29 Mar 2023

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Silcrow - Gig Review: Silcrow @ The Thirsty Dog, Auckland - 27/08/2022

28 Aug 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

After three gigs last weekend it seemed a little weird to be doing just one this, but that’s what happens sometimes. I had been planning to come to this gig to see support act Venom Dolls, as I had no idea who Silcrow were, so it was something of a surprise when Lorenzo Hazlewood responded to my message and let me know that Silcrow is the new name for Close To The Bone. That is the second Auckland band name change I’ve come across this year, but with lockdowns now being over, this is definitely the time for new beginnings.

It also meant that instead of the expected three bands tonight we were going to have four with Lorenzo opening with a small acoustic set. I really enjoyed him doing this when I saw him at Dead Witch earlier in the year, so this was something to look forward to. He placed some stools on the stage, always important to have beer in easy reach, and then started with Only Speak When Spoken To which is an unreleased number. Given he only released the Vol.3 EP earlier this year it shows he is still coming up with plenty of material as this powerfully riffed number is a great opener and everyone was suddenly paying attention to the man sat on the stage. Lorenzo has one of those voices which is full of breadth and depth and playing just with an acoustic as opposed to a full band really allows for this to be heard and for everyone to be drawn into its spell. He followed this up with Shadows, which is from the EP, yet again showing that an acoustic can be rocked just as heavily as its electric cousin. He brought it down with Weak, which showed a more vulnerable side while still maintaining its inner strength and containing some picking as well as just chords being riffed hard before ending with another unreleased number, Nothing Man, which finishes with a fierce vocal attack.

Next up were Venom Dolls, and with Jessica Frank (vocals, bass) in Europe, Summah Auvae (drums) and Carawei Gao (guitar) are still operating as a four-piece with the addition of Arlo Frances (bass) and Bridie Campbell (vocals). The last time I saw them play at Crushfest, I felt they were a little under rehearsed, but Summah had asked me to come tonight as she was sure I would see a huge difference and I was looking forward to it. They kicked off with Electric Wizard’s Funeralopalis, with the bass providing the intro before the guitar joined in. This is a full-on doom number with huge riffs, guitar and bass solidly linked, Summah hitting the kit hard to provide the emphasis and Bridie showing she really is a frontwoman of power. It picked up speed, gaining momentum and force as it went, very different to the punk I expected but a great opener. Don’t Wanna felt quite light in comparison, with the vocals much sweeter and higher, with far less venom, right up to the time it isn’t, and we are off into the bouncing punk they are so good at. Musically they were much tighter than the last time I saw them, and while Arlo and Bridie don’t always seem the most confident in themselves or their stage presence, that will come with time and experience, Only two songs in and they were already getting cheers from the crowd and there were smiles from the stage.

I have seen Venom Dolls play a few times now, and while their songs are always heavy, they are also often commercial and No One Likes Mary Sue has a great vocal lift which is incredibly engaging. Summah must be one of the happiest drummers on the circuit, fully in her element, smiling and just having a great time, totally into everything. Fucked Up is classic punk, owing everything to the Seventies and nothing to the American bubblegum version, full of passion, rage, and angst – it has hooks, a sweet biting solo and even some unaccompanied vocals as well as powering foundation from the rhythm section. The band were really cooking now, blasting through I Remember before going into the syncopated Woemans Lullaby which is another that is a slow starter, starting somewhat sweetly and delicately before becoming more dramatic, working through contrasting sections. They ended with the blistering White Knuckle Ride, with just the right amount of edginess and power. There is no doubt there has been a real improvement in this band as a unit since the last time I saw them, and I am already looking forward to seeing them again.

Next up was an Auckland band new to me, Bad Jones, who feature Sam Manning on lead vocals and guitar, Leigh Cudby on guitar and backing vocals, Leith Soutar on bass and Matty Sleeth on drums. There was no messing about here, just straight into the blistering Enough To Burn which saw the band piling it in with angular alternative rock with huge elements of Shihad and plenty of brutality as they crossed over into more metallic forms. The guys may be new to me, but they have been around in one form or another for years and they all know what they are doing onstage, musically tight but also understanding the importance of a show and with everyone into the music it is hard not to become involved. It is abrasive, angular, often syncopated and very clever indeed while also having plenty of aggression, with Animals a great example of how to be brutal and commercial all at the same time. The rhythm section lifts the performance, providing a blistering foundation for the guitars to crunch over the top with Sam somehow forcing his vocals through all that. Not only was I already mightily impressed but wondered how I have missed them on the circuit over the last few years, although I did find out later that this was their first gig in more than twelve months.

