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[GIG REVIEW] Animals As Leaders + Plini + Nick Johnston @ The Metro Theatre, Sydney, 26th February, 2017

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Prog fans and music nerds were aplenty at the Metro, everyone certainly looking forward to what was a very promising line up and a night of most excellent music. Things kicked off with the prowess of Nick Johnston, a guitar wizard in ever sense of the word. Playing to what seemed to be an already packed venue, Johnston along with his band were a hit from the start with the energetic Sydney crowd. Charismatic, passionate and fun would be some of the words that best described this guitarist’s style of playing, as he captivated the crowd with his diverse range of tracks. ‘Sick Johnston’ as he was dubbed later, really set the mood and tone (excuse the pun) for the night, getting people excited for what was next. Sydney’s (and Australia’s) pride and joy, Plini, were welcomed on stage with a deafening cheer of pure love and admiration; and rightly so! The guy is a musical alchemist. Playing to a home crowd that could not stop applauding for the young shred lord, there was never a quiet moment during his performance. The high energy levels yet serenity on the faces of him and his band mates will hold your attention throughout, whether you’re headbanging, dancing along or just listening to the pure magic that they create on stage. The kind of rhythmic groove that Plini create with their music is what makes it so accessible and even more enjoyable live as is the effortless way in which the guitarist moves from heavy riffs to more groove-laden, jazzy sections.

Whether it was a few soothing melodies to which a few people pulled out their lighters, or the cool, choppy parts which got a few people moving vigorously, everyone was clearly stoked with the band and their beautiful stage presence. It’s so clear when a band and it’s individual members share something truly special when they make music; there were smiles all around watching them enjoy their time on stage. A flawlessly executed set of technical tunes yet a technicality that even the non-guitar nerds would love. But I have to say, one of my favourite things about watching this band play is the lack of on-stage shenanigans apart from friendly banter every now and then (also quite minimal); their focus is entirely on the music, and it’s therapeutic in a way just watching the way in which they lose themselves when playing. Instrumental music at it’s absolute finest I say. Always come for the opening act people. You don’t know what you’re missing sometimes.

Headliners Animals As Leaders now had a packed-to-the-brim room to play for and you could just sense the excitement as people air-guitared their favourite solos and really getting psyched before the band even came on. But once the did, that feeling of anticipation in the atmosphere turned into sheer joy as an eerie intro filling the air, fans near me grinning with delight as they waltzed onto the stage in a most elegant and calm manner. Diving straight into “Arithmophobia”, the opening track from their latest LP, The Madness of Many – followed by one of my favourites “Ectogenesis”, a track that will have you hooked from start to finish with it’s cheeky guitar picking and hectic lead guitar parts, the three-piece act were met with deafening applause and screaming. Someone even shouted out to Abasi saying, ‘Tosin, you’re Jesus!’. As hilarious as that was, it certainly is the truth. Animals As Leaders may not have an exhilarating light show or go stark-raving mad on stage but what they do bring is an array of delicious tones, textures and effects with ever track, each one unique from the next. Not only was it the complexity and technicality of their music that created such an incredible atmosphere on the night; the emotive nature of their music and the connection it made with the fans was beautiful. Less is more as they say, and rightly so: barely a few things were said with the band speaking through their music. Not only was it a treat of a set as they played songs from their latest album but also from the absolutely brilliant ‘Joy of Motion‘ and ‘Weightless‘, the three-piece act put on a truly remarkable and passionate show for their Sydney fans, indeed, making it a night to remember ending a few odd time signatures and the masterpiece that is ‘CAFO‘. Smiles were exchanged and Animals As Leaders proved once again, why they are in a league of their own.


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