Bowery Ballroom - New York, USA
By PETE WALTON
silverchair's Daniel Johns told an interviewer that in writing the songs for the new Neon Ballroom album, he "just wanted to do something that people didn't expect and that no one was doing."
During the band's show at New York's cozy Bowery Ballroom, silverchair did the unexpected, and did something that many bands today seem reluctant to do: they rocked.
The sold-out crowd began to line up at 8:30 in the morning. When a silverchair crew member arrived at the venue later, he asked a fan how long she'd been waiting, and returned with a new autographed photo for her. The crew and venue staff had to contend with more complications than usual: cameras and computers for a live Internet broadcast, and microphones and mixers for a planned April special on the syndicated Album Network radio program.
A projected time schedule slipped a bit. An on-line chat in connection with the Internet broadcast was delayed for an hour or so, but once it began, bassist Chris Joannou praised the quality of the questions and said he enjoyed the opportunity to answer them.
Even though all available tickets for the show were sold, Rolling Stone writer (and avowed silverchair fan) David Fricke said the size of the crowd would allow for a more comfortable concert experience than most shows at the small venue, which he described as "unbearable" on other occasions.
In addition to Fricke (who said he was not there to work but purely for pleasure), cellist Jane Scarpantoni was on hand for the show. Scarpantoni arranged the strings for the ambitious tracks on Neon Ballroom. By the end of the show, she was standing on a chair screaming for more!
After a tight, melodic set by the Canadian indie band Starling and an hour or so behind schedule, the room lights darkened and a bit of Robert DeNiro's Taxi Driver soundtrack played ("Are you talkin' to me? Are you talkin' to me?")
Johns, Joannou, drummer Ben Gillies and tour keyboardist Sam Holloway then wound down four or five sets of stairs to the stage, and started out with the hard-rocking Slave before a smooth transition into Pure Massacre from the band's first album frogstomp.
Daniel: "Hi, we're silverchair, from across Australia. This is a new song. The last two, they were old songs, this one's new, it's off Neon Ballroom."
For most of the members of the audience, it was their first chance to hear Emotion Sickness, the six-minute epic which kicks off the new album. Holloway's keyboards carried the string and piano parts of the recorded version and the song's manic peak, a thunderstorm of sound, was led by Johns' impassioned guitar attack. Many in the crowd were spellbound by the orchestral recreation, and silverchair delivered on what Johns promised -- the unexpected.
The mix of new and familiar music continued as Joannou's bass announced the frogstomp classic, Israel's Son.
Daniel: "Thank you very much, America. Thank you, U.S.A. Thank you, United States. OK. Yeah, we're gonna play music, that's right. This is a new song as well, so, thanks. This is Sam Holloway playing the keyboard."
Again, most in the crowd were treated to their first hearing of Ana's Song (Open Fire), the likely second single from Neon Ballroom. It's a moving and personal song, about which Johns says he was warned that it could be "a mistake, lyrically" because it concerns people with eating disorders. Ana's Song combines raw emotion and soul bearing with lilting melody and powerful guitar statements. Another emotional work followed, Suicidal Dream from frogstomp, augmented by light touches from Holloway on keyboards.
Daniel: "Thanks. Thanks for the frog. I think we got one of them thrown on stage before. This is a strange situation for us to be in because we're on stage and you're down there and you're watching us play. Oh, we were discussing this with our London crowd the other day. We were talking about the similiarities between us and the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys and so on. There's like a cute Spice, right, like Baby Spice, that's Sam, because he's innocent and new. Then there's Sporty Spice who's like Chris, 'cause he's in good shape, works out and stuff, keeps himself well maintained. Ben is Scary Spice 'cause he's a drummer, he's wild. And I'm Posh Spice because I'm a bitch -- and I'm gonna be married to a famous soccer player."
