Silversun Pickups Live at The Corner Hotel
Proving that Melbournians are still among the luckiest music fans in the world, Silversun Pickups staged their sole Australian headlining show this year at The Corner Hotel. A sigh of relief was elicited by fervent Melbourne fans (followed by disappointment for some when tickets sold out within a day – though seeing them as support act for Birds Of Tokyo was consolation for some).
Although the popularity of the LA four-piece is growing outside of the US, it’s far from attaining their impassioned following in the ‘States, where both albums (2006’s Carnavas and 2009’s Swoon) have charted significantly, and they’ve gained much reverence for their potent ‘90s-influenced distortion-heavy shoegaze/melodic alt-rock.
Supporting tonight were Melbourne trio Papa Vs. Pretty, who demonstrated their varied and increasingly bold sound by moving from contemplative folk-rock numbers – such as the title track from their Paul Dempsey-produced third EP, Heavy Harm – to dynamic heavy-pop anthems and epic riff-laden climaxes.
A band’s opening song is usually drowned out by the sound of feverish applause or ‘warming-up’ idiosyncrasies; rarely do they exceed expectations... as Silversun Pickups would prove tonight. From its ethereal build-up to its gripping climatic insurgence, Growing Old Is Getting Old proved a masterful opener, and was followed by the riotously infectious Well Thought Out Twinkles and the grittier propensity of Sort Of. Each band member left their own distinctive imprint: Brian Aubert was immediately engaging with his breathy lamentations and distortion-heavy riffs; Nikki Monninger’s elegant charm and menacing bass sent hearts aflutter; hat-donning keyboardist Joe Lester was his calm, dexterous self while head-flailing drummer Christopher Guanlao left mouths agape with his pummelling.
The absence of the soaring strings complimenting the recorded version of Catch And Release were palpably felt but didn’t detract from the utterly compelling The Royal We. There’s No Secrets This Year rung out with evocations of mid-‘90s Smashing Pumpkins as did the seductive cynicism of pseudo-grunge rocker It’s Nice To Know You Work Alone, while Little Lover’s So Polite, Future Foe Scenarios, and Kissing Families (from their 2005 debut EP, Pikul) were all rapturously received.
Panic Switch ’s hypnotising espousal of societal anxiety and paranoia, along with the band’s biggest hit to date, Lazy Eye, closed an intensely engaging main set. Aubert praised our city’s fine beer gardens, teased about the initial Grand Final outcome and expressed their surprise and gratitude in playing to a packed room, while Monninger’s ever-adorable nature made up for her cringe-worthy joke involving “sick” biceps.
The catchy but admittedly inferior track on Swoon, Substitution, opened the encore before the closing tracks on Carnavas – Three Seed and Common Reactor – brought the night to a breathtaking climax. An elevating and visceral force was expounded by the latter in which Guanlao’s incessant beats, together with Aubert’s emotive cries and claustrophobic walls of distortion, summoned an otherworldly presence.
Silversun Pickups may not be the most original of bands, but they are, undeniably, one of the most engaging and emotive modern alt-rock groups to witness live; a feat rendered more poignant by their resounding sincerity and humbled disposition. But what marks Silversun Pickups as a compelling musical force is their transportation of the most invigorating and vital elements of ‘90s grunge/indie/alt-rock into the 21st century. Rock ’n’ roll with a melodic and sensitive propensity needn’t lose the rawness and grit of its initial conception... as Silversun Pickups clearly demonstrated tonight.