The Vic - Chicago, USA

Chicago, Feb. 16, 1997

silverchair is young and it's ready

By JAE-HA KIM, Pop Music Critic
Chicago Sun-Times, February 17, 1996
Chicago Sun-Times photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

silverchair has been slagged as being little more than a mall rat version of Seattle's best bands.

But at their sold-out show Sunday night at the Vic, the trio of Australian teenagers proved that after two solid years on the road, they have what it takes to be major contenders in 'rock 'n' roll.

Touring to promote Freak Show, the hard-rocking musicians ripped through a 75-minute set that began with Slave and ended with Israel’s Son, the first track from their breakthrough 1995 debut, frogstomp.

The musicians sounded so tight and polished that it was easy to forget that the eldest won't turn 18 until April. They won't have any trouble getting prom dates when they graduate from high school in a few months, but if the high-pitched screams were any indication, singer-guitarist Daniel Johns was the crowd favorite. A slim, blond boy with delicate features, his voice conveys angst -- an irresistible combination to many teenage girls.

The stage set-up was spartan, with just a banner depicting circus oddities ("See the bodyless man!") hanging high above their heads. Johns worked the stage, peering at the body-surfing fans through his tangled hair.

Detractors put off by Johns, bassist Chris Joannou and drum-mer Ben Gillies have derisively dismissed them as Sound(kinder)garden and Pearl Jam in Pajamas.

But the teenagers' music is more interesting and better written than that of Mad Season, a side project put together by members of Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. While Mad Season's Above (1995) exhibited little of the originality of the musicians' primary groups, silverchair's Freak Show and frogstomp are sprinkled with ridiculously catchy head-banging numbers that translate well live.

That's not to say that they haven't learned a thing or two from bands such as Nirvana. silverchair’s melodies are strewn with scratchy feedback, and Johns is fond of singing tortured lyrics that owe a lot to poetic license.

At least I hope so anyhow. It's more than a little disconcerting to hear a teenager sweetly sing, "C'mon abuse me more/I like it,' no matter how tongue in cheek he meant the lyrics to be.



By GREG KOT, Tribune Rock Critic
Chicago Tribune, Feb. 18, 1997
Photo for the Tribune by James Crump

Three years ago the three teenagers in the band silverchair won a radio contest in their native Australia with a grunge knockoff called Tomorrow, landed a record deal and, parental chaperones in tow, began touring America.

There they faced interminable questions about their youth, their third-hand Seattle-by-way-of- Newcastle sound and singer Daniel Johns' uncanny vocal and physical resemblance to the late Kurt Cobain.

It's enough to make any teen scream, which Johns did -- a lot -- on Sunday in silverchair's performance at the Vic. Seems as though the blond, blue-eyed front man has discovered several suffixes for the word "mother," with which he delighted his shrieking peer group.

Lenny Bruce-isms aside, what matters is not so much what Johns says, but how he says it.

Whipping his tresses as though trapped in a high-speed blender, wiggling his slinky Axl Rose hips, pausing dramatically beneath a strobe light between power chords, the willowy Johns teeters between awkward adolescent and feral rock star.

No wonder the mosh pit was frothing one minute, swooning the next with his every move.

The 17-year-old singer doesn't just entertain his audience, he's part of it.

On silverchair's second album, Freak Show, the singer bemoans, celebrates and satirizes youthful feelings of inadequacy.

The circus-poster backdrop for the stage suggested that the band, and by extension its audience, sometimes feels like a side-show attraction performing for the benefit of a voyeuristic and often uncomprehending world.

"I don't really know/How to put on a cool show/As boring as they come/Just tell me where to go," Johns raged.

"C'mon, abuse me more, I like it," he crooned with a delicacy that belied the plea.

With Johns on guitar, Ben Gillies on drums and Chris Joannou on bass, Silverchair has graduated from blatant Pearl Jamming to the harder stuff: a whiff of Pantera, a heavy dose of Helmet, a touch of Black Sabbath.

Johns' favors big baritone chords, and the trio likes to start songs slow and finish fast -- a gambit that wore thin after three tries.

