Roseland Ballroom - New York, USA
Throughout the opening sets of Skunk Anasie and Smile, the mosh pit bobbed and swayed, sputtering with excitement and young energy. Sweaty teens filled the smokey hall to the gills; most covered in concert t-shirts from their favorite bands. From the front of the pit, I could see a serious Ben Gillies, sitting on a stool behind the stage.
Finally, silverchair assended the stage and Ben hurdled himself into the drum set. Daniel Johns and Chris Joannou creeped on to the stage from opposite sides, each carrying their guitars. They started their set by launching into a tight version of Leave Me Out. Daniel played a green Paul Reed Smith guitar with a Helmet sticker on the back. He and Chris tossed their hair in unison after the first chorus. The next song was a new song called Slave and I had never heard it before. It was a pleasant surprise with hard core parts slightly resembling Helmet or Tool. The song was tinged with droaning guitars, heavy distortion, and screaming and the words to the powerful chorus were “Want to be a soldier, want to be your slave. Have no pride in myself...”
Findaway was the next song and it really complimented Daniel's voice. He sounded great. In between songs, Daniel and Chris looked a little awkward. Daniel made funny faces at the audience and displayed his notorious bug-eyed expression. He also bickered something into the microphone but it was hard to comprehend over the high pitched screaming from the girls around me. But he did threaten to spit out the water he was drinking at the audience. The next song the band did was Acid Rain, but there were technical difficulties. Daniel switched his guitar and began playing a red and black Gibson SG with an SST sticker. The treble on the guitar was too quiet and his microphone was too low. As a result, the song was shaky and Daniel had to rely on his voice to get through the song.
At this point a long-haired blonde girl somehow ran up on to the stage. A bouncer chased her as she ran past Daniel and stopped next to Chris. She said something to him and possibly kissed him. Chris kind of ignored her and stepped back. He looked unsettled. The bouncer finally caught her and yanked her of the stage, against her will. Daniel quickly exchanged reassuring glances with Chris and the two boys giggled to themselves.
The next two songs were like anthems because everyone was singing along. Suicidal Dream and Tomorrow were done really well, but the band was hard to hear over everyone's singing. The solo in Tomorrow was perfect and Daniel played it facing the amp stacks to get plenty of reverb.
The mosh pit was insane. Surfing bodies were flying all over the place. Daniel, wearing a black Velvet Underground t-shirt, announced to the audience, "I'm supposed to tell you guys to be calmer in your moshing but you paid for your ticket. Mosh as hard as you want. This is the perfect song to do it to." And silverchair launched into a particularly aggressive version of Madman.
The next song was No Association, another new gem. I remember it sounded hard and heavy with a scale section. Faultline was the best song of the evening and far superior to the album version. The 'chair performed it with so much energy and passion. Daniel sang the high "ohh’s" right on pitch and the hardcore portion of the song, after the second chorus, was so fast and tight that I felt I was going to explode. Daniel and Chris bounced up and down as if they had choreographed their movements.
Pure Massacre was the last song before the band left the stage. The whole crowd sang along, obediently reciting all of the words. At the end of the song Daniel left his green guitar up against the amps and the reverb blasted. Quickly the band ran offstage and the lights went down. The audience howled and screamed, demanding more from silverchair.
When the band resumed the stage, Daniel made faces at the audience. He smiled and then frowned as if he was tricking the spectators. He waved to some people in the first row. For the encore, silverchair played two new songs called Nobody Came and New Race. They were cool songs and New Race had a big punk feel to it. The last song was the catastrophic Israel’s Son. The band went crazy at the end. Daniel soloed quite a bit and got down on his knees to play with all of his pedals. Ben smashed his snare drums and cymbals. The audience stretched their hands and other limbs in the air when Daniel chanted, "I am, I am Israel’s son... Put your hands in the air." Daniel and Chris left their instruments up against their amps, to exit the stage in a blanket of sound. The crowd cheered and opened up. I could finaly breathe again.
From Songs from the Big Chair
Drum Media, Sydney, Australia -- December 11, 1995
A couple of nights later I'm in New York and it's getting colder. The Saturday Night Live performance out of the way, silverchair are playing to 3,500 people at the rather classy 'n' cool Roseland Ballroom. I'm over jet lag and can watch (and enjoy) the whole show. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't really get the frogstomp album but tonight silverchair are simply "awesome."
Standing next to David Fricke [of Rolling Stone], I ask how they compare to Nirvana, a band he'd seen countless times. He tells me that Kurt had a bit more angst and menace but aside from that silverchair are already putting on a show to rival that band.
As for his three days on the road with silverchair, Fricke smiles and says, "No matter how hard you try they very quickly bring you down to their next level." Later John Watson expresses concern that in fact the band came across as dorks when Fricke was with them.
Also at the show is Murmur record boss John O'Donnell, in town to talk with Epic Records about Ammonia, who the company are apparently very excited about.
But the show itself. All the usual album tracks and three new ones. They turned in one of the most exciting rock 'n' roll shows I've seen in years.
Backstage again. The three dads are there, the band joking about how they've known as the Wheelchairs. John Watson's mum is in town too. The three 'chairs muck around throwing food and spraying Budweiser cans. Hey, it's three kids on the road having the time of their lives. They probably don't believe what's going on -- but then again how could you at their, or probably any, age. I've observed bands with a tenth of their success in America turn into egotistical maniacs overnight -- and it's kinda refreshing to see that, at least at this stage, silverchair don't act any different from the way they did at Martin Place a year ago.
Outside, probably because of the freezing weather, there's fewer fans waiting. The guys hug and kiss girls, pose for photos, and hop on the tour bus. Next stop's Baltimore. Then Asbury Park in New Jersey. Then Dallas. Then Phoenix. Then Los Angeles. silverchair are on the road.