Monday, March 05, 2007

the necks@melb town hall + organ

I went to see The Necks on Friday. Magnificent. I can't do better than Jessica Nicholas from THE AGE

The Necks, Melbourne Town Hall, March 2
If god were to create a sermon for the 21st century, he might well choose the Necks to write the soundtrack.
Sonically, there is nothing more imposing or impressive than a 10,000-pipe grand organ - especially in the hands of Necks pianist Chris Abrahams. Visually, too, the Melbourne Town Hall's gargantuan organ makes for a majestic backdrop. Friday night's "congregation" was suitably awed, listening in rapt silence to two lengthy Necks sets before responding with the kind of ecstatic appreciation that would make a charismatic preacher swoon.

The first set was dominated by Abrahams and the organ. Although all three players (Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton and drummer Tony Buck) were actively engaged, Abrahams produced such extraordinary sounds that it was impossible to tear one's ears away. Exploring the seemingly endless sonic effects of the organ in discrete clusters of notes, arpeggios and occasional chords, the keyboardist created an unearthly orchestra that encompassed church bells, tubas, synthesised voices, pneumatic drills and a deep, rumbling vibration that was felt more than heard.

The second set took an entirely different course. Buck led the dynamics and overall shape of the piece. He began by kneading a small hand-held cymbal against his snare, beating it at irregular intervals. As the organ arrived quietly behind him - sounding like the hum of a train in a distant tunnel - Buck unleashed a violent thud that caused the audience to leap in shock. The sense of theatre continued as Swanton rubbed the bass strings to produce reverberations that echoed Abrahams' trembling overtones.

The trio quickly built an intuitive momentum, Swanton and Buck finding a syncopated heartbeat within Abrahams' sustained chords. After reducing the tempo to a slow, stately march, Buck initiated another thunderous climax that pulsed with punk-like energy and drill-like precision. As the piece drew to a close, the sound of church bells drifted across the auditorium - a jangling, crystal effect like chandeliers being moved about in heaven's antechamber. Beautiful.

FXH: I also caught Dale Watson at the Prince. Twang heaven. And The Handsome Family and Darling Downs @ Brunswick East Club. And Sally Ford and the Pachuco Playboys. All good.

PS: The Necks in the last piece were much much more overwhelmingly louder than I have ever heard Billy Thorpe.