Concert Report: Brisbane, 6 November

Last night’s show at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre marked the beginning of the Australian leg of the LC world tour (not the “Austrailian leg” as advertised for a while on a certain other photo-blog that shall remain nameless … yes, we noticed ). It would be hard to imagine a better way to kick off the tour — Leonard and the band were in fine form throughout, and the audience gave a lot of warmth and enthusiasm back to the band by way of huge applause, and quite a bit of feisty cat calling and the like.

On a personal level, this show was quite special for me because I had the privilege of meeting a couple of our very own forum members who had flown down to Brisbane for the concert. So, hello to B4Real, Nautilass and Wombat Writer … As always with occasions where I’ve met other forum members, these three folks were thoroughly warm, charming people! I was only slightly jealous that they had front-row seats (I was in row 5).

Length-wise, the Brisbane performance was a little longer than the last three shows in New Zealand (the two Wellington shows and the one in Christchurch), but still almost half an hour shorter than Auckland Night 1. The complete setlist was:

Set 1

01 Dance Me To The End Of Love
02 The Future
03 Bird on the Wire
04 Everybody Knows
05 Who By Fire
06 The Darkness
07 Born in Chains
08 Chelsea Hotel #2
09 Waiting For The Miracle
10 Anthem

Set 2

11 Tower of Song
12 Suzanne
13 Avalanche
14 Sisters of Mercy
15 The Gypsy’s Wife
16 The Partisan
17 Hallelujah
18 I’m Your Man
19 A Thousand Kisses Deep [recitation]
20 Take This Waltz

Encore 1

21 So Long, Marianne
22 Famous Blue Raincoat
23 First We Take Manhattan

Encore 2

24 I Tried To Leave You
25 Closing Time

The notable re-inclusion of Avalanche was very welcome … particularly after the last few shows, where LC only played a single solo song (Suzanne) instead of the two solo songs which has recently been customary.

Overall, I thought the selection of songs was pretty reasonable … although I’m still not entirely sure what the driving force is behind slightly trimmed sets in recent shows. I don’t really see anything that suggests that it’s something instigated by the band, but who knows I guess.

One thing that bothered me a bit about the way the sets for the two Wellington shows was put together (and reading MasterThief’s writeup, it seems the same for Christchurch) … the girls seem to have lost a lot of opportunity to show off their remarkable vocal talents. Sharon’s magical Boogie Street got trimmed out, as did the Webb Sister’s If It Be Your Will. The NZ shows also dropped Born In Chains (the only other song with lengthy solos by the girls) … although that made a welcome return here in Brisbane. I suppose it’s inevitable that when the set list needs to be pared back, something has to give … and I don’t really think it was a bad way to do it. But I guess I’m glad that the Brisbane set reintroduced at least one vehicle for the girls to show off what they can do.

The Brisbane Entertainment Centre is a pretty big (and somewhat boxy) venue .. but it seemed to be completely filled last night, and filled with enthusiastic fans willing to demonstrate their love of Leonard and his music. Right from the first moment that Leonard stepped on stage to a roaring applause, you could tell that this was going to be one of those nights when the crowd was going to be just that little bit rowdy which makes for a lively atmosphere (without getting too annoying). By and large, that initial energy lasted throughout the concert … there was even a moment late in the second set when an enthusiastic fan in the front row tossed a small gift for Leonard up onto the stage. Nice.

Leonard and the band looked well rested, and themselves were a little more energetic than usual. A couple of band members seem to have made a few changes to their on-stage constume and appearance. Rafael is now (very) clean-shaven … and as a consequence looks *very much* younger. Javier was wearing a string tie (larriet?) secured at the top by a large white circular clip decorated with the Unified Heart logo. Dino and Rafael also had new neck-ware: in the case of the former it was a white Maori-style fish hook pendant, in the latter case it was a (ahem) very eye-catching red tie adorned with big yellow polka dots [someone less charitable than me might describe it as looking like ground-zero in a measles epidemic].

I was sitting on the right hand side of the auditorium, just a few rows back from the front. So I had an excellent view of what Dino and Javier do throughout the performance. I’d have to say that I was a little surprised to see exactly how many little musical highlights and accents Dino adds in to the background of some songs. There’s a whole collection of little instruments stashed under his keyboard, in what I am from now on going to term “Dino’s box of musical wonders.” See my comments below for Anthem for some notable usage of intriguing items from here.

