The Stems + Rocket Science | The Triffid, Newstead | Saturday 18 November, 2017

Melodically charged, 60’s channeling garage-pop proponents The Stems burnt a blazing trail through the Australian alternative music landscape during the 80’s, culminating in the release of their high watermark record ‘At First Sight Violets Are Blue‘ in 1987.

This show serves to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, and a big crowd, most of whom were no doubt around to remember them in their initial heyday, are on-hand to commemorate the occasion within the ever-excellent confines of The Triffid.

As a special treat the band have bestowed upon us a smashing support act in the form of Melbourne’s Rocket Science. Having blazed their own unique musical trail during the early 2000’s, tonight Rocket Science more than justify their place on the bill, powering out a ‘wall of sound’ garage rock extravaganza that leave the crowd captivated and breathless with awe.

Front man, organ player and part time Theremin channeller Roman Tucker is the true epitome of ‘lost in the moment’ rock and roll showman, working himself into a sweaty lather early on, and regularly decamping into the front row to flail as one with the crowd and sing like a man possessed.

To his left, bassist Dave Gray looks every inch the 70’s rock geezer, his authenticity matched by his amazingly dexterous playing and classic rock star posing as he throws himself into his work.

Highlights abound throughout their incendiary set, with opening number ‘Six Foot Four’, off their debut record ‘Welcome to the 3C10’, setting the bar high early on. ‘One Robot’ robustly demonstrates the band’s more electro-rock tendencies, and when drummer Kit Warhurst (yep Myff’s brother!) starts banging out the booming, funk heavy intro to ‘Being Followed’ the crowd raise an excited cheer, the fan-fave inducing more feverish dancing from Tucker as the band lock into a tight groove and ride it on home.

They depart off the back of the frantic ‘Burn In Hell’, burning their own indelible mark on tonight’s proceedings. It’s a treat to have them back.

Then it’s the turn of The Stems to blow us all away with their retro-tinged power pop par excellence.

As well as his usual cohorts, drummer David Shaw and sharply dressed bassist Julian Matthews, charismatically talented front man Dom Mariana is flanked this time by the welcome presence of Even’s Ash Naylor, whose exemplary guitar and vocal talents help lift tonight’s performance into the realms of the hallowed. With his Alladin Sane channeling hair style and 70’s rock shirt he also looks every inch the part.

The first part of the set sees their 1987 album given a chronological airing, bounding out of the blocks with the opening one-two punch of ‘At First Sight’, which gives way to the urgent power-pop of ‘Sad Girl’. While it’s great to once again hear barnstorming versions of classic tracks such as ‘You Can’t Turn The Clock Back’ and ‘For Always’, it’s a revelation to hear less aired album numbers such as the fun-time bounce of ‘Man With The Golden Heart’ given their chance to blossom in the live setting.

As an epicly unwinding version of album closer ‘The Otherside’ fades to rapturous applause, the band stay on to regale us with a