The Bloodpoets begin the night with a crowd-pleasing set of pop-rock numbers. They show off their musicality with some good instrumental jams and fine cowbell and trumpet action. However, I feel that the vocals are a bit too forced and their tunes lack some of the depth that is necessary for the brand of alternative pop they’re trying to present. Nevertheless, Tom Murphy does very well in engaging the audience and I do catch a lot of smiling faces and some head-bopping moments in the crowd.
The clock has barely struck nine when The Whitlams appear onstage. It’s a very early start but it’s still going to be a late night, with the band playing their career defining album Eternal Nightcap from start to finish, followed by a selection of their other songs. As the first chords of No Aphrodisiac sound, the crowd erupts and joins in on the first lines: “A letter to you on a cassette/’Cause we don’t write anymore.” Sung twelve years later, the lyrics are simultaneously fresh, yet ironically old-fashioned. There are smiles all round as we reminisce. A significant proportion of the crowd have clearly been following this band for many years and probably remember The Whitlams’ first Brisbane shows, while youngsters like myself remember singing No Aphrodisiac in the school playground. Buy Now Pay Later (Charlie No. 2) also tugs on our heartstrings, as we all sing along to the chorus.
Following is a rarely-played tune from The Whitlams’ repertoire, Love Is Everywhere. Tim Freedman explains that he has no idea what the lyrics mean, something which I have been curious about for years. Notwithstanding the ridiculous lyrics, it’s a very fun song and gets everyone dancing. No momentum is lost as the band moves onto crowd favourite, You Sound Like Louis Burdett, which is usually played towards the end of their set to a drunker, rowdier crowd. With the two livelier tracks of the album over, the set takes on a more mellow feel. Regardless, Freedman is as chatty and cheerful as I’ve ever seen him, and a lot more sober, probably owing to the early start. Towards the end of the first set, Jak Housden lets loose a brilliant guitar solo in Laugh In Their Faces. The band is particularly tight in Up Against The Wall; the song’s intensity is accentuated by Freedman pounding away on the piano. Band On Every Corner, which was, ironically, written about how the band wouldn’t make it, rounds off the Eternal Nightcap set.
Freedman wastes no time in launching straight into The Curse Stops Here, as the rest of the band goes for a break. This haunting song is particularly pertinent tonight, as it was written about the two original Whitlams members, both of whom passed away. The band proceed with a plethora of Whitlams favourites: I Will Not Go Quietly and Gough get the crowd moving again, we all sing along to Blow Up The Pokies and I Make Hamburgers, while Thank You appropriately finishes off the second set.
The band comes back for an encore of Made Me Hard and Royal In The Afternoon before going offstage. The insatiable crowd still want more, and I wonder what the band could possibly play for a second encore. They come back on to do Happy Days from their very first album, followed by Year Of The Rat from their latest.
While I prefer the intimacy of their Zoo gigs from past years, The Whitlams put on a superb performance at the Tivoli tonight. Years of touring have meant that their shows are immensely polished and professional yet still remain personal and light-hearted. They certainly showed why they have been such a long-standing force in the Australian music scene and I look forward to what they have in store for us in the future – perhaps a performance of the album Love This City in its entirety?