Some specific points I noticed:

  • Neil and his fans: I’m guessing that Neil was a little hot on-stage, judging from the fact that he had not one but two electric fans blowing on him throughout — a big one behind him and a smaller one sitting up on top of the organ. The breeze was strong enough that you could see his hair blowing around at some points.
  • The Future: once again, on the line about “the white man dancing” it was Roscoe who did the honours, by giving a little twirl.
  • Everybody Knows: Leonard, yet again, sung some additional words during the chorus, deliberately holding the mic away from his mouth so as to make the words barely audible. I figure he must know we’ve been speculating about this, since he seems to be wearing a very mischevious grin while he’s doing it. I’m thinking it’s a kind of puzzle for us to solve … maybe it’s the “ancient western code” that needs to be broken
  • Who By Fire: Javier’s long introduction to the song took a somewhat different direction for this performance (at least for the first half). It seemed to me a fair bit more melancholy and had an almost apocalyptic feel to it. It even reminded me a bit of some of the more menacing bits of the theme from The Godfather (and I mean that as a compliment). At the end of Javier’s intro it’s normal for Rafael to play a single chime on a triangle … this time around the cue got replaced by a soft cymbal hit. I’ve no idea why … maybe the triangle is in the shop being repaired
  • The Darkness: LC’s spoken intro this time around was “This is a song that was begin some night-time and somehow the night just wouldn’t let up.”
  • Born In Chains: this was the best performance of this song I’ve seen to date. I was particularly impressed by the way that the girls seem to be evolving the vocal delivery of their solo verses in a more soulful direction. Having recently spent some time looking at the lyrics of this song, I know there are a couple of spots where we still don’t really have absolutely certain transcriptions. I was specifically looking out for these, but probably didn’t really notice much that would definitely close the gaps — it looked to me like “I was saddled with my soul” and it seemed to me that maybe the later line was referring to being “in the arms of sense illusion,” although neither phrase seems to have any obviously apt meaning.
  • Chelsea Hotel #2: “for me you would make a rare exception”
  • Anthem: Leonard gave the usual spoken intro about how rare it is to be able to gather like this, ending it with “So, those of us who can … Ring the bells.” I hadn’t noticed before exactly how many subtle little musical elements Dino adds to this song. At a couple of points he ‘plays’ what seems to be a rain stick, just to add a barely audible texture … in other places he plays tiny bells. In the band introductions, the Webb Sisters picked up a new job title — “On angelic harmonies, the Webb Sisters.” In case anyone cares, Rafael is still cutting its toenails.
  • Tower of Song: As sometimes occurs, Leonard got a small but enthusiastic applause straight after his solo on the keyboard. Instead of his usual comment that the audience was “too kind”, this time around he said “Your kindness knows no bounds.”
  • Avalanche: Leonard played this a fair bit faster than usual, which kind of gave the song a less brooding feel. The same minor lyrical variantion was present here as in Auckland (Night 1).
  • Hallelujah: During the name check, Leonard said “I did not come to Bris-bane to fool ya”
  • I’m Your Man: As you’d imagine with a slightly rowdy audience like this, there were quite a lot of cat calls during this song. The thing that suprised me was that a fair number of them were from men
  • Take This Waltz: We had another glimpse of how quickly Leonard can think on his feet to save a minor error in a sung lyric but rearranging the line on the fly. Here we ended up with “in the tip of the cave of a lily.” The big happening in this song, however, was towards the very end of the song when a small soft-toy kangaroo sailed from the front row in a majestic arc to end up on the stage next to Leonard. He picked it up, acknowledged it and put it down on an amp behind him. Sharon looked on with a big smile on her face.
  • Famous Blue Raincoat: a lyrical elaboration (which changes the meaning a bit) — instead of “your enemy is sleeping”, we got “The ancient enemy is sleeping: the woman is free.”
  • I Tried To Leave You: During the musical solos, the audience was treated to particularly energetic solos from Dino and from Rafael. In the former case, at the end of his spirited harmonica solo, he was on his knees looking like he was about to collapse with exhaustion. In Rafael’s drum solo, as is usual, at one point he threw one of his brushes up in the air and tried to catch it. This time around, however, his throw was waaaay too high for him to ever have any chance … the brush sailed in a big arc and landed a metre or so behind him.
  • Closing Time: At the very beginning, as Dino started playing the “fiddle” line using his Akai Wind Controller, he seemed unhappy with the sound that was coming out. I think the synthesizer was still set to a different program. After a small amount of messing with his Macbook everything seemed to be quickly resolved.

The tour now heads south, and so do I. Next concert is in Sydney tomorrow (Monday) night. The Brisbane show has set a very high mark for both the performers but also for the audience Let’s hope both can live up to the challenge of making the next show as memorable as last night’s!

Boarding in 15 mins.

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