band left the stage, I was horrified at the thought that this might be the last we'd see of them for the night, but it was clear by their abrupt exit that the guys would soon return. And sure enough, after much encouragement from the crowd, three figures returned for their inevitable encore.

Jumping into Fix Me, a Black Flag cover, silverchair performed something that was dangerously bordering on rap, but pulled it off superbly. The guitar work here was incredible and Daniel's high-pitched shriek had to be heard to be believed.

The short spurt of Surfin' Bird which followed sounded a lot better without the distortion as used in the album version. Finally, the guys performed the Black Sabbath song Paranoid without the aid of Everclear. Daniel crashed his guitar into Ben's cymbals in a final bout of expression before jumping down to ground level to do his own thing.

With Ben perched precariously on the edge of the podium, I think we all knew what was about to happen as he turned around to face the back wall. Gillies' salute to the evening's punters. Slowly but surely, the shorts came down to reveal a side of him that, up until then had only been seen by the very privileged(?). I could tell by the look on his face that he was very proud of himself! Turning around once again, the not-so-little drummer boy hiked up his daks and leapt to the ground, striding off the stage.

My eyes immediately dropped to the barefooted creature directly in front of me to see if he'd follow suit. But no, the Johnster was far too intent on thrusting his guitar into the speakers, producing a bittersweet wave of electrifying feedback, before throwing his power tool to the ground and leaving the stage for the final time.

Afterwards, I sat in the foyer reading good 'ol Drum Media surrounded on every side by the post-concert congestion, whilst the three mums -- along with a few other family members and appreciative persons -- congregated nearby. A man who appeared to be friends with Mrs. G. exclaimed with great enthusiasm, "Daniel is SO talented, he plays guitar SO well, and that scream, how did he do it? Ben's such a good drummer," etc. etc.

Chris appeared to have a new lease on life as well, getting into the music to an extent that he hadn't done previously. Still maintaining his signature style of head-banging, he threw in a few jumps and lunges, fitting right into the rest of the scene. As usual, we didn't see a great deal of Ben (actually, that's debatable!) apart from a few grins and signs to his co-rockers, and of course his shining moment at the end.

As I moved outside to await my ride, I fell into conversation with one of the bouncers. He asked me what I thought of the concert, and proceeded to tell me that a lot of people had said it was "shit" and that quite a number of them had left half way through. I replied that it was each to his own, and that every venue's different, just the same as people's expectations are always going to be different.

Whoever it was that said if you've seen one silverchair gig you've seen them all obviously hasn't been to one recently. The whole tone of their performance was different last night -- add that to the fact that Israel's Son was dropped as the finale, and that there was a cover or two thrown in... of course people are going to have mixed reactions.

One of my only complaints of the evening would have to have been the crowd. People were pushing and shoving for no reason except to make it difficult for those around them, and you could see that a lot of people weren't there for the music -- they were simply just THERE. Most people have bad words to say about all-ages gigs, but in all fairness that's where the "atmosphere" lies -- not in a pit full of over-sexed guys with wandering hands who can't hold their alcohol, and girls in lace bikinis carrying out funk-ee dance club moves in the middle of the mosh.

silverchair's style has certainly shifted. It's making a break from the guitar-soaked hard rock, and is seeking a more indie-punk feel. Good move. It's a more mature style and has a lot more variation in sound as the guys explore a whole new world of possibilities.

I'd like to say congrats to the 'chair on a job well done. The guys are definitely crowd surfing into whole new mosh pit of music-making endeavours, and you can be sure that this is one person who'll be following them into it every step of the way!

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Melanie for the review.]