Review: West Thebarton supported by Mesa Cosa and A. Swayze & The Ghosts at The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, June 9th, 2019
Back in April, Adelaide’s seven-headed soul-rock hydra re-emerged from the studio with a brand new song in their grasp. Their debut album, the ARIA-nominated Different Beings Being Different, hadn’t even been out for a year yet, but already the group had made a stunning return with their latest single, ‘Tops’.
A song described as being about “those times in your life when you know you should feel so fucking good about yourself, but all you can focus on is negative”, the tune resonated with their fans, and saw the group announce their first headline tour in a year.
With a reputation for putting on some of the finest live shows on offer, and with a setlist full of stunning tunes, it’s no surprise then that on Sunday night, hordes of eager fans piled into Melbourne’s Corner Hotel for a public holiday-eve affair that would be one to write home about.
Check out ‘Tops’ by West Thebarton:
As the 9pm showtime came around, it was clear that everyone was still deep in the middle of their long weekend plans, with enough fans to count on one hand present in the Corner’s band room.
However, within a matter of minutes, a strong contingent of music-lovers turned up to welcome Melbourne’s Mesa Cosa onto the stage, with the five-piece making sure within seconds that if you weren’t already paying attention, you would be soon.
With no messing around, they jumped straight into an upfront mix of garage rock and “freak-out fuzz punk”, complete with powerful chords, pounding rhythms, distorted riffs, chanted choruses, and spitfire lyrics delivered in Spanish.
Delving into their back catalogue of releases, the group dished out tracks that touched on topics like Thelma And Louise (‘No Return’), served as a “dedication to The B-52s” (‘Change The Channel’), and discussed “how much we hate driving to Sydney” (‘Sydney’).
Of course, while the latter track was undoubtedly suited towards (and absolutely adored by) the hometown crowd, the group kept on kicking out the jams, bookending a cover of Nirvana’s ‘tourette’s’ with quick examples of Pantera riffs (‘Cowboys From Hell’ and ‘Walk’, if you were wondering).
Sadly though, following a lengthy performance of ‘Church Of The Snake’ and a raucous rendition of ‘Canibal’, Mesa Cosa were forced to take their leave from the stage, having reached their allotted time, but having ensured they made the most of their opening set for the night.
Check out ‘Sydney’ by Mesa Cosa:
With the evening’s audience undoubtedly stoked by what Mesa Cosa had just served up, expectations were undoubtedly high for Hobart’s A. Swayze & The Ghosts, with the group soon taking to the stage as the P.A. blasted out The Strokes’ ‘Someday’.
Within seconds though, it was clear that A. Swayze & The Ghosts were here to channel that early ’00s era of garage rock, instantly powering into their bass-heavy opening number which was fronted by the immense howl of the band’s frontman and namesake Andrew Swayze.
While Swayze’s animated stage antics were seemed undeniably similar to that of The Vines’ Craig Nicholls (who was even name-checked by the frontman), their sound was reminiscent of that of a ’70s-era Elvis Costello, mixed in with the unmistakable vocals of groups like The Datsuns and The Hives, proving that there was something for everyone in their performance.
As they plowed through this set of mostly new tracks, Swayze explained that the “next song’s really long and it’s a hit”. Of course, many might have wondered how much of a hit it could be, but before long, anyone who might have had any doubts about A. Swayze & The Ghosts was instantly made a believer with the group’s stunning performance of ‘Reciprocation’.
Turning the 10-minute track into an even longer experience, the slow-burning nature of the song was exactly what a good rock performance should be. Kicking off with almost sensual vocals, the track soon descending into a monumental rock number, with Andrew Swayze going absolutely wild on stage, belting out the lyrics in a frenzy and taking his charismatic stage presence out to the crowd.
While screaming out the words the atmosphere in The Corner reached almost fever pitch, and fans were completely in awe of what they had witnessed. In fact, by the time the track had eventually calmed down and come to a close, the group had won over so many fans that they could have let guitar feedback ring out and they’d still receive riotous applause.
However, it didn’t end there, running through a few more gems – including ‘Suddenly’ – before A. Swayze & The Ghosts took their leave, undoubtedly proving that by the time they launch their debut album, they’ll be selling out venues like The Corner Hotel with absolute ease.
Check out ‘Reciprocation’ by A. Swayze & The Ghosts:
As showtime for the main event rolled around, it was clear that the public holiday-eve crowd were having a good time, with impromptu singalongs popping up from time to time from around the venue, undoubtedly serving as a sign of the good things to come.
When the lights eventually dimmed and The Lighthouse Family’s ‘High’ filled the venue, it was clear that we were about to witness something special. Before long, the eclectic collective known as West Thebarton appeared before us, indicating that big things were about to take place.
As a crashing crescendo of drums came to a close, the group kicked things off with a powerful rendition of a brand new track, ‘Cold Feet’. With the iconic vocals of frontman Reverend Ray Dalfsen cutting through the crowd’s wild applause and cheering, it wasn’t long before they too were chanting out these previously-unheard lyrics with fervour.
