Since the early 90’s American post-rock birthers Tortoise have become known for releasing music that lives on the outside fringes of the mainstream but right bang in the middle of awesomeness. Responsible for expanding the musical horizons of the post-rock genre, when I heard they were coming to town in the wake of their latest release The Catastrophist. There was no real other option than to jump on tickets immediately.
With such a reputation behind the band, we headed into The Manning Bar nice and early to check out what kind of eclectic Sydney talent Aussie touring crew Life Is Noise planned for us in the lead up to a Tortoise show.
Tangents – Kicking Off The Night…
Taking the stage with a cello, vibraphone and a Fender Rhodes chained to an incredible array of guitar pedals, first out to bat for the night were Sydney based quintet Tangents.
Fixating the crowd with their chaotically in-sync brand of improvisational electronic experimental rock, drummer Evan Dorrian took centre stage as if he had four limbs. At times playing the drums with his hands more like the congas, Dorrian seamlessly bounced between finessed jazz grooves and epic build ups, holding the ever-growing wall of sound together like mortar as the sounds of sporadic keys, cellos, guitars and vibraphones built an intensely beautiful sonic landscape that while at times put you at ease in others made the world feel as if it was on the brink of collapse.
SEIMS – Next To Hit The Stage
Forgetting the ambience and turning their guitar amps up to 11, heavy instrumental math-rockers SEIMS came out next with an enormous energy and some blinding guitar solos to their performance.
Lead by bass guitarist Simon Bartholomew, he was hard to take your eyes off as he leapt around stage to their own brand of high-octane technical riff rock and a fitting choice of covers, including one of the bravest and best executed interpretations of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’ that had me opening my jaw.
Check out their live album here to see what I’m talking about!
Tortoise – The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For.
I’ll be honest, I had a very different idea in my head as to what Tortoise were actually going to be like live but what they did end up being actually pleasantly exceeded my expectations.
Hitting the stage with a band member in the outhouse, the guys started off their set with an intimate moment addressing the crowd without a microphone as if we were about to witness some friends play in a living room. Instantly drawing the crowd in, by the time guitarist Jeff Parker finally hit they stage they had already commanded undivided attention. It was on!
Pulling out song after song with a nice balance of new and old, but what really took me by surprise in their performance was what extreme multi-instrumental talent each of them possessed as they effortlessly rotated instruments, juggling each beast with utter proficiency and vigour.
While one song a band member might be playing the keys, the next second they were banging on the drums… or to the vibes… or the keys, they were actually swapping instruments so much it was near impossible to keep an eye on who was who and who was playing what. But, with two drum kits, two vibraphones, bass, guitar and a couple of synthesisers, there was never an opportunity to lose the crowds attention as Tortoise proved that you don’t need flashing lights and banners to put on a show that rocks.
One of the greatest things about the intimacy of it all was just how involved you felt in the performance. You almost felt like you were part of the band as the guys cracked jokes with the crowd and their band members simultaneously, coming out for their encore and shuffling around the stage to their instrument of choice for that particular song… before changing their minds and rearranging everything for the new chosen song of choice.
An epic Wednesday night in Sydney!
Tortoise – The Catastophist – Now available @ Life Is Noise Store
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