I can still recall the palpable sense of excitement in the air amongst the indie-rock fraternity back in the mid 90’s when scene demi-gods Sebadoh first graced our shores. Truth be known their Brisbane show at that time, at the now defunct Arena, was a bit of a hit and miss affair, with jet lag and sound issues somewhat compromising their evening. But hey, it was Sebadoh and they’ve been back and slayed a few times since.
Their ‘golden age of indie rock’ sonic blueprint hasn’t altered too much across the subsequent decades and the band maintain a truly rabid following in this country, with plenty of said disciples present tonight to witness their return.
The three piece operate within a unique performance dynamic, with dual songwriters Jason Lowenstein and Lou Barlow, a man who’s tenure in Dinosaur Jr and all-round indie-rock credentials need no introduction, sharing vocal, guitar and bass duties throughout the night.
Their on stage delivery tonight, as ever, alternates between a spiky batch of Lowenstein numbers, followed by a smattering of heartfelt gems from Barlow, with the rock solid drumming of Bob D’Amico holding it all together. The musical telekinesis between the band is on ample display throughout the set, with Lowenstein, in cap and shorts, playing the every-day rock dude to Barlow’s bruised and bruising rock-a-thons, the latter shaking his head furiously throughout the night from behind his frizzy haired mop. Which, come to think of it, is something that has morphed within the world of Sebadoh, his current ‘rock dog’ look in marked contrast to the 90’s, sensitive guy in glasses Lou.
Tonight’s rollicking set serves to shine the spotlight on their most recent album, 2019’s ‘Act Surprised’, with plenty putting it up there with the pinnacle of their mid 90’s output.
Early on we’re treated to the breathtaking splendour of Barlow’s 1993 stunner ‘Soul And Fire’, it’s gut churning amalgamation of power and raw emotion (a true high watermark in the pantheon of break up songs) still bringing goosebumps after all these years.
New album number, ‘Fool’, is a set highlight from the poppier side of their sound, it’s sing-song bounce recalling bubble gum summers, while the melodic mid paced rocker, ‘Medicate’ and the insistently catchy ‘See-Saw’ also serve as particularly memorable offerings.
“What’s that noise? Who’s in the kitchen?” Well that would be Lowenstein, belting out the opening line of ‘Phantom’, the first number from ‘Act Surprised’, a performance which sets the bar high for his contributions to the Sebadoh jukebox. Further new album highlights from his song-book include ‘Follow The Breath’ and the edgy and frantic ‘Stunned’, which get both band and crowd frothy and animated as one.
The guys are clearly having a ball up on stage and their enthusiasm and between song banter, in turns jovial, self depreciating and in-joke’ish, add to the celebratory nature of the spectacle.
As Lowenstein fan-fave ‘Careful’, from the masterful ‘Bakesale’ album, delivers us rapturously to set’s end, the crowd catch their breath and reload for an epic finale of back catalogue gems from said album, the 4 pronged punch of ‘Magnets Coil’, ‘License To Confuse’ ‘Rebound’ and ‘Skull’ all highlighting Barlow’s songwriting genius and the bands love for belting them out live. Early Sebadoh awe-inspirer ‘Brand New Love’, another Barlow bitter-sweet masterclass, brings the curtain down on an evening of rocking revelry, chemistry and camaraderie .. long live the Sebadoh.
(Feature image courtesy of Ingrid Wright)