19 Oct 2019
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Gig Review: The Living End @ Powerstation, Auckland - 6/02/2019

08 Feb 2019 // A review by Steve Shyu

I saw the Living End just once at a Big Day Out, however long ago that was. Unlike so many bands we used to hear a lot of but have now put on backburners, I remembered with deep fondness the fun time I had seeing a spiky-haired punk rock band from Aussie send the crowd around me completely frantic, song after song. I had to go. Because, come on, name another band that features a double-bass player that exudes cool and rocks with style!

The opening act Ekko Park, hailing from down-the-road Mount Albert, broke the crowd in with a rip and a tear. Armed with some of the most powerful pop rock hooks I’ve witnessed from a local band, the quartet dished up an enjoyable mix of sharp and thumping. The triple vocals were particularly tasteful, shared between bassist Bryan Bell, guitarist Alex Hargreaves and frontman Joe Walsh. Drummer Nick Douch held the rhythm as steady as rock, and the blend of shouts and snarls from Joe plus Alex’s stomp-and-headbang gave their sound and performance a defining character.

Joe thanked the headliners The Living End and told a tale about drinking with them plus Eskimo Joe, another Australian rock icon, some twenty years. To show their appreciation of bands that still inspire them, Ekko Park served up a fun, faithful cover of Elemeno P’s 11:57. The band nailed down all the details, in particular the female backing vocals, with Alex rocking as hard as Lani Purkis does at a show.

The band were well-rehearsed, with all members putting forth their best. The set itself felt far too short, primarily because they were so enjoyable to watch and the music easy to hop around to!

After a quick reshuffling of equipment and gear, the Living End emerged from stage left.

“Well well well, it's about time!", said frontman Chris Cheney, and the band launched straight into their latest LP’s opening song Don’t Lose It, which was met with raucous enthusiasm. With feverish drumbeats from Andy Strachan, intensely-focused double bass-playing from Scott Owen, and an infectious positivity from the guitarist-vocalist, the band showed they really haven’t lost it at all.

For the old-schoolers, they quickly served up the classic Second Solution for their second tune, which got the crowd bustling even more than before, hands all in the air, with many singing along to the lyrics.

Amongst many set highlights like the sly, jiving guitar-work of Bloody Mary, and the chanting crowd during the 2001 single Roll On, my personal favourites of the set were the slightly more introspective and downbeat selections of All Torn Down and Loaded Gun, which added a darker tone to balance out the energising repertoire.

For those (like myself) whose formative years stretched into mid-2000’s, the hits White Noise and Wake Up would be considered essentials. I mean, who could forget the roaring success of these songs at Big Days Outs of the bygone years? Anyway, snap back to 2018: Cheney pitted the females and males against one another in a mass-singalong of the “Wake up, wake up” vocal refrain. Although many seemed reluctant to sing, once the gendered-harmonies met it sounded tremendous.

The Living End had saved the most iconic for last, belting out Prisoner of Society and the audience reached a whole new peak in energy. Across all age groups, the crowd proudly called out the words to the anti-establishment anthem, and – speaking of saving the iconic for last – Owens finally pulled off his hat-trick of playing his double-bass whilst perched on the body of the massive instrument.

Encore time. The audience still had energy to burn and were definitely not going anywhere; the band knew it and returned for a quick jam of blues-rock riffs and a medley of jiving instrumental ditties. A brief nod to TNT by AC/DC was welcomed with cheers, and just when you think the band couldn’t get any more Aussie, Cheney pulled off a slide-guitar solo with a half-drunk VB bottle. Righteous!

To completely round up the evening, the band revved out the ultra-fun Uncle Harry, filled with shout-alongs and fist-pumps, leaving a satisfied grin on my face and a few wanting more, still.

This is a band that has spent over two decades crafting their sound and performance and has been met with worldwide renown in rock and punk scenes, amongst other sub-cultures and circles. Amidst so many other bands maintaining a career in rock & roll, the Living End proved they can still put on an energetic and well-thought-out performance, and here’s hoping they’ll continue to move hundred and thousands. Roll on, roll on!


Photos by Ginny C Photography

 

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