Words by Matt New
Photos by Angie New Photography
Summer in Australia means one thing: it’s festival season, baby! So get ready for a combination of sunburn, sore feet, ringing eardrums, and overpriced alcoholic beverages.
Kicking off the heavy music festival season is Good Things, which has gained momentum with the absence of Big Day Out and Soundwave since its inception in 2018. The 2023 line-up features an incredibly diverse range of bands from all over the world, including a strong showing of local Aussie bands spanning the past 40 years.
Accompanying Good Things, as always, is a great selection of sideshows, that in many instances, serve as a final dress rehearsal for these festival runs. One band on this amazing line-up that has created a massive frenzy is the Nu-Metal juggernauts Limp Bizkit. The Jacksonville quintet treated Sydney to their first show since 2012 with their iconic line-up at the Hordern Pavilion to a nearly sold-out crowd. Not a bad effort for a mid-week gig in Sydney, despite the tumultuous deluge that ensued. But an overwhelming wave of red New York Yankee hats that flowed through the entertainment quarter brought a smile to my face, and the challenges of the weather were quickly forgotten.
Supporting Limp Bizkit for this sideshow was Hanabie from Japan. I had never heard of this band before the show, but I was instantly intrigued to feed my inner music nerd and have some new sonic experiences. The Tokyo-based quartet showcased incredible musicianship. Even though I didn’t know their songs or understand the lyrics due to the language barrier, I was drawn to their charismatic charm, bold attire, and genre-shifting elements.
My jaw was consistently on the floor throughout their set, as I had never experienced anything like Hanabie before. At times, it made me very uncomfortable, but in a refreshingly positive way, as what they delivered challenged all of my musical predispositions. Hanabie’s energy was incredible, pulling you into a force field of Japanese cuteness and then pummelling you with riffs and fry screams that would make iconic metalcore bands squeamish.
The dynamic between lead vocalist Yukina and guitarist Matsuri, who provided quiet operatic vocal lines similar to Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden at times, was unbelievable. Bassist Hettsu was very endearing in her performance, even sculling a beer in celebration for the audience. Drummer Chika contributed some brutal beats that drove the band forward into a frenzied chaotic soundscape. At times, her energy reminded me of Animal from The Muppets. Hanabie delivered an awe-inspiring performance that left the Sydney audience stunned and in disbelief. What appeared to be sweet and unassuming, quickly escalated into a calculated barrage of insanity.
Limp Bizkit has been one of the most polarising rock bands of the past 30 years. Along with other nu-metal pioneers, they forcefully changed the landscape of heavy music throughout the 90s and 2000s. Their impact on the music industry is still felt today, although it has been shrouded in controversy, which they seem to use to fuel their angsty and groove-centric sound. As mentioned in the introduction, this was the first Sydney show with the classic line-up consisting of Fred Durst, Wes Borland, John Otto, Sam Rivers, and the legendary DJ Lethal since 2012. It’s fair to say that the inner teenager in me was beyond excited to experience this very important band that helped me through many tough times. The band has been an important outlet to many metal fans, and it was encouraging to see such a vast demographic attending the show. What was also quite apparent is that Limp Bizkit have become the intergenerational band many thought would never happen.
When Fred Durst instructed John Otto to “take ’em to the Matthews Bridge,” it was clear that My Generation was the appropriate choice to get the crowd chaotically bouncing. Durst took a moment on the bridge to jump between sincerity and comedy whilst addressing the crowd. Expressing his genuine love for Australia, then immediately apologising for his attire, as he claimed to have been released from prison only hours prior to the show. DJ Lethal’s turntable solo, accompanied by some of the fattest riffs, sent the crowd into a meltdown, and we still had 90 minutes to go. Limp Bizkit is certainly a band that does not hold anything back from their performance, and they expect much the same from their audience.
An unrelenting assault of bangers continued in rapid succession at the highest possible standard. Hotdog, 9 Teen 90 Nine, and Rollin‘ kept the energy pumping before the first melody interlude of the evening. This interlude included excerpts from the Theme from Rawhide and House of Pain‘s Jump Around before firing into the only more recent track on the set list, Gold Cobra. As a rhythm section, few bands can boast such an incredibly tight and powerful sound without relying on backing tracks. Limp Bizkit is one of these very few bands that can organically deliver where others cannot.
Wes Borland‘s amazingly intricate guitar style, which often goes underappreciated, is a defining element of the band’s sound. He weaves gargantuan riffs with beautifully crafted ambiance, showcasing his two-hand tapping technique that draws comparisons to Les Claypool from Primus. Not to mention, the man has some of the most amazing and artistic costumes that are incredibly striking. The tight-knit drum and bass parts of cousins Sam Rivers and John Otto provide the fuel and foundational energy for the band, and they rarely miss a beat. DJ Lethal, whose legacy speaks for itself, provides the most unique use of turntables I have ever heard in any band. At times, it feels like there is another guitar on stage, complementing Wes. Finally, the one, the only, Fred Durst. One of the most engaging frontmen of his generation, armed with an endless supply of confidence and charisma. His infectiously magnetic southern charm made it very difficult for people not to love him, as he delivered a multitude of memorable raps and beautifully crafted vocal melodies that echoed throughout the venue.
The running joke of the evening was a random pair of blue panties that ended up on stage. According to Durst, he refused to touch them due to his highly powerful sense of smell. But that didn’t stop him from placing them at the end of his microphone and chasing Wes Borland around in a very amusing manner before jamming out a brief country-inspired ditty about the panties. Other moments throughout the show that conjured much laughter were Wes throwing roses into the crowd. One of the greatest misconceptions about Limp Bizkit is that they are egomaniacs and their music lacks substance. After witnessing this evolution of the band, it’s clear that they have really humbled with age, and the message of their music becomes even more relatable in the challenges of the past few years. Songs like Boiler remind everyone to believe in themselves, even when no one else does.
Of course, we were treated to several covers, including Thieves by Ministry, the George Michael classic Faith, and a surprising rendition of Rage Against The Machine‘s Killing in The Name. To be honest, bands performing Rage covers are becoming tiresome. A band like Limp Bizkit and their extensive catalogue should not need to resort to this in their performance. But that being said, they absolutely nailed it note for note. Closing out the set, what else could it be but Break Stuff? Durst asked the lighting tech to raise the house lights so he could see everyone tightly packed in the Hordern Pavilion as he performed. Joined by Hanabie vocalist Yukina to assist with vocal duties, the track went off just as you would imagine, with the entire standing area bouncing in unison to every dynamic beat. It was an amazing experience to be a part of and witness.
Overall, I left feeling completely energised, and with a smile that could not be wiped from my face. It was one of the most fun and engaging shows I have seen in a very long time, and I can guarantee that sentiment was widespread. Durst and the band thanked the Sydney crowd for sharing this moment in time with them and ensured everyone had a safe trip home. Durst has evolved into quite the enigmatic rock ‘n’ roll father figure, so his sincerity throughout the evening was very humbling. So far, this is a serious contender for concert of the year!