Caught in the Act - Silverchair

By Ron Bridges (Hit Parader)

One thing was immediately apparent to the 3,000 fans who had gathered to witness that evening's festivities. This definintly wasn't the same silverchair that millions of followers around the world had grown to know and love over the last half-decade. Nope, the guys on stage playing the distinctive, heavy, emotive brand of rock that has served as this Australian unit's calling card ever since their debut disc, Frogstomp, first shot them to fame, may have looked vaguely familiar. But with their shorter hair, leaner bodies and more mature features, somewhere along the musical trail silverchair had been transformed from barely post-pubescent hard rock sensations into a veteran unit with more than four years of touring experience under their collective belt. That's what growing up can do for you--it can turn three cherubic-faced 16 year-olds into handsome young men... and it can add a new element of musical drama to a band's sound in the process.

No doubt about it, with the release of their third album, Neon Ballroom, Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou are no longer the baby-faced sensations that initially won over the hard rock world back in 1995. And no longer are they the somewhat derivative, angst-filled trio whose music was continually being compared (and not always in a complimentary manner) to a host of hallowed rock practitioners from the past...from Nirvana...to Zeppelin...to Sabbath. This time around, it seems as if silverchair had made a pointed effort to change their look, change their sound, and change their attitude. But as they stood on stage cranking out 90-minutes worth of material that drew equally from all three of their chart-topping discs, it seemed as if some of their fans were having difficult time accepting the notion that their heroes had all grown up.

"It is a little strange to come back to a city we may have first played four years ago," Johns said. "The promoter and some of the local fans seem to recall us looking and acting a certain way. But we have changed a bit. We're a little older and wiser. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for them to realize that."

Once the gathered throng had become somewhat comfortable with the notion that this was indeed a new and improved silverchair that they were witnessing, the evening began to take on an almost festive aura. With the group's new material blending almosy magically with established favorites like Tomorrow and Israel's Son, the group's performance displayed both a razor-edged intensity and an expansive quality that it had previously lacked. In addition, these Ozz rockers had also begun to understand what putting on a rock and roll "show" was all about; rather than appearing as the occasionally stiff, often unsure stage performers they were back in 1995, this time around the power trio exuded an unmistakable confidence and an inimitable ger. Before launching into the show's unquestioned centerpeice, the ten-minute long opus, Emotion Sickness, Johns actually addressed the crowd (albeit briefly), something he would never have dreamed of doing in years past. While no one will probably ever categorize this trio as "theatrical", there's no question that on their latest tour silverchair have established themselves among hard rocks most entertaining onstage units.

"I think we now have a much better understanding of what we're supposed to do on stage," Johns said in the band's postconcert dressing room. "It's more than just standing there and doing our best to deliver our songs. Our fans want a little more from us than that. We're not the kind of band that's going to start relying on explosions and fancy lighting effects because we want the focus to stay on the music. But we're there to entertain everyone as best we can, and I think on this tour, that's exactly what we're doing."