Interstate touring has started again, and what better way to take advantage of it than having psych rock legends King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard touch down and treat Perth audiences to a vintage performance. They gave punters a night to remember last Thursday, with some excellent support from openers Tropical Fuck Storm and local act Alter Boy.
For sheer theatricality the two openers threatened to overshadow Gizzard themselves. Alter Boy came on first and made an immediate impression. With passionate electronically-treated RnB vocals set across skittering soundscapes, the band bridges the line between hip-hop, rock and performance art. The tunes came alive on stage, like last year’s brilliant swooning single Bad Dream Break In.
Just as laudable as the performances was the band’s commitment to Auslan interpretation on stage for those deaf or hard of hearing. With multiple deaf band members, this group is all about inclusion whether it for the hearing impaired in music and sound spaces, or on the part of religion (to which their name is a crafty nod).
Tropical Fuck Storm (TFS) came on next and delivered a totally different form of catharsis. Whereas Alter Boy’s music was angelic, TFS lived up to their name in delivering a one-of-a-kind brand of lurching, baked-in-the-sun post-punk that borders on noise rock. Frontman Gareth Liddiard, formerly of legendary Drones fame, is a living icon whose unique Aussie-inflected vocal delivery was on point throughout a throat-rending set.
The band kicked off with the sneering riffage of Chameleon Paint and didn’t left go from there. The band’s sound was at times epic (You Let My Tyres Down) and at other times prickly and off-kilter, like on the bass-driven Planet of the Straw Men. The set fittingly closed with Liddiard throwing his guitar on the floor and throttling it, delivering some final death knells from his instrument in a performance that felt like a protracted primal scream.
Following some formidable openers, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard came on and went straight to business. Banter was kept to a minimum, with the band focusing on the kind of tight and energetic playing that has earned them one of the most devoted live fanbases in music. The band’s latest two releases, KG and LW (no prizes for what they spell together) were a return to the microtonal experiments first introduced in 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana. Indeed, the eponymous microtonal banana (a yellow guitar with microtonal frets) was wielded with supreme confidence by frontman Stu MacKenzie throughout the set.
Like clockwork, the band played a tight set that did not deviate from these three albums. This was an energetic set of Eastern-tinged, proggy material that simply did not let up. The KGLW theme kicked things off before the band gave a nod to vintage 2017 microtone material with the classic Doom City. The nature of the content made the transitions seamless. O.N.E is the most catchy track from their latest and it went off a treat, and Oddlife got an excellent extended take which saw the band members trade some brilliant instrumental turns. With the departure of second drummer Eric Moore the band’s drive lay in the capable hands of lone stickman Michael Cavanagh, and he did a tremendous job keeping the energy high and injecting clever fills and an often stuttering drum attack that was perfect.
With a band like King Gizzard it can be an unfair knock, but the material suffered a bit from lack of variety, focusing as it did on the microtonal tunes. Thankfully they made the best of it with sterling track selection. There were the sizzling guitar breaks of Supreme Ascendancy, Automation with its pairing of excellent guitar riffage against droning rhythms, Minimum Brain Size with its irresistible vocal hooks, and Ataraxia which had twice the power and volume of its studio counterpart.
But it was on the seventies ballad throwback Straws in the Wind that the band really brought a track’s potential to full fruition live, with a powerhouse performance that saw vocalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith engage in an excellent series of back-and-forth callbacks with the crowd. If King Gizzard needed a song to get your lighters out to, they’ve now found it. The set wound down with Nuclear Fission and its seamless transition into Honey which was a much more amplified version than the original and really had the crowd grooving.
If there was any complaint it was the cool-off from the epic Straws in the Wind and Honey to the full rendition of K.G.L.W., which is a largely instrumental, doom metal infused slab of Gizzard that closes their latest duo of albums. It was a monstrous performance that resulted in a lot of moshing, but it was not as high a peak as Straws.
Overall, this was an excellent set. It had a rather narrow scope, but it milked it to its full capacity thanks to supreme track selection, tightness, and intensity.