Violent Femmes @ The Tivoli

Calling all children of the revolution...

The Violent Femmes are one of those bands that only get better with age. Despite playing sold out shows only last year, and the tropical cyclone wreaking havoc outside, they graced the Tivoli with a mighty vengeance on Wednesday night, to grandparents and teens alike.

Support act for the night was Indigenous act Rayella; a father / daughter duo from the middle of the Northern Territory. After welcoming us to country in their native tongue, they delved into their set, which was a collection of simple, narrative style tales, which blended a single acoustic guitar and their harmonic voices in and out of stories in both English and Mudburra. Whilst an unusual choice for a support artist, especially for a band such as the Violent Femmes, the crowd who had gathered early were keen for anything, and the Femmes delivered with these guys.

Stepping onto the stage, Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie hardly looked like the teen idols of their youth, (with Gano more resembling Leonard from the Big Bang Theory rather than a punk legend). However, the moment the first chords struck, all my anxiety dissipated, and instead my ears were filled with the same voice I was so used to hearing on my 80s records, except with more passion and musical expertise.

Setting the pace right away, the Femmes launched straight into I’m Nothing and Breaking Up. There was a surprising lack of smartphones in the audience as the electricity rose in the atmosphere. Their eclectic mix of folk, rock, and country, all mixed in with the roots of punk make for a varied set in terms of genres, and there’s really something for everyone. The banjo came out for a couple of tracks (one aptly titled Country Death Movie), as did the xylophone (Gone Daddy Gone), and the violin, which if you were wondering, Gano can certainly shred an epic solo on.

Usually I rely on the stage banter to feel connected to the band, however in this case the apparent lack of it (except for one joke comparing the devastation of Cyclone Debbie to India beating Australia in the cricket), was made up for by the on stage dynamics. After inviting Rayella back to the stage to play What Am I Doing Wrong?, the last half of their set brought a lot of their harder stuff, seeing them play some all-time favourites. Love Love Love Love Love, Jesus Walking On The Water, and Kiss Off all elicited huge crowd responses, and absolute perfection they have nailed their art down to is awe inspiring.

Black Girls delivered on the signature solo section, with raging improv from the sax player (who was definitely the most underrated member of the band), the pocket trumpeter, and of course, Gano, Ritchie and Sparrow. American Music closed the set, but we didn’t have to wait long for an encore. Lame as it was, I was waiting for Blister In The Sun, (alongside every other once child of the revolution there with their mum) and they delivered. The entire audience was pouring their heart into the sing-a-long, and there was a small mosh pit of bald guys in the front, which continued into Add It Up, the only song that could top the end of such a remarkable show. These guys have still got it, and they’re not showing any signs of slowing down.

-Olivia Shoesmith

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