Silverchair - The Falls Festival, Lorne Victoria, 31/12/00

By Les Thomas (Massive Magazine)

SilverchairThere was the time not so long ago when it looked like we never see silverchair play live again. If those in the know were to be believed, when they walked off stage at Homebake in 1999, the final date on their Neon Ballroom world tour, they were about to announce their split. Certainly the first few months following that triumphant show raised a few questions as to the future of the band, many interpreting their decision to take a whole year off as indicating a grim, and short, future for the trio.

Indeed for a band who'd spent so much of the previous four or five years in the spotlight, they did a remarkable job of disappearing in 2000. Save for the odd tabloid revelation about Daniel Johns's relationship with Natalie Imbruglia, his solo project, or Ben Gillies's job at a record store in Newcastle, the papers have been decidedly clear of silverchair related news.

But now, in a hidden valley nestled in the forest near Lorne, all that's about to change, as silverchair are set to perform their first and last show for the year in front of 13,000 very lucky sun affected revellers.

Silverchair To say that there's a lot riding on the show would be like saying Gandhi didn't really like fighting. The questions are many and are waiting to the anwered: Has the time off affected them? Are they still passionate about the band? What do the new songs sound like? Can they still cut it live?

The setting for their appearance, the second last of the 2000 Falls Festival, is a picturesque amphitheatre, the steep incline of which gives you the kind of cramp in the calves you get from wearing four inch stilettos [really, Les? - Ed].

There is a real sense of anticipation hovering over the site as their time slot draws closer. A large number of eager fans have spent the best part of the day clinging to the rail at the front in effort to be as close to their idols as possible. In the mosh pit, a sweaty tangle of bodies are already moving to AC/DC's Highway To Hell, warming up for what about to follow. So enthusiastic are they that Barbra Streisand would probably elicit some serious pogoing action, were she to make an appearance.

As if the anticipation isn't enough, the trio seemed determined to make us wait just that little bit longer than normal. The audience expands in layers up to the top of the hill as the minutes tick past, where sunstroke-affected security guards amuse themselves by engaging in a game of volleyball with the crowd. Somewhere off in the camping grounds, a pyromaniac is setting of illegal fireworks as if the onstage entertainment isn't enough.

The stage set looks strikingly familiar - a series of rings fitted with light bulbs adorn the keyboards, amplifiers and bass drum Neon Ballroom-style. As Highway To Hell fades to silence, it's replaced by a deep rumbling sound emanating from the speakers which successfully rearranges your internal organs.

Silverchair Ben Gillies - already shirtless without hitting a beat - appears first and scurries to his position on the drum riser, followed closely by bassist Chris Joannou in anonymous black. The biggest cheers are, of course, reserved for Daniel Johns, resplendent in a three-quarter length sequined jacket that would be at home on the back of a young David Bowie.

The opening chords of Israel's Son make it clear that the trio have lost nothing during their year off and here to fuck around - they're here to fuck shit up. Royally.

From the first stroke, Johns gives his gifts in the kind of whipping usually reserved for mysterious schoolchildren. "Put your hands in the air!" he screams as the song reaches its climax, and 13,000 people naturally oblige. When the massive outtro to Israel's Son finally peters out, the applause is deafening.

Without a breath they launch into Paint Pastel Princess, making way for some more ethereal sounds to squeeze into the set. As the music builds, Johns raises his fret board hand in the air, inciting screams of approval from the crowd as a dozen crowd surfers are tossed around in the mosh pit.

Those who get to close to the front are hauled like sheep over the front barrier by the security people, before being let out of a gate at the side of the stage so they can do it again.

Silverchair Gillies and Joannou put in some solid rhythm work on Madman while Johns struts around, slightly pidgeon-toed, shaking his shoulders Prince-style. He gets the claws out when sarcastically introducing an Ana's Song (Open Fire) as a song from their Greatest Hits album, and a mouthful of concrete couldn't stop the audience from singing along. Miss You Love follows, threatening to turn the concert into one gigantic group hug, but thankfully the pace picks up with Satin Sheets and Point Of View before we're treated to a new one, entitled Hollywood - a thumping power groove that wouldn't be out of place on Neon Ballroom.

While failing to produce a full scale revolution, Anthem For The Year 2000 succeeds in getting 10,000 or so people jumping in unison. By the time Freak rolls around, any doubters have been turned into true believers. Johns even drops and experimental death metal growl into the chorus, before launching into a solo that proves he's spent more than a little time in the past year brushing up on his technique.

With 20 minutes of the year remaining the trio walk off stage. For the assembled throng, the years impending end is of no importance, and everyone turns their attention to getting a band back on stage.

After a few minutes they succumb to the demand for a encore and proceed to play to songs they've never performed live - Do You Feel The Same? and another new one, One Way.

10 minutes later they're gone for good, joined shortly after by the year 2000. If 2001 is anywhere near as good as the past hour, then it will be another triumph for silverchair.