Next up was the highlight of the night for this writer, Neon Ballroom's Paint Pastel Princess -- a complex and haunting work that Johns said was a challenge to execute in the studio because of its difficult time and signature changes. On stage, it is nothing short of mesmerizing. The band again creates a hypnotic wave with their music as Johns sings over and over, "But it's all the same to me." Paint Pastel Princess is one of silverchair's finest efforts to date.
At the Bowery Ballroom, the band went from melodic to manic again with the pounding instrumental Madman, complete with Johns' traditional erratic trip over every available square foot of the stage.
The surprise of the evening followed. As his bandmates walked off, Johns and his guitar remained and the audience settled in expecting the customary solo rendition of Cemetery from the Freak Show album. Instead, Johns shocked nearly everyone by precisely picking out the familiar opening guitar introduction to silverchair's modern rock classic, Tomorrow. He sang the song with a new passion and enthusiasm, which had understandably been missing from the full band's performances of the song in 1997.
Solo guitar lines then began another new track, Miss You Love, which Johns says is not a love song, but is about not having love. Written in waltz time, It is comforting and though provoking n waltz time with a Daniel: "Thank you, it's time to play rock. Rock and roll. Rock and roll consists of a large band, large crowd, and lots of movement. Lots of screaming, lots of yelling, lots of fighting, violence -- everything. So it's time to move. We've had the warm-up period now... it's time... rock and roll. Rock and roll will never die. You ready? YOU READY? YOU FUCKING READY?"
Exhorting the crowd to "Jump!" Johns and silverchair moved into The Door from Freak Show, a rousing rocker with a strong backbeat from Gillies. The crowd on the floor responded to Johns' directive, shaking the old building through most of the song.
As it ended, a series of strange noises chirped through the PA system, followed by a steady Gillies drum statement, a brief guitar imposition, and an a capella cry by Johns of "We are the youth," his arms raised in a "Y" above his head, then pointing forward to have the crowd respond in kind. The crowd did respond, and many seemed to recognize the first single from Neon Ballroom, Anthem For The Year 2000. Written after a rare vivid dream by Johns in which the band was playing in a large stadium, Anthem is a thinly veiled attack on Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, an Australian political movement which has drawn Johns' ire for its attitudes toward young people.
To close the main portion of the 70-minute show, silverchair rolled out another anthem, Freak, and its driving guitar and assertive chorus did not fail to evoke the enthusiam of the audience.
A brief pause, and then an encore began with Abuse Me, another trademark Johns composition which contrasts compelling melody with cynical and ironic lyrics.
To remind all in attendance that silverchair have not abandoned their mission to rock, the band chose Spawn Again to end the evening. It's a reworking of one of the most popular songs from the band's 1997 Summer Freak Shows tour of Australia, with new lyrics to reflect Johns' deeply felt antipathy toward experimentation on animals.
Once the house lights came up and the sounds of Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz (the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) played through the ballroom's speakers, the supportive audience called for the band to return, but as Gillies remarked after the show in true trouper fashion, "it's good to leave them wanting more."
More live silverchair, for U.S. fans at least, would come a month later 90 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike in Philadelphia. In the meantime, the capacity crowd filed out into a dense fog which had settled over Manhattan, having been entranced, romanced, provoked, disturbed, exhiliarated and most especially -- rocked.
Ana's Song (Open Fire)
Paint Pastel Princess
Tomorrow (electric solo)
Miss You Love
Anthem For The Year 2000
By CANAAN P.
Silverchair is back in the saddle again, touring the universe in support of their new album Neon Ballroom. The band put on an excellent, fantastic, very satisfying show at New York City's Bowery Ballroom.
As soon as the band walked on stage I saw that their showmanship has turned up a notch. Daniel and Chris dress flashier now and their stage moves are more showy. Daniel has a whole new set of herky-jerky guitar moves, shaking from his hips and knees as if the power chords had taken over his body. Silverchair's musicianship is still very strong. It still seems a little bit surreal to me that three teenagers can do a big rock show with so much confidence and professionalism. But seeing is believing.