But the trio packages its derivative riffing and callow lyricism with anthemic melodies, and Johns' agile voice delivers them with a wounded power.

Most of all, silverchair seems to enjoy what it's doing: Watch Johns shred his guitar! See Gillies swan dive into the mosh pit! Feel the hormones rage!

silverchair may not be particularly original, but the band's lack of guile and attitude hold a lesson that more refined practitioners of guitar rock would do well to study.


Review courtesy Entertainment Ave.

Much can be said for the resilience of today's youth. It's 6:15 p.m., 20 some odd degrees outside and they haven't started letting people into The Vic for the silverchair show that my ticket shows is supposed to start at 7:00. Me, I'm in that line too, and yes, like most of the young'ns, I left my coat in the car expecting 1) the doors would open at 6:00 so the cold wouldn't be too bad and 2) it would be hot inside The Vic and I didn't want to be bogged down holding my coat while moshing. Alright, I wouldn't be heading for the mosh pit, but I didn't want to have to stand around holding my coat either.

Well, at least option 2 was right because there we stood, most of us, in t-shirts and flannels, waiting for the doors to open. About a half an hour later warmth finally came as I let the security dudes patted my shivering body down and I entered the venue. Me, personally, I thought this entire experience sucked, but most of the rest of the folks in line didn't seem to care, they just wanted to see one of their favorite bands - silverchair.

Being so far back in line, I headed for a seat in the balcony because I'm short and didn't feel like straining my neck and standing on my toes trying to see over everyone on the main floor. Third row, off to the side, it was as good a spot as any so I kicked backed and relaxed and found out the show wouldn't start until 7:30. The lights go down, it's opening act time, and a group called Handsome takes the stage.

A quick word about Handsome. The crowd kinda liked them, or maybe they were just trying to get warm, and Handsome kicked into a 35-minute, high energy show. The only problem for me was there was nothing special about them. It was your standard, guitar driven alternative-esque type show. Not that they were bad -- they played well, but just didn't have anything or any sound to set them apart from the rest of the pack. A little bit more slapping hands in the crowd, or any slapping hands in the crowd for that matter, maybe some crowd interaction or something, but it was like the crowd wanted a little bit more and Handsome didn't deliver. Although the crowd started out liking the band, by the time their 35 minutes ran out the mosh pit became indifferent and the outstretched hands in the front row came back by their sides with no "he slapped my hand" stories to tell. From me Handsome get a SHRUG. The potential is there, they just need to find someplace to put it.

The lights are back up and the security dude is scolding this 12ish year old a couple of rows in front of me for bringing in one of those disposable cameras. He threatens that if he sees her try to take a picture during silverchair he'll throw the camera away and maybe even toss her out of the venue. I'm thinking, "Lighten up, dude, just give her a warning and take the camera away if she does it -- don't make this a federal case." But he kept on and on even after the girl said "OK, I won't" and stuffed it in her pocket. Sorry for that little tangent, I digress. Back to the show.

Promptly at 8:30 the lights go down again and carnival music tries to overpower the high-pitched screams of the girls in the crowd. A few moments later the three boys in silverchair stroll on stage and kick into an hour and fifteen minute set of songs that showed me a lot more about this band than the standard radio hits portray. Yes, I have to admit that other than those radio songs I haven't heard anything else from silverchair, but after this show I might have to head out and pick up a CD or two. I was duly impressed.

Other than radio, my only other impression of the three boys from down under are from what the critics have said -- most of which seem to blast the band as "Nirvana wanna-bes" who need to grow up a little, but there are a few that compare them to Nirvana but expand on that. Me, well after seeing this show, I see them as a band that can truly grow old with their fans, as long as they don't go to college and become engineers or some other boring occupation like that. The boys have grown since frogstomp, and the songs from Freak Show are a little more polished. Their music has changed just enough to keep them fresh but not so much to alienate their first legion of fans.

