The Beasts' show was a powerful re-introduction to the growling, snarling rockers

Performing nearly every track from their debut album, The Beasts were clearly making a statement on the latest chapter of their career.

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BandAnna Photography

Travelling on the 86 tram to a gig like this was par for the course back in the day. The Beasts of Bourbon were one of the filthiest bands that Australia had ever seen, and the filthier the gig, the more likely it was going to be in a backroom somewhere in northside Melbourne. While the regular clientele of the area has changed somewhat since the boys were back in town, the vibe in The Croxton still felt like the scuzzy days of northside past, with a stray smell of piss from one corner, a spilt VB in the other, and the energy of our fallen brothers in arms, Brian Hooper and Spencer P. Jones, hanging thick in the air.

Though we weren’t fortunate enough to have Spencer’s other main squeeze The Johnnys on the bill (it’s only us and Perth that missed out), we were still lucky enough to have Australian rock stalwarts Dallas Crane open the show, which certainly wasn’t a disappointment. The boys ripped their way through a tidy forty-five minutes of beer-swilling, flannel-clad, all-out rock, that had the audience riffing on their favourite air-guitars and the bartenders working double-time. There’s no doubt that the band had their own contingent of die-hards in the room (the best of which were the brilliantly obnoxious buck’s party in attendance), who sang along with every word and gave the band back as much as they were taking. There’s nothing better than an opening band that actually knows how to warm up a crowd, and by the time they gave their final salutes, all of our old, dusty joints had been sufficiently lubricated, ready for the onslaught of The Beasts.

But the night was a different affair than any of us had expected. The band took the stage almost humbly, with the lights still up and the house music still playing over the whoops and hollers echoing through the room. Our master of ceremonies for the evening, Tex Perkins stated quite reservedly, “This one’s for Brian”, and with that, the band launched full-throttle into the left-right combo that opens up their new album Still Here. First, you get that quintessential Tex Perkins growl of the raucous lead single On My Back, and then straight into the ugly swagger of Kim Salmon’s unmistakeable guitarwork on the relentless new Beasts’ classic, Pearls Before Swine. The band were in their finest form, hammering into seminal Beasts’ numbers like ‘The Low Road’ and Bad Revisited like they were written yesterday, running a masterclass on how to tear up a stage.

The marked absence of both Brian Hooper and Spencer P. Jones on the stage was undeniable though, having lost both members in the past year. But, for the most part, the night wasn’t about the past – it was about looking forward instead. Rather than come in and play a full set of crowd-pleasing Beasts of Bourbon classics like I’m sure a lot of people would have (quite foolishly) expected, the band were here to make a statement. They played damn near the entire setlist from their new album Still Here, noting the individual members responsible for each song as they introduced them. It felt like the perfect way to re-introduce the band, rather than try to live in the past, and the new songs absolutely kill live. 

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Brian’s last contribution, the scorcher What The Hell Was I Thinking is textbook Beasts with that undeniable lyrical snarl, but it was Spencer’s final song, the downright deranged At the Hospital that got the biggest response from the crowd. The band even managed to burn through an unbelievably funky live version of the hilarious ‘Your Honour’, with Kim and Tex trading off as judge and defendant to howls of laughter. The band took a brief hiatus (let’s not even call them encores anymore), before taking the stage again to deliver another four numbers, including a filthy Zappa cover, ‘The Torture Never Stops’, and closing with the heartbreaking Spencer classic, ‘Execution Day’.

For anyone who was thinking we’d seen the last of The Beasts – we couldn’t have been more wrong.

Highlight: ‘Execution Day’. 

Lowlight: Lack of movement in the front row – dance with me people. 

Crowd Favourite: ‘Just Right’.