Black Cab + Grand Atlantic
The Hi-Fi Bar, Brisbane
July 17, 2010
Apparently I live under a rock as I have only ever heard of, but not actually heard, Brisbane’s Grand Atlantic until walking into the Hi-Fi tonight. I then had my own personal Hot Tub Time Machine moment where I had been zapped back to the mid-‘90s. Grand Atlantic write big alternative rock songs, and if they were around during those heady days no doubt they’d have been signed to Murmur Records and performed opening sets for the likes of Oasis and Blur. Drawing on a host of that era’s international influences, they actually reminded me more of the Australian bands from that period such as Ammonia and Drop City. Grand Atlantic don’t hide their ambitions and their songs are ultimately written to sound good on large stages and arenas and tonight they get a chance to ply their wares on such a stage but unfortunately the Hi-Fi can be a lonely place when it’s well under capacity… like tonight. Despite this the band give their all with all members putting in fine performances in particular Sean Bower who attacked his bass with so much gusto he broke a string. Only a small handful of the crowd made their way to the stage to appreciate their efforts including a possibly OCD stricken punter who seemed solely focused on filling the empty space with bubbles. Tonight probably isn’t the best night to pass judgment on Grand Atlantic and I would be interested in seeing them in a situation where they are allowed to make a connection with their audience either on a large stage in a full venue or in the safer, more intimate, surrounds of a venue like the Troubadour. [Scott Daniels]
The break between sets is filled with a suitable selection of prime shoegaze and indie rock circa 1990-95 that sets the scene for Melbourne’s Black Cab to finally grace a Queensland stage. While Brisbane residents are used to being excluded from overseas artist’s tour schedules it’s not often we’re ignored for a decade by a band in our own country — usually an act has to form in South East Queensland and then move to Melbourne before they ignore us (cough Gaslight Radio cough). Tall, imposing and with a measured countenance throughout Andrew Coates is not a traditional rock front man but despite being bathed in the Hi-Fi’s constant red light, he’s perfectly suited to the grey, intense wall of sound produced by the band. Black Cab officially only includes one other, James Lee, who maintains an unobtrusive presence during the set but whose searing guitar work proves to one of the stand out of the evening. They are flanked by four veterans of the Australian underground music scene most of who have played on Black Cab’s albums which helps to explain the cohesiveness of the set.
The singles from last year’s brilliant Call Signs — “Church in Berlin”, “Rescue”, “Black Angel” — are reeled out early on and fans of the recorded versions are thrown at first. Live these songs take on a whole different feel, the electronic or acoustic elements are downplayed with drone rock pushed to the fore and even the vocals are different in intonation. The Kraftwork electro-pop of new single “Sexy Polizei” is the closest the band gets to the studio, despite lacking a Brumby on backing vocals, but the longer the band plays, the more into the opiate groove they and the audience get. When a transcendent version of “Hearts on Fire” ends the set, it’s uncertain how long the band has been playing for — has it been minutes or hours? — so easily it was to become lost in the delicious trance. A one-two punch encore pays respect to the forebears of drone-rock and post-punk, a brooding take on The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” then a stunning version of Joy Division’s “Transmission” that shakes off the haze of the previous hour and leaves Coates’ sing-scream of “Dance, dance, dance to the radio” ringing in my ears as punters turn out into the cold street to catch a rather less appealing cab home. [Caleb Rudd]