Pirate Dan And The ‘New’ Silverchair Rawk Roseland

By John Norris (MTV News)


Call him Long Dan Silverchair. When Daniel Johns took the stage at New York’s Roseland Ballroom on Friday night, the singer, songwriter and auteur of the ever-evolving band known as Silverchair was sporting a bandana … and an eye patch. Now, the headgear is something he has been sporting a lot lately, but the patch was new, and as he showed me after the show, was there to cover a black eye that Johns incurred while playing the guitar with his mouth. There was even a bit of a pirate “Aaargh” to his voice, as Daniel has been battling a nasty bout of laryngitis that caused the band to postpone the first four dates of this tour.

He sounded fine though … more than fine, actually. Daniel and his bandmates Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou (who Johns jokingly introduced as “my two gay lovers”) delivered a thrilling show and served notice that the band has moved on, musically, with a set list that leaned heavily on tracks from the excellent new album Young Modern — including “The Man That Knew Too Much,” the infectious “Low” and “Insomnia,” which Daniel dedicated to the New York audience, the “city that never sleeps.” The prog/pop/rock Young Modern is light years away from what these guys were first known for (Watch “The Reinvention of Silverchair” right here). And while Johns pretty clearly refuses to be painted into any musical corner, this is still a rock band, and even new material like “Reflections of a Sound,” one of the album’s sweeter songs, sounded more muscular performed live.

I have been watching Silverchair for a long time, and I don’t know if I have ever seen them as relaxed and happy and enjoying the moment as they are on this tour. And why shouldn’t they be? They’re riding on the wings of another brilliant record, so why wouldn’t they want to showcase it? It says something about Daniel that he has resolved not to play a single song from the boys’ debut album Frogstomp on this tour — it says he is an artist who is true to what he feels — and what he feels is NOT songs that he wrote and recorded at age 14, no matter how many old grunge heads in the crowd scream for “Tomorrow” or “Israel’s Son.” It says, move on.

Come on, guys — do you really expect Scott Weiland to just crank out old STP hits? Eddie Vedder to keep croaking out “Jeremy” or Chris Cornell to sing nothing but “Black Hole Sun”? Of course not, and in fact, Daniel and the ‘Chair have probably changed way more than any of those artists in the past decade. And yet, sure enough, a couple of fans came up after the show to tell me that yeah, they enjoyed it, but added, “John, you know Silverchair. How come they don’t do more of the older stuff?” I thought my head would explode. Please. And can we dispense with the devil horns, too? Dan’s all for freedom of expression, but I am pretty sure he would not mind Silverchair gigs being declared “devil horn-free zones.” Only twice on Friday night did the band venture back to 1997 and its transitional second album, Freak Show — first for “The Door,” for which, by way of an introduction, Johns asked the packed Roseland floor, “You guys eat that sh– for breakfast, don’t you”? The other ‘97 oldie they played was ‘Freak’ — pretty much guaranteed to get a ‘Chair crowd to go bananas.

But the exciting thing to see — for those of us who root for Daniel and the new-model Silverchair — is the crowd going just as mental for the band’s latest single, “Straight Lines.” In fact they knew every word, to the point where Daniel sat out an entire chorus and let Roseland do the singing. No doubt that scene will be repeated in the next week in Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, and next weekend at Lollapalooza in Chicago.

“Lately I’m a desperate believer”, Johns sings in “Straight Lines.” Give Silverchair — the band that they are NOW, in 2007 — a chance, and they will make believers out of you, too.