High Tension / Born Lion
The Metro Theatre, Sydney 20/ 06/ 2014
Getting Sydney’s Born Lion to open for The Bronx is a little like getting the U2 cover band that plays down at your local every Sunday afternoon to open for Bono and co. If anything, it exposed every trick in the book that the band have sonically ripped from tonight’s headliners, as well as how poorly it’s executed in comparison to the real thing. Their work is uninspired and flat, attempting to spark an electrical storm out of a puddle and a flat double- A battery. It doesn’t help matters that frontman John Bowker carries himself as if he were fronting U2, swearing like a nineyear- old who just discovered naughty words. This is the kind of music that should have never escaped that aforementioned pub.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Melbourne’s High Tension were there to melt faces and chew bubblegum – and, wouldn’t you know it, they were fresh out of bubblegum. Exuding one of the most captivating live presences in contemporary live Australian music, the quartet wasted little time eliminating the room of squares, mercilessly tearing through cuts from their 2013 debut, Death Beat. For those new to the party, this hybrid beast of Canberra’s Young & Restless and Melbourne- via- Tassie’s The Nation Blue blend snarling guitar and thudding drums with the unmistakable banshee shrieks of Karina Utomo, who appears to have found her true calling within the fold of this band. By the time she had made her way down onto the floor for “High Risk, High Rewards”, the formerly stunned audience was whipping themselves into a frenzy. If this set didn’t leave you salivating for what was still to come, nothing would.
Barely a year on from their three- night- stand at the dearly- missed Annandale, The Bronx were back and playing to potentially their biggest Sydney crowd to date. “LET’S GO!” screamed vocalist Matt Caughthran as “Kill My Friends” kicked off the evening’s proceedings – as if the sold- out Metro needed an invitation. By song two, “History’s Stranglers”, he had front- flipped into the crowd, performing the track almost entirely while being surfed about. Each track thereon brought life to the surging, bouncing room; ranging from recent cuts like “The Unholy Hand” and “Too Many Devils” to older favourites such as “Knifeman” and “White Tar”. No matter where your allegiance lies in terms of the band’s discography, there was no way you were going home empty- handed. The band’s relationship with Australia goes above and beyond your usual generic “we- love- your- country” babble, as Caughthran enthused about his love of Australian music during one of his many moments of memorable banter. “Keep your ear to the ground – and, when you hear something you love, lift that shit up!” he shouted. The roars of approval that followed suggested we’ll all be doing just that – then again, this was a crowd that were at the beck and call of each and every one of Caughthran’s moves. It was sweaty, intense and relentless, no matter where you ended up in the room. With a flash, bang and a scorching finale in the form of undisputed fan favourite “Heart Attack American”, The Bronx were gone just as quickly as they were here. 10 years after their first visit, it’s moments like this that remind you why The Bronx are simply unmissable every time they’re in town.