Monday, December 17, 2012


The Palace Theatre

True to form much of the crowd in the Palace is dressed in black, part of a couple and over 30. This is the audience willing to pay $90 a ticket to let their arms and mouths do the appreciating, and while at some shows it can mean a lack of energy, tonight it’s no bad thing.

Six-piece, psych combo The Sand Pebbles do chugging rock better than most and the slowly gathering crowd clearly like what they’ve got. Their three guitars are put to use cranking out sprawling metronomic propulsions replete with vocal harmonies, tight drumming and crunchy bass. Occasionally busting out furious psych rock on songs like Wild Season, that they don’t lose the textures and space that make slower tracks like The Weight of the World so great is testament to the careful thought they put into these songs, something lacking from a lot of musicians who dabble in psych rock.

Before a row of Marshall amps, a drum skin sporting the Screamadelica cover and a selection of large, blinding white lights comes Bobby. Sure, there is a fantastic backing band who resemble the last five people found at 9AM at Pony (and feature longtime members Andrew Innes, Martin Duffy and Mani-replacement Simone Butler on bass), but it’s the rake thin Bobby Gillespie we’re here to see. And for one man beating a black tambourine, wearing a cowboy shirt and what looks like XS-waist black jeans, he gives us a lot to look at. Smiling widely Gillespie leads us through 2012, past a deafeningly adoring crowd response to the intro of Swastika Eyes and into the euphoria of Movin’ On Up. It’s a perfectly chosen setlist. The muscle put into the older, more danceable songs pull them up to date and lets them sit comfortably beside the more intense material off Vanishing Point and Xterminator. The sly lope of Slip Inside This House eases into the (literally) blinding seizure-suggesting lightshow accompanying the intense Accelerator, a Rowland S. Howard-dedicated Damaged and first of two new songs Relativity. ‘This next one is much more accessible’ mumbles Gillespie in a rare moment of intelligible banter before introducing the most radio-friendly song he’s written in decades It’s Alright, It’s OK.

Seemingly immune from the aging process, or vagaries of fashion trends Gillespie never stops moving, both musically and literally. It’s hard to take your eyes off him. As at home fronting a psych-house group, that the group sometimes assume, their transformation into a white hot southern rock combo for the encore still leaves them unable to sound like anyone else. Set highlight Shoot Speed passes like an out-of-control freight train and jars beautifully when up against the gospel sing-along of Come Together and set-closer Country Girl.

Returning to the stage for I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have/Loaded it’s like they can’t lose. Guitarist Barrie Cadogan (he of Little Barrie fame) seems like a smaller version of Gillespie, and the two frequently engage in some shoulder bumping and back-slapping in a way that is reminiscent of The Faces or Mick and Keef’s dynamic. Finishing with their most rock-ready hits, Jailbird and Rocks, the crowd shout themselves hoarse as the music ends and the stage is overtaken by a howling wall of feedback, looped percussion and those blinding lights. Bobby standing mid-stage batting the air, entranced by the sound, ending one of the gigs of the year in a state of sonic overload.

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