After welcoming us to a celebration for “Lizzie’s birthday weekend” we were met with something a bit familiar, as ‘Stuck On You’ rang out, eventually coming to a close as Ray used the chance to relate to the Victorian crowd.
“I might hate you in football, but I fucking love coming here to play shows,” he joked, before dedicating the raucous ‘Basics’ to someone who clearly doesn’t support Port Adelaide in the AFL.
We might have only been about three songs in, but already it was obvious that we were witnessing something phenomenal. As the crowd jumped enough to bring down the walls of the Corner, West Thebarton’s seven members all dutifully performed their musical tasks, ensuring that this wild affair was not one we’d be forgetting too soon.
With guitarists Josh Healey and Brian Bolado jumping on amps to strum their mighty chords, bassist Nick Horvat took up residence on the amp for the remainder of ‘Anatomy’, allowing his powerful grooves to pin down the stunning vibe we were bearing witness to.
Check out ‘Moving Out’ by West Thebarton:
After ripping through the groove-heavy ‘Reasons’, we were treated to even more new music, with Ray Dalfsen inviting fans to hold their loved ones close for ‘Desire’, an absolute belter which is already destined to be a hit upon its official release.
With Ray’s soaring vocals on display, and the crowd already singing along to the track, it felt like things couldn’t get any better. However, as a chant of “fuck Sydney” rang out amongst the crowd, guitarist Tom Gordon kicked things up a notch with the iconic opening notes of ‘Moving Out’, sending the crowd into a frenzy the likes of which we’d not yet seen.
While the lyrics of sharehouse living were undoubtedly a relatable topic amongst the youthful crowd, it was undoubtedly odd to hear a crowd of Victorians chanting out the names of Adelaide suburbs like Mile End, Grange, and Prospect, undoubtedly closing the interstate rivalry thanks to this musical group right out of the 5031.
After ignoring a request to play ‘Basics’ yet again, Andrew Swayze returned to give Ray Dalfsen a leather vest, undoubtedly giving him a newfound burst of energy for tracks like the fresh ‘Neck Pains’ (undoubtedly causing a few neck pains thanks to all the moshing fans were doing) and the soaring ‘Set It Straight’.
However, if ever you needed proof of West Thebarton’s stunning crowd control, just watch them deliver a rendition of ‘Do You Believe’. From that crushing opening riff, to the powerful finish in which drummer Caitlin Thomas furiously thrashes her kit while Ray Dalfsen’s vocals resolve to a scream, it feels like you’re watching an event wild enough to make the national news.
Check out ‘Do You Believe’ by West Thebarton:
“Sunday night mass is in full fucking effect,” Ray Dalfsen exclaimed to the crowd as West Thebarton readied themselves to enter the home stretch.
Dishing out the cathartic ‘Hypersensitivity’, fans clearly adored the new material, proving that album #2 is already shaping up to be worthy of claiming that ARIA Award they so deserve. However, after a mesmerising performance of ‘Ivan’ (including the chill-inducing moment before that final chorus), the group ran through a fitting performance of ‘Gough’ before giving their latest single a run-through.
From those opening chords to Caitlin Thomas’ pounding drumming, ‘Tops’ was in full effect, instantly proving its worth as a mesmerising crowd-pleaser, with fans singing out these relatable lyrics at every chance, and moshing with the force of a ’70s-era CBGB punk gig.
Sadly though, after informing us that they don’t do encores, West Thebarton jumped into the evening’s final track, a wild rendition of ‘Bible Camp’. As the group themselves became obscured due to widespread crowd-surfing, the atmosphere was unlike nothing we’d ever felt, with the band’s exceptional songs serving up a joyous, communal feeling for everyone as we belted out those lyrics like it was the last thing we would ever do.
Check out ‘Bible Camp’ by West Thebarton:
West Thebarton are the very definition of an exceptional band. They might only have one album, one EP, and a handful of singles to their name, but already, their live shows sound like something akin to a greatest hits performance.
With powerful choruses at every turn, and the ability to send the crowd into a frenzy at the very suggestion of a guitar riff or a drum fill, the group have rightfully made a name for themselves as one of the wildest rock groups in Australia.
It’s easy to suggest that a West Thebarton show can change your entire view of what a live performance should be (it can), and it goes without saying your life is better for having seen them live (it is), but the truth is, to truly understand what the West Thebarton experience is like, you need to see them hitting the stage.
With their live shows putting their phenomenal tracks into context, a gig from West Thebarton is the other side of the equation. They’re already an exceptional studio band, but you don’t get the full experience until you’ve seen them live and allowed them to change your life.
Check out ‘Basics’ by West Thebarton:
West Thebarton @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne 9/6/19 Setlist
‘Stuck On You’
‘Set It Straight’
‘Do You Believe’
West Thebarton’s The Tops Tour
With special guests A. Swayze & The Ghosts
Saturday, June 15th
The Rosemount, Perth, WA*
Friday, June 21st
The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday, June 22nd
Miami Shark Bar, Gold Coast, QLD
*A. Swayze & the Ghosts not appearing
Tickets on sale now via the West Thebarton website