15 Dec 2018
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Gig Review: Fuel with Coridian and Merrin @ The Studio, Auckland - 13/12/2017

14 Dec 2017 // A review by Alex Moulton

While the sidewalk outside the venue didn’t look overly packed before doors opened, a thorough scan of the landscape revealed that there were, in fact, a large number of fans waiting to gain entry, they were just spread out along the street, rather than bunched up at the entrance. A quick chat with some of the fans revealed that we didn’t just have Aucklander’s in attendance, many had traveled far (some from the South Island) to be present on this night for Fuel; in fact, one of the opening bands hailed from Wellington, a testament to the appeal of Fuel all these years later.

The first band for the night were local Auckland boys, Coridian. In potentially their first performance opening for an international act, they were aiming to impress. Not off to the best start, their opening track Nonetheless was plagued with technical issues, from guitar lead issues to patchy uneven mic sounds, to crackling and partially distorted bass (an issue which was noticeable throughout their set, with the exception of Seed). Not the kind of band to let technical problems get the better of them, and by the end of their first track, the guitar and microphone issues had been resolved. The crowd reacted well to the material despite their small fanbase currently, with Pride and Better Off, getting a fair amount of movement from the crowd. The standout track would have to be Blind Faith, performed with a level of energy and passion that got the crowd excited and cheering along. It’s not often that you get a large crowd present for the opening band (especially for an international act), but it certainly looked like the majority of the ticketholders had turned up on time to see all the acts.

Next up was Wellington-based Merrin. The loud backing tracks drowned out the vocals at the beginning of their set, and the vocals became a bit of an issue for the rest of the set with lead vocalist Charlie Phillips mic being set to a level well below that of her backing vocalist and bassist, Logan Wood. Merrin has a rather heavy chugging rock sound, combined with a spunky vocal style, that is reminiscent of Halestorm or Devilskin, and there are definitely good technical skills on show. Lead guitarist Angelo Pantelakis makes the most of his position with some great solos, while rhythm guitarist Karl Wootton moseys about on stage with the enthusiasm of a child in a candy store. Despite the unfortunate levels of the mics, the instrumental side was solid, and the set was well received by the crowd, cheering and applauding such tracks as Durty Little Secret, The Huntress, and Burn It Up.

Finishing a rather short set, the crowd were left with an approximate 45-minute wait before the headliners were due on stage. You can tell the crowd is truly warmed up and looking forward to a nostalgic night of rock, when they start singing along with The Offspring's greatest hits, which was playing across the sound system during the setup of the stage equipment.

The headliners, Fuel, hit the stage, and the first thing that is apparent is how visually noticeable it is that vocalist Brett Scallions is the only original member remaining. While technically competent, guitarist Jason Womack, bassist Phil Buckman, and drummer Shannon Boone, all lack the enthusiasm and passion that Scallions brings to the stage. While Scallions will jump about the stage and move from one side to the other interacting with the crowd, the other musicians feel more like session guitarists, there to do a job, but nothing more. Starting their set with Untitled, Scallions sings his heart out and replicates the vocal performance from the studio album perfectly. 

The tour is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album Sunburn the set list contained the entire album, although the order varies compared to the album. The crowd get increasingly eager and animated with every song, and by the time Sunburn, Shimmer, and Bittersweet are performed, the hands are in the air, people are jumping, and a couple of inebriated patrons are trying to pick fights. Taking opportunities to showcase his skills on the guitar, Womack performs extended solos and intros on Sunburn and Hideaway, leading into some deep booming drum fills. As the set progresses the crowd get more vocal, singing along and heckling Scallions during any banter. 

Upon completion of the Sunburn album, Fuel retired off stage momentarily before re-emerging for an encore session, to play the tracks that they need to, the tracks that every Fuel fan would be disappointed if they walked away from the show without hearing. The encore started with Bad Day which Scallions got the crowd to sing along to, before pulling out Falls On Me and ending with the classic that still gets regular airtime on the radio today, Hemorrhage (in my hands). After an hour and a half set, the crowd still had enough energy to jump up and down, mosh, and out-sing Scallions. Even after 20 years, Scallions has managed to maintain his voice and hit every note that he needed to. An impressive performance by all indicators.


Review written by Alex Moulton

 

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