As I'm sitting there listening to songs like Slave, Abuse Me, Leave Me Out and Cemetery (which was quite impressive with Daniel Johns playing it solo while Chris Joannou and Ben Gillies headed off to "get a drink"), I'm hearing an almost pop music influence mixed with the standard chord-driven, alternative sounding songs. It's enough to not let them fall into that "it sounds like everything else on the radio these days" trap. Then, as the show progresses, I become impressed because, yes, all you cynics out there, Daniel can really play guitar and not just blast through "three chords make a song" music. And then, as the show progresses further, instead of pop I hear hard core during songs like No Association and Israel's Son. Here's a band taking some generic pop-rock, alternative, and hard-core and mixing it all together with some old style metal to boot. It was pretty cool if I do say so myself.

By the end of the show I can say that silverchair has turned the skeptic in me to more of a believer that they can surpass the "one-hit-wonder" bands that have proliferated the airwaves lately. And you know, it was weird, but at times, with all of the bras flying on stage, I couldn't remember the last shows I saw with that much lingerie heading for a mike stand. Oh yeah, one was KISS and the other was Tom Jones. If that's any indication of where this band is heading it looks like they will be having a long and fun ride! Only thing I wondered is how 16-year-old Susie is going to explain to her parents why she is coming home without her bra. I can hear mom now: "You threw it on stage. Sorry, I used that one on my parents -- now get to your room and you're never seeing Jason again."

In the end the crowd had a blast, even if the mosh-pit was so packed that instead of slam dancing it was more of a big wave moving back and forth. And you know, the band didn't really interact with the crowd much, well at least not until the end when they decided to stage dive into the crowd. They showed they can play, and in the end they showed they haven't grown up yet -- that's cool!

It's TWO BIG THUMBS UP for silverchair!



We got up as close as possible and ended up in front of Chris's area. The crowd was restless as Handsome came on a bit later than scheduled, but it was worth the wait. I moved to the balcony and sat with Jenn (The Llama Grrl) Ryan. Pete Walton came and sat next to us. I saw the headless doll next to Ben's drum set and I asked Pete about it. He said, "Oh, that's Jessie, the headless doll!" I laughed -- silly boys!

Finally the lights dimmed and the crowd got rowdy again. The backdrop lowered; it was really cool, with all these circus freaks on it. The circus theme music started (I just love that little touch! It's great!) The band came out, the circus music stopped and they opened the show.

Here's the set list:

Abuse Me
Leave Me Out
Suicidal Dream
The Door
No Association
Pure Massacre
Madman Encore:
Minor Threat
Lie To Me
Israel's Son

I was so thrilled that they did Roses. I just live for that song; it gets me going and to hear it live is even better! During that song, Daniel dropped his pick and went on playing without it. When the song was over, he went to pick it up but it wasn't easy.

During Freak, Daniel pointed at everyone for "as cool as you" and another time he sang "as cool as all of fucking you!" THAT was cool!

Right before he played Cemetery, he gsaid, "The guys left me. I'm all by myself. They went to jack off -- maybe I should too." Something like that. I couldn't hear him very well but that's what I later heard he said.

During Madman, Daniel went on a rampage. He ran all the way over to Chris's area and went back toward his speakers. Not to my surprise, bras and panties were thrown up on stage. I counted like four pairs. One pair of underwear landed by Chris and he kicked them. A red bra was thrown right in front of Daniel. And this is funny -- a pair of underwear hit Daniel in the hand during one song. Bailey went over to get it out of his way and noticed it was underwear and threw it down with a disgusted look on his face. It was great!

At some point, Daniel threw something in the crowd and said, "Here, have a piece of guitar. It's a piece of shit, maybe I'll throw it out at the end of this show." But he didn't. Instead, it got smashed by the speaker.

When they came back for the encore, Daniel asked, "Where's Handsome? Did they leave? We're gonna do Minor Threat." Then Jeremy Chatelain from Handsome came up and tickled Daniel around the waist. "OK, here he is," Daniel said. They played Minor Threat with Jeremy singing. It was strange to see someone besides Daniel sing, but it was really cool.

During Lie To Me, Daniel kicked up his left leg real high. Chris did his jump a few more times -- now he's a true rock star 'cause he's moving around -- go Chris!

