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Gig Review: TesseracT + supports, Melbourne

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TesseracT + Caligula’s Horse + Plini
Max Watt’s, Melbourne
16 October 2015
Review by Rod Whitfield

Last week’s phenomenal Dead Letter Circus show was always going to be a hard act to follow, but this night definitely gave it a run for its money.

Much of young Sydney guitar maestro Plini’s music owes as much to heavy jazz fusion as it does to instrumental rock and metal (although he can get bluesy on occasion when the mood takes him as well), and this is one of the factors that sets him apart from much of the instrumental crowd. Something else that gives him an edge is his willingness to use restraint and construct a soaring, exhilarating instrumental song, rather than simply cram as many notes and as many wacked out time signatures into a piece of music as he can. In a word, his tastefulness.

On record, Plini’s music is a breath of fresh air. In a live setting, it is quite mesmerising. The sold out venue was 85% full for most of his set, which was very encouraging and they gave him, and his incredible band, a deserved rousing reception. Especially for the set closer, which absolutely soared to the heavens.

To nit-pick, I would probably have preferred his guitar to be a little more present in the mix, and 30 minutes of this instrumental mastery just wasn’t enough. But those things aside, Plini provided a wondrous opening to these progressive music proceedings.

With some very nice symmetry, Brisbane’s Caligula’s Horse hit town on the very day their stunning third album Bloom was released, and their set was a celebration of that fact. Their set was heavily slanted towards the new album, with only one tune from their first two records featuring. Understandable when you only have 40 minutes. Dark Hair Down is becoming a classic closer.

Few bands you will ever see are as mellow and as intense at the same time as these guys. Second single from the album, Firelight, is a case in point. It is also one of the songs of the year, and came alive beautifully in a live setting. But this band’s projection of light and shade overall is quite breathtaking.

This band is truly on the brink of something very big and very special, and it was great to see them in this setting before they jet off to parts unknown to achieve the rock superstardom that a band so very talented and hard working so richly deserve. One gets the feeling that Caligula’s Horse have only just started their ride.

One of the first things you notice about TesseracT in a live setting is the complete lack of amplifiers onstage. The second is the dense, tension filled white noise-like intro ‘music’ that helped build much anticipation leading up to the start of their set.

And when they begin playing, the reaction from the sold out throng is as much open mouths and dropped jaws in bafflement at this band’s remarkable precision delivery as it is a display of energy and enthusiasm with fists and devil horns thrusting towards the sky. Such is the illustrious musicianship and song craft possessed by this English five-piece.

And possibly even more amazing is the vocal histrionics soaring over the top. The voice of frontman Daniel Tompkins truly is a thing of wonder. He opens his mouth and all manner of perfectly pitched notes flow out. Even during the tracks from the album that he didn’t sing on, Altered State, even though Ashe O’Hara’s register is even higher than his.

This set was a one hour and fifteen minutes of power, passion and stunning musicianship, and the fever pitch, packed to the rafters crowd soaked up each and every living second of it. We howled for more after the band had left the stage, but the band did not oblige. We’ll just have to wait til next time. And, judging by the incredible reaction to this tour, there will definitely be a next time and we won’t have too long to wait.

Yep, Australia loves TesseracT and TesseracT loves us right back. This was another magical night of powerhouse progressive music.

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