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Brian Jonestown Massacre @ The Forum

It’s inevitable that every Australian show from the Brian Jonestown Massacre will be judged in the context of the band’s infamous first visit almost ten years ago.  Back then, Anton Newcombe was strapped onto a psychological rollercoaster of his own chemically-induced design. It was, as one person close to the tour once remarked, more than a train wreck – Newcombe had lost sight of the tracks – both metaphorically and literally in some cases – and his band mates were equally perplexed at the direction in which the notoriously volatile multi-headed psychedelic hydra was headed. 

 

Each successive visit from the Brian Jonestown Massacre has been a little more cogent, the degree of difference between the various lines of intra-band input less obvious to the untrained eye.  Anton has remained the titular leader of the group; the return of Matt Hollywood to the fold suggests personal differences may have been overcome in the wake of maturing years, or at least ignored briefly for the sake of commercial return.

 

Immediately prior to tonight’s set – as The Raveonettes reached a level of performance described objectively as awesome, a friend remarked that Jonestown was approaching a coherency once anathema to the band’s entire modus operandi; later on, after Jonestown had left the stage, the potentially pejorative assessment ‘slick’ was bestowed upon the performance.  Certainly, this was a night when the disparate parts of the overall Brian Jonestown Massacre machine worked together like a well-engineered machine, with no fuss, no banter, and ne’er a step seeming out of place. Newcombe assumes his usual position on the left of stage, though it’s rare to see him drop into the slowly nodding demeanour that we all know and love.  Matt Hollywood is somewhere between enigmatic and debonair; his interaction with his band mates is trivial at best. Joel Gion is the original vibes master, slapping a tambourine like a spiritual groove merchant leading the crowd to kaleidoscopic waters, punctuated with occasional vocal forays.  Frankie Emerson slots between Gion and Ricky Maymi ; the latter’s on-stage movements are more than the rest of the band combined. 

 

The set has plenty of highlights – Supersonic, Jennifer, Anenome, There’s A War Going On, Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth.  For all of the cosmological explorations, every Jonestown track has as its beating heart a deceptively simple riff.  It’s the Beatles bent into weird shape like a bend-me-stretch me doll, the Rolling Stones painted in complimenting luminescent colours or the Thirteenth Floor Elevators sliced and diced into dovetailing pieces. 

 

The finale is picture perfect: Servo precedes Straight Up and Down, which segues into Sympathy for the Devil and back again.  The band leaves the stage, the lights come on, and it’s over.  Slick maybe; comprehensively satisfying definitely yes.

 

BY COLLIS KING

Photo credit: Richard Sharman

 

LOVED: Straight Up and Down into Sympathy for the Devil.

HATED: Not a lot, actually.
DRANK: Beer.