Monday, December 7, 2009


Saturday, March 08, 2008 
Northcote Social Club

Man there must be some good fake I.Ds around. Barely anyone (besides someone's annoyingly boisterous dad) seems over 20 here tonight, due, it turns out, to Whitley, who has been getting a well-justified flogging on JJJ. It's a seismic shift from the last time he played the No So supporting The Panics. Gone is the boy huddled over his delay pedal with Chris Seagull at his side, tonight both shine in their own right. The most notable change though, is the crowd. The place is sold out and packed before the end of Seagull's cracked, crooked and captivating set. With sparse lyrics, repetitively hammered chords, the occasional burst of melody from his voice or the guitar makes for an arresting presence. Over often severe dynamic shifts, Seagull overlays his fractured voice which sounds as though it will age in a rich Waitesian fashion, particularly if accompanied by alcoholism. "This is in the same key as the past three songs" he deadpans before bringing in his tight, tom-heavy and wonderfully restrained rhythm section for another hypnotic workout. Stellar stuff.

Opening with the warm jets of Wandered Skipping Girl Vinegar seem as though they've just got out of a day spa instead of off the plane from Nashville where they just finished mixing their debut album. "You're so kind," says singer Mark Lang. "You're so good!" says some punter. Bringing in the audience to sing the horn section of next single Sift The Noise we need no encouragement, nor is it hard to find recruits for Lang's 'Postal Revolution'. People seem to be embracing homespun-authenticity in a big way here tonight, a feeling that extends to replacing emails with handwritten letters. Fighting With Gravity is elevated with it's sweet harmonies (keyboardist Amanthi Lynch and the hyper-energised drummer Chris Helm particularly stand out tonight) and closing track Sinking ties a bow around another dynamite set from a band who seem to be able to do no wrong.

Whitley seems now to refer to a five-piece band rather than just the warmly charming Peninsular boy who played his first gig in June. The band seem to be taking the songs in a totally different, almost stadium rock direction, bringing out a Whitley-as-frontman side to him previously unhinted at. And it works alarmingly well. All Is Whole is reborn, More Than Life and Hyperballad stay showstopping solo pieces, and it's clear that he is on a roll that shows signs of only increasing pace. "This is a new song, it's about weird stuff, but it sounds pretty normal. So sucked in." he explains after banging on about the virtues of getting off pot, apologising to his mum and before pulling out an incendiary We're Becoming Shadows, a crowd-pleasing I Felt Something and new song and future Neighbours-soundtrack-fodder Islands. Though these new songs are tonight's highlights, more impressive is the sharp relief between Whitley's cute-younger-brother vibe and his songs that seem to be channeled by someone three times his age, a maturity that is perhaps responsible for him keeping his head through this last nine months and into his no-doubt bright future.

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