Drummer Ben Gillies has turned into Godzilla in human form. When this guy comes down two-handed on the beat, he literally sends shock waves through the concert hall. On the real high-powered songs I felt like I was being stomped on by a giant dinosaur. Gillies can really hit! The same goes for bassist Chris Joannou. When Chris goes into the zone, it is something to see. He went beserk on "Madman", dancing with his bass, bopping his head, ripping up the rhythm. He was in the zone, man.
As for Daniel, well, he just confirmed my opinion that he is one of the most talented musicians alive. His solo performance of "Tomorrow" in the middle of the set was so beautiful I wish he had never stopped singing.
We didn't get as much of the funny, whacked-out chatter from Daniel as at other shows. Though he did compare the guys in the band to the Spice Girls: Keyboardist Sam Holloway was 'Baby Spice' because he was new and innocent. Chris was 'Sporty Spice' because he worked out in the gym and kept himself "well maintained." Ben was 'Scary Spice' because he's wild and scary (I agree). And Daniel himself was 'Posh Spice' "because I'm rich." Then Daniel announced his engagement to "a famous soccer player."
Daniel can be bossy on stage, and if he thinks the audience isn't keeping up he kicks them in the butt to get them going. After doing several of the very beautiful songs from the new album, Daniel told the crowd that the "warm-up period was over" and it was "time to rock." With the crowd properly charged up, the band went into overdrive with "The Door", "Freak", "Abuse Me", "Anthem for the Year 2000" and the completely savage "Spawn Again."
The set list was very well paced. At past concerts, I thought silverchair's set list was awkward. Because they have so much variety in their songs, they used to jump from heavy songs to melodic songs and old songs to new songs without that great a flow. But the band has figured out that mystery. Tonight they moved from old songs to new songs, loud to soft songs with good continuity.
With their third album full of songs, silverchair is now at that point where they can't play all of their best songs in one concert anymore. That's life. I wish they had done "No Association" and "Lie to Me". And I wish they would put the Clash song "London's Burning" in their live show. Then again, if silverchair broke into "London's Burning" live, I might have a heart attack. I'm a huge Clash fan.
The show ended abruptly with "Spawn Again" and the audience really wanted more. I could have done with another encore, or at least a "Good night New York" from the fellas. The crowd couldn't accept that the show was over until the roadies actually started taking down the drums. My only complaint is that the band did kind of leave us hanging.
I liked all the new songs. I liked all the old songs. If silverchair was playing tomorrow night I'd go see them again. I'll buy Neon Ballroom the first day it comes out. I'll buy the Clash Tribute CD the first day it comes out. And the next time silverchair comes within 300 miles of me I'm going to roadtrip to see them again. So there!
By M. TRANSYLVANIA
A giant herd of scraggly alterna-kids that Seattle left behind was the first thing I noticed when I approached the Bowery Ballroom to see silverchair. I figured the band members must be among the crowd signing autographs but as it turned out the line was for the kids who left their 16+ I.D.s at home. Once I entered the rather elegant venue and saw youngsters accompanied by their parents, it became clear that silverchair¹s audience had not grown - at least in age. After standing through an excruciating mediocre set by Starling, a Canadian three-piece, I was eager to see silverchair show everyone how rock was done. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long. Bailey and the crew set up an elaborate stage complete with hanging disco balls, strobe lights, curtains, and neon glo-tubes running around the amps and microphones.
Shortly, a warped waltzing music was heard and Daniel, Chris, and a shirtless Ben emerged from backstage to assault the audience with their militant version of "Slave." The band is really tight and the rhythm section didn't miss a beat. Ben's hard hit drumming was especially impressive. Silverchair haven't played New York in two years and it's amazing how much growing up they've done in that time. Daniel is alarmingly pencil thin now with his hair cut a little below his ears. He was thoroughly dressed for the "Neon Ball," with a black and silver dress shirt and green eyeshadow. Chris was wearing red satin athletic pants and a tennis shirt and bopped up and down with each song. Ben has spiky hair that stands upright. Daniel played his infamous Green PRS for the first two numbers, the second being "Pure Massacre" which sounded refreshing and reworked. While Daniel was jumping around, he mumbled incessantly to someone - either the soundman or the audience, but he continued this crazed speech through out the entire show. In between songs Daniel seemed timid, refraining from his usual spunky stage banter to say, "We're silverchair from Newcastle, Australia."
