1995 : Silverchair Live
How do they do it? How the fuck do they do it? You can see that look on faces all across the Metro as Silverchair somehow pull their 10 minute long version of Pure Massacre back from a rollicking, ramble-jam that was becoming something seriously hypnotic and wrap it all up with a detonating epilogue of cannon-fire drumming and a whole battalion of bass n' lead riffaging.
How do three guys with only a few years of practise and less than a hundred gigs under their belt deliver such a wicked live show and such a headfuck of music and words?
The gold is that Silverchair don't know exactly either, but instead of holding back and doing safety first dot-to-dot gigs, the guys are in there messing with it, slapping it around, sonically kicking over their own glorious sandcastles to sculpt and shape something new, even more deliriously rock than what they captured on their debut album.
A glint over a year into weekend and school holiday touring jaunts, it's becoming obvious Silverchair are getting a taddly bored just reproducing their singles and album tracks onstage the same way every gig. Guitarist/vocalist Daniel Johns sang their punkola temple shot Findaway with a smirk and a fake British accent and watched silently, contentedly, as the crowd sang the verses of Tomorrow at their top of their voices.
Silverchair can do their album live, there's no doubt about that, and they can do it with the kind of furious energy so lacking on Australia's live rock stages, but sometimes it also seems like a full album show might be getting too easy for them, as though they might be wishing they had complicated and detailed some of their songs even more before they committed them to disc.
But where most successful bands get chilling doses of The Fear at the thought of fucking around with their own hit songs, particularly onstage (and in front of a 1000 strong crowd who mostly came tonight to see and hear those songs done the way they've come to love them), Silverchair instead revel and roll in their own ability to take a song like Israel's Son or Faultine and cut it loose and let it bolt off wherever it wants to go, storming into unknown territories, and sometimes it seems like the teenage trio is hanging on for the ride, gaining control now and again long enough to nudge the music onto another bearing, or to bring it all back for the close.
Nobody Came and No Association, two new songs the 'chair debuted tonight, take the exploratory wanderings and stop/starts of Frogstomp album tracks like Leave Me Out and Madman and rampage them fully into a rock of a new, or at least fresh, form. This is where songs stop being simply songs and become something much more, more musical dreamscapes, more instrumental questing than the 40 year old pop/rock tradish of verse/chorus/verse that has stunningly survived the arrival of punk and rap and techno to infest those new styles as catacombingly as it foundationed rock n' roll.
Johns has hinted that Silverchair's new music will be less traditional hard rock, less of the grunge shadings and pubrock shoutalongs, striding off into the hardened instrumental strongholds of Helmet and Tool, where the words tell more detailed stories than shouted choruses of confession and the music controls and colours the mood and soundtracks the tale being told.
Openers Bluebottle Kiss and Midget both do the free-form jam thing as well, in between some carefully crafted bursts of gut-thump pop. By coming out the garages much quicker, and bypassing the tradish Australian rock rules ("You must gig yourselves dead from Whyalla to Wollongong for at least five years before you are worthy of any success"), Bluebottle Kiss, Midget and Silverchair are skipping the less forgiving audiences who more often than not demand instant satisfaction in the form of "play sum'in we farkin' know", and are instead getting in front of audiences who're are mainly the same age as themselves and who are more open-minded and more willing to hear a band they dig and get into going off somewhere weird and tripped out just to see what's out there. They still want to hear songs they know, but soaking up a perfect live rendition of a band's biggest hits is no longer the holy grail of the evening out.
Purists will deem these live-jam experiments of the 'chair, Bluebottle Kiss and Midget as 'indulgent', and to some extent they are, in fact they have to be to even begin to work. But, as long as it is entertaining and interesting (or hypnotic in the case of the 'chair), it doesn't seem to matter that much to the many if the music sometimes craps itself out or wanders completely off track and gets lost in the trees.
It's okay for the bands to fuck their shit up here and there onstage, if that's the price for a trip to musical destinations that even the bands don't really know the geography of, or how they're going to get there.
The journey there is where the real excitement lies.