“This is really fucking weird for us…it’s like we are the movie” explains Haydn Ing, frontman for one of Melbourne’s most exciting rock bands; Calling All Cars. Tonight, the band are supporting Scottish power-rock trio Biffy Clyro on their second visit to Melbourne for the year.
St Kilda’s Palais Theatre is the gracious host of the two rock bands, and the historic venue looks as splendid as ever. With all its grandeur, the beautiful 1920s ex-cinema meets the necessary elements for a huge rock show; a killer light show, above-average sound quality, a packed-out room, and of course, world class rock bands. The thick scent of sweat combined with some sneaky marijuana smoke meant that it even smelt like a typical rock concert. However, the crippling detail is the 2896 seats that line the Palais Theatre floor.
Rock n’ roll is a movement genre, and movement is thoroughly restricted when each and every patron is allocated a seat. This particular gig stands out as one that would probably have been held at Melbourne’s iconic Palace Theatre, had it not been forced to close earlier this year in favour of the construction of a completely unnecessary hotel complex.
Calling All Cars are quick to urge the audience to stand up, but even then a large portion of the rock magic remains lost. This is through no fault of the band, who saw the stage as no barrier and twice joined the audience, with Hayden Ing soloing in the aisles as ushers pushed past with patrons bustling to join the ranks. The big riffs of ‘Raise The People’ had front-row heads banging, and the catchy rhythmic hooks of ‘Standing In The Ocean’ saw voices well and truly warmed up for sing-alongs with the headliners. The hometown heroes went far beyond their support-act duties and undoubtedly added a host of new fans to their ever-growing legion.
Enter the shirtless, longhaired headliners and a fiery start to their performance with ‘Different People’ and ‘That Golden Rule.’ Singer-guitarist Simon Neil was quick to dismiss the seated situation as ‘bullshit’, as well as calling out a fan for sitting down in the front row. However, he did point out that it was nice to be able see every face in the audience.
Celebratory beer-raisers such as ‘The Captain’ and ‘Black Chandelier’ suited the setting well, as punters wrapped arms around each other’s shoulders for hearty sing-alongs. It was also hard to dream up a more adequate indoor setting for the Neil’s intricate solo-acoustic effort on ‘God Vs. Satan’, which was easily the most applauded and wholly impressive moment of the night.
However dancier numbers such as ‘Glitter And Trauma’ and ‘Who’s Got A Match’, and full-blown moshers inclusive of ‘57’ and ‘Stingin’ Belle’ all screamed out for an open floor and manic movement. This also applies to Puzzle’s ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’, though to be fair, its awesome to simply stand back and revel in the band’s synchronized rhythmic brilliance. Finally, the ethereal vocal hooks of Biffy’s megahit ‘Mountains’ are chill-inducing in a live setting, and see the performance end in an impassioned all-in audience effort.
As a whole, this show was spectacular, but the amount of energy that both Biffy Clyro and Calling All Cars pour into the audience means that the venue was a very strange fit.
Certainly, there were some bonuses in having seats. There was no need to cloak bags, it was nigh impossible to lose your friends, and the allotted personal space meant that if you left the venue covered in sweat, you could be confident that it was exclusively your own. The seated rock show was enjoyable as an exception, but the mind sours at the thought of it becoming the new norm for mid-sized international rock bands.
Is this where we’ll next see Billy Talent perform? Lamb of God? Rise Against? The Living End? Festival Hall ask a very high price, so the 5000-seater is not always a valid option. If Melbourne wishes to maintain its crown as Australia’s rock n’ roll capital, a solution is needed, and time is of the essence.