Silverchair debuted some new songs from Neon Ballroom including a mind-blowing tune called "Emotion Sickness." Complete with green and purple lights to convey the mood, the song was truly meszmorizing. A young keyboardist named Sam sat in to add to the erie minor melody. My favorite part was when Daniel sang in his high falsetto voice "Emotion sickness" over and over again at the end of the song. I can't wait to hear the album version and fully absorb the track. Daniel played a red Gibson SG guitar for this song.
At this point, Daniel told us that it felt unusual to play for an audience after being secluded for a year. He also talked about his miraculous British Spice Girl analogy. Each member of the band had a certain Spice character. He was Posh Spice because "I¹m rich, and I¹m going to marry a famous soccer star." The next song was "Israel¹s Son" which Daniel added to by including provocative arm movements as if he was being massacred on a cross during the "I am Israel¹s Son/ Israel¹s Son I am" part. But overall the song lacked the same energy I remembered from previous shows. "Ana¹s Song (Open Fire)" was the next pleasant surprise. This song is going to be a hit. People in the audience already knew the words and were singing along. The chorus is slow and really catchy and there were orange triangular light images on the stage at the time.
Silverchair played a version of "Suicidal Dream" which was pretty rocking. The band added a keyboard part to the song and Daniel screamed a lot in the end. After this Ben, Chris, and Sam left the stage, and Daniel played an haunting version of "Tomorrow" by himself. I don¹t think it was as successful as the original because he didn't play the guitar solo or the little lead riffs which I love. However it was refreshing and pretty daring of him to play a solo version, considering "Tomorrow" was the band¹s biggest hit to date. The next song was another new love song called "Miss You Love" but it was hard to absorb the first time.
Next Daniel taunted the audience by saying "Enough with these quiet songs, do you want to rock? Rock will never die." Next the band played "Madman" which was slower than usual and lacked energy. However the next track made up for it big time. "Anthem for the Year 2000" is a huge hit waiting to happen. The main chorus is still in my head 24 hours later. The guitar riff is so heavy and so much fun. Daniel got the crowd going by saying "This is your anthem" and clapping his hands together over his head making the crowd to repeat "We are the youth." This was the best song of the evening and the audience agreed by jumping up and down fanatically at the end of the song. Daniel played a black Gibson Les Paul guitar with a pink sticker on it.
It was good to hear the old rockers from Freak Show such as "The Door" and "Freak." Strobe lights flickered on stage during "The Door" and star shaped lights shone during "Freak." Daniel bounced from side to side as he played and added personalized hand movements to the "If only I could be as cool as you" part. The band also played another new song, "Paint Pastel Princess" which sounded nice but it was hard to respond to after the first hearing.
For the encore the band slid through "Abuse Me" with a trippy piano part. The chorus got pretty out of hand at the end as Daniel improvised with the vocal line. "Spawn" was the grand finale of the evening. I had never seen the band play it live and the song really stood on its own. The band teased the audience with little pauses in between the heavy riffs. Without any goodbyes, the band strangely exited the stage. The audience waited and roared for more but the guys didn't resurface.
Overall, this was not the best performance I've seen from silverchair. The set list was a little awkward: I missed their heavy numbers such as "Faultine," "No Association," and "Lie to Me." In addition, a lot of the older rock songs lacked the energy and drive that the boys usually put out. Regardless of this, the new songs were exciting, innovative, and stood on their own. The piano parts meshed with the new songs and brought out new aspects of their old goodies. Bring on the Neon Ballroom! It was certainly great to see this band in a more mature, controlled state, and hopefully, I won¹t have to wait another two years to see them again.