Daniel did the usual thrashing after Israel's Son. He ran over to the speakers and ran his guitar all around it and made distortion. Then he knocked the speaker over and one fell right onto his green PRS -- poor thing!

While daniel was mucking around on the sound effects pedals, Ben was about to leave buit then he turned around. I thought he was gonna moon us 'cause I know he's done that lately. But he did something so wild and awesome. He stood up on the drum platform and stretched his arms out and pointed at the crowd. He hunched over and I knew right away what he would do. He made a run for the crowd and fell right into the hands of complete silverchair freaks! Before I knew it, I couldn't see him because he was buried in all the hands. Watson and the stage crew came running out to his rescue. They got him out of there as soon as they could and rushed him off stage. It was so cool to see him do that!

The lights came back on and the show came to an end. It was sad 'cause I did NOT want it to end. But it was so great while it lasted.


By DAWN (nguyendp@axp.calumet.purdue.edu)

I went to the concert on Feb. 16th in Chicago. It was awesome. We arrived at the Vic around 5 and stood in line for about an hour and 15 minutes. It was a long, cold wait and everyone's toes were frozen. A silver tour bus with a trailer was parked directly in front of the doors. Of course, everyone was yelling at it in hopes that one of the band members would come out.

Once inside, we found a nice place to stand. I favored the right side -- less girls and more room. The Vic was much smaller than I had expected it to be. We found a place next to the rail of the mosh pit and waited for the opening band. Handsome came on and totally rocked. They played a few songs and then thanked the audience for coming and thanked silverchair for letting them tour with them for a couple of weeks. There was really no crowd participation. Every once in a while someone would yell for silverchair to come on. Handsome was really good. They have a really heavy groove. Then the set was over, and on came the roadies to set up the stage for silverchair.

After about what seemed like forever with all of the girls yelling for Daniel, the lights dimmed and the back-drop fell. The crowd was yelling and went crazy when the circus music started. silverchair came out and took their positions. They ripped into Slave, Roses and Findaway without interruption. After Findaway Daniel introduced the next song.

"You've probably heard this song on the radio," he says, noting that a friend [production manager Bailey Holloway] would help play the song, which was Abuse Me.

silverchair got the crowd going and everyone sang along. During The Door, something happened to one of Ben's cymbals because there was a drum tech [Danny Hemminge] next to Ben trying to fix the cymbal. Every time he reached for the screw, Ben would hit the cymbal. So the tech just sat next to Ben on the riser and waited for the end of the song. The guy unscrewed the high-hat and did something with it. Daniel saw this and started an inaudible conversation with the crowd to stall, but then decided, "I don't feel like talking any more."

The highlights of the show would probably be:

Daniel said to the audience, "Here, have a piece of guitar. It's falling to pieces. I'll probably just throw it in the crowd after the gig anyways." (But nothing happened to the green PRS after the show.)

For the encore Daniel goes, "Handsome, please report to the stage. If you're here, please come to the stage. I don't know if they're still here or not. Oh, fuck it then." Then the singer of Handsome (Jeremy Chatelain) came out behind Daniel and scared him by putting his hand on his waist. Jeremy then ripped into "Minor Threat with silverchair playing.

At the end of the show, during Daniel's guitar screeching distortion, Ben jumped on the drum riser and faces the audience. After giving the crowd the "I'm gonna do it" look, he ran off the riser and into the arms of the waiting crowd. The security guards pulled him out with difficulty because of all the people hanging on him.
What I thought was cool:

It seemed to me that more people sang along on Abuse Me and Freak than of the frogstomp songs, even Tomorrow.

My sister asked a lady in the audience where she got her shirt. (It was a black shirt and on the back had silverchair, Midget, Spiderbait, etc.) She said that she got it in Australia and flew to Chicago to see silverchair.

During Freak Daniel said "cool as fucking you" and pointed to the crowd, and everyone went crazy.
I was disappointed that they didn't play Pop Song or Paranoid. It also seemed to me that the show wasn't as intimate as it could have been, like when I saw them in L.A. at the Troubadour. Daniel was a lot less talkative in Chicago. Maybe all of the touring and promoting had gotten him tired.