Live Review: The Drones in Sydney
There is something painful, raw and Shakespearean about The Drones.
It’s a long stretch to compare a largely underground homegrown band to Old William, but when watching Gareth Liddiard on stage, a front a wave of chaos and rage, he is not just a man or a singer; he is assaulting, poetic, in the moment and brave.
The Drones are on their second headline tour for 2013 for the release of the second single ‘How to See Through Fog’ off their latest offering ‘I See Seaweed’. Some are calling this their best effort to date, and I have to agree. The material is all at once swampy, yet sophisticated. At times reminiscent of the great underrated American indie rock group, Low.
As a first time experience, it’s hard not to feel that attending a Drones concert is in some ways a religious experience; a cult of long haired beer drinkers swill and swirl before me, each member pats the other on the back as though sharing in the angst. The tallest man alive stands to my right, arms outstretched as though the divine element breathes through his soul. He shouts something about ‘The Birthday Party’, a seemingly reasonable comparison.
Red stage lights simmer around the darkness, painting thick with smoke. Songs like ‘I See Seaweed’ and ‘Minotaur’ play out as tragic monologue; But ‘The Drones’ really shine when moments of melody shine through amongst what are mainly lyrically driven bush ballads coloured with grime and grit. Picture a rock pool, hidden with danger, and at the bottom there is a patch of light, and in that image is a Drones song.
Crowd favorites ‘Locust eyes’ & ‘Why Write A Letter You’ll Never Send’ are welcomed with open arms, but surprise request ‘Shark Fin Blues’, perhaps their most popular track off their 2006 release ‘Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of your Enemies will Float By’, is easily heard around the hall as a melancholic mantra, the echoes of the bittersweet pain and joy of depression. To the left, Fiona Kitschin on bass is all at once arresting, shrouded in mystery and repelling with her back turned to the audience. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, but then again so are The Drones, who are both frightening and comforting in their performance.
A Leonard Cohen song closes the set, only moment after we’ve been told how the world will be “a much less painful place”; a foreboding in the sound. Leonard’s words now jangle like a skeleton. Everyone is pissed. Somehow there’s strength amongst us, as though on ecstasy on a sinking ship.
So many bands, people, shy away from the words of tortured sadness. There is not much place for lingering on the past with stream of consciousness in the music of today; it’s not for everyone, clearly. But give it time, experience it, let it wash over you like a wave or a sea, and like me you may leave with a difference.
Before I close, I have to say, the first time I heard ‘The Drones’ was not listening to ‘The Drones’ but rather, a cover of ‘Shark Fin Blues’ by Julia Johnson of Julia & The Deep Sea Sirens. It still remains one of my favorite covers, possibly ever. If you’ve read this review and want an introduction start here first, and then, continue on.
Setlist: I See Seaweed // How to See Through Fog // The Minotaur // Baby // Locust // Nine Eyes // Shark Fin Blues // Laika // I Don’t Ever Want to Change // Downbound Train (Chuck Berry cover) // Encore: Why Write a Letter That You’ll Never Send // Diamonds in the Mine (Leonard Cohen cover)
Review by Jack Colwell