Dead Letter Circus + Clint Boge and Glenn Esmond + Rival Fire
170 Russell, Melbourne
August 20th, 2016
Review By Rod Whitfield
Yet another frigid Melbourne winter evening was warmed to the cockles of its heart by the power and majesty of rock music. This time, it was a fabulous and diverse lineup of wondrous Australian rock talent that gave the packed-out crowd at 170 Russell goosebumps, including Brisbane masters Dead Letter Circus, plus Clint Boge and Glenn Esmond, both formerly of the legendary The Butterfly Effect, and Melbourne’s Rival Fire.
Relative newcomers Rival Fire provided the heat as openers this night, with their straightforward take on modern rock. Their music is ultra-punchy and their onstage energy and crowd pleasing tunes received a rousing response from the ever-building crowd, and their between song banter was expletive-laden and quite hilarious. My only slight criticism was that the drums possibly could have had just a touch more punch, to really drive the band forward. But these guys really put their all into their short, sharp set and the temperature in the room started to rise strongly.
You can tell the esteem that an artist or artists are held in when the crowd responds to a pre-set line check. Glenn Esmond, former bassist for The Butterfly Effect, was about to join the band’s former frontman Clint Boge onstage for their set, played the briefest moment of a TBE riff (I think it was World’s On Fire), and the crowd recognised it instantly and spontaneously went nuts. That set the tone for the hero’s welcome that Melbourne gave these two luminaries.
Their 40-minute set was two blokes, two acoustic guitars, two voices and two personalities, stripped back, raw and vulnerable, without the full-blown roar of a loud rock band to get lost in, and these two rose to the occasion like legends. It was quite surreal to be seeing half of The Butterfly Effect in this manner on the week the band actually announced their official breakup, and aside from a few of their own solo pieces, the set was dominated by classic TBE tunes. Especially from the Imago album, of which it happens to be the tenth anniversary of its release. They also gave a glimpse of The Church’s Under the Milky Way during Beautiful Mine, which was a joyous touch.
Boge himself, now that he is in his 40s (about which he took the piss out of himself, saying he has developed a fair middle-aged spread, and that men’s balls start to recede in their later lives and that he has to wear tighter undies in order to hit those ridiculously high notes. Personally, I call bullshit, he is just in ripping vocal form), is actually singing better than ever, and their set was just spellbinding, and something really quite special.
I’m not sure what it is, maybe where I was standing in the respective venues, but the last two times I have seen the almighty Dead Letter Circus, they have been insanely and ridiculously LOUD, but beautifully, powerfully and magically so. They have morphed into one of the loudest bands in Australia, however, because of the nature of their music, their live show isn’t just a mindless volume-fest. It is a majestic, grandiose journey into sound itself. That is, despite some early bass issues, that didn’t seem to matter at all.
DLC’s decision a few years back to use Farnham’s You’re the Voice as an intro track was a stroke of genius as, even though it is three decades old, it is an all-time Aussie classic and everyone knows it, and it seriously gets the crowd going every time. By the time the band hit the stage, lacing into the stupendous Here We Divide, the massive, heaving crowd was in a frenzy.
And that frenzy didn’t let up for what I would estimate to be around one hour and 45 minutes of Circus magic. The setlist was absolutely everything you could possibly ask for, and then some. From the monumental Here we Divide, to the soaring One Step, to the drama of Cage, the epic intensity of Alien, the accessible bounce of While You Wait and the sheer freneticism of tracks from the classic self-titled EP, all bases were more than covered. Three encores down, and the crowd walked away exhausted and elated.
This was yet another magnificent evening of world class home grown rock talent.