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Gig Review: Melbourne – Helm + Supports

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Helm + The Khyber Belt + Glass Empire + Rick Dangerous and the Silky Bantams
The Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda, Melbourne
13th March, 2015
Review by Rod Whitfield

Remember the name Rick Dangerous and the Silky Bantams? They’re a four piece band from Sydney, and they’re damn entertaining. They have a slight comedic flavour to them, I would equate them to a band like Melbourne’s I Am Duckeye, but without the toilet humour (which IS bloody hilarious). And, just like Duckeye, RDATSB rock hard and are an extremely tight, kick arse band at the same time. With bands like this, you kinda get double the entertainment value, you get loud, high energy rock music played really well and delivered with real exuberance, and a live comedy act all in the one package.

The band, and especially the frontman (Rick?), are wildly eccentric, with very interesting between song banter (his comeback to a heckler in the crowd was pure gold), songs about masturbation and other generally irreverent frivolity. Rock bands generally slam down beers, or drink water or energy drinks onstage. Some carry a bottle of spirits with them. The singer of RDATSB was drinking a cup of tea! I have a feeling I’ve never seen that in 30 years of gig going. Their sound was eclectic as well, hard and heavy alternative rock with a touch of boogie, and some thrashier moments thrown in for some punch and grind value. They ended getting the nicely building crowd absolutely rocking.

Melbourne act Glass Empire brought some seriousness back to proceedings, with their at-times frenzied and at-times ambient and atmospheric modern progressive rock. Their songs, overall, are very busy, with drummer Joel almost perpetual motion, arms flying around, hitting cymbals left, right and centre, seemingly almost out of control but actually perfectly coordinated. Amidst the fury, their songs are rather excellent, especially Clarity, which is an underrated classic in the Aussie alt/prog scene, and beautifully sung by the powerful and impassioned voice of vocalist Ben Rechter.

The Khyber Belt are a band that rose up after the demise of classic Melbourne alt rock outfit Rook, plus members other such luminaries of the scene. They have been around for a number of years now, and they have absolutely nailed their live performance, to the point where they are at least the equal of Rook in a live sense. Don’t get me wrong, I was a fan of Rook, no question, but TKB are just a touch grittier, tougher, more mature and they just generally go even harder. They have a massive sound, a very extroverted performance (especially from frontman Forbes McKail) and their hyper-charged alternative rock wowed the crowd this night.

Awesome Brisbane based heavy rock act Helm sadly announced their retirement a couple of months ago. Thankfully, there was to be one final national tour, and their absolute final show was to be in Melbourne, at the Espy Gershwin Room, the scene of so many triumphant slayings of the crowd by this band over the previous seven years.

And this band does, or should I now say did, slay. Their immense, three guitar driven wall of sound absolutely lays waste to all before it, coming at you in holocaust-like waves. At the same time however, they have a wondrous grasp of dynamics. Regularly interspersed between the full frontal musical bludgeonings are wonderful, wistful moments of melody and atmosphere, so that when the heaviness comes again it literally knocks you backwards.

I had seen this band on at least five previous occasions, and they had blown my mind every single time. However, their imminent end gave this show even greater significance. It was a special night, full of emotion, and they put on a ridiculously good (even by their illustrious standards) hour and fifteen minute set.

A band like Help make me think, yet again, that there is no justice in the musical world. This band should have been making their living touring Australia and the rest of the world, they are that damn good. But the inherent heaviness, complexity and sheer epic scale of their music meant that they went completely unsupported by Triple J, let alone mainstream rock radio, and they weren’t able to attain the foothold and push that they required. Obviously it just became too much to keep themselves in the studio and on the road, both of which cost ridiculous amounts of money and take up so much time, without the support that they needed. So yet another world class Australian rock act has bitten the dust before their time. Truly sad.

Anyway, rant over. We would do better to remember this last show and tour as a celebration of the career of this monumental band, than to lament the horrendous state of the mainstream music industry, because that’s exactly what it was, a celebration. There were no tears onstage, no long winded goodbye speeches, just fun, smiles, beers flowing and bone crushingly heavy rock power. And that’s how I plan to remember the great Helm.

To Helm and your fans, I salute you. Farewell, you will never be forgotten.

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