Apparently, Seeder Leecher is a new one, but they were all new to me, and I was very much invested in what they were doing in front of me as this is some outfit. Whereas previously the audience had stayed seated and enjoying the show, right from the beginning they were crowding the stage, determined not to miss any of this. Glass Eye commences with high-pitched riffing from Leigh, which continues all the way through the first verse, providing a very different feeling to the song, with the bass and Sam’s guitar locked in, but very much in contrast. There is complexity in what they are doing, yet they never lose the attack, just doing it is a quite different manner. Fail, Deny, Repeat showed just how important the bass is to their overall sound with Leith often leading this (and even allowed a small section with no guitar), using a plectrum to provide a hard strike. Unlike the rest of the audience, I knew that we were now only two songs from the end, which was quite some disappointment as we were all having a great time. Soul, No Body continued the assault, melodic yet with passion, hard-hitting, and then all too soon it was time for Speed Shakes and it was all over! I was mightily impressed with these guys and am definitely going to be keeping an eye out for them as they are incredibly tight, everyone has stage presence, the songs are great with a real edge, and they are just so much fun!

Then it was time for the main event, and with the guys playing some atmospheric music, Lorenzo got everyone in the crowd to stand up as they had spent a lot of time working on this and he wanted people to be involved. This was the first gig as Silcrow, and alongside Lorenzo on vocals there is 5-string bassist Conor Sutton, guitarist Oscar Miller and drummer Carl Stieller. Then we were off with the huge groove and sound of Sink In which has elements of Queens of the Stone Age and a feeling of a band who are a force of nature. Ethereal brought everything down, with more picked guitar than heavy riffs, showing the depth of the band. There is a real feeling of layering within the arrangements, with each musician adding their own flavours which all coming together at the end with the vocals adding the final touch. They were mixing it up tonight, not only playing Close to the Bone material but also songs written since the name change when they decided to move in a slightly different direction. Given that Lorenzo is a guitarist I did wonder why he was not playing it in the band, but to be honest there would not be enough room for another as the bass is often playing close behind the guitar, more in the rhythm guitar space, and with Oscar switching between soloing and riffing there is no space.

It is hard to stress the importance of the bass in their arrangements as it is the bridge between the drums and the guitar, either ahead of both or sitting back in the pocket to provide support. This gives Oscar a lot of freedom to either play straight or improvise around the melody, as Conor is doing so much work. With all this happening in the music, it takes a strong singer to rise above it all and add his own finesse and depth taking it that much further, and in Lorenzo they have just that. He even placed a step on the front of the stage so he can put one foot on it and strut his stuff that much more powerfully. He has a powerful baritone with plenty of breadth and an edge which allows him to provide cut through and not be overwhelmed by what is happening musically. Carry On opens with the bass and guitar mimicking each other until the bass falls away to create a melody of its own, with the two only coming back together in the chorus when Lorenzo lifts his vocals both in pitch and volume. The bridge picked up the tempo, dropping back in time for the guitar solo which ended the song with sweet contrast. We were then treated to a cover in Audioslave’s Show Me How To Live which was the most dominant vocal performance of the night, with Lorenzo pouring everything into it, really demonstrating his chops. Chris Cornell would have been impressed, and there is no doubt Lorenzo loved the way the crowd were singing the words with him. Keep The Silence was the last song of the set and will be released as a single in mid-September with a sick video, apparently. This is a builder, with Oscar setting out much of the first verse, then picking gently until the chorus provides the opportunity for plenty of crunch.

That was the end of the set but there was no way they were going to be allowed to leave the stage after a performance like that without an encore, so they happily obliged, building the momentum once again as they noodled together before blasting off. This was a wonderful performance from a great band and I am sure there are many more amazing nights just like this in their future.

Photo credit: Kev Rowland



About Silcrow

Previously known as Close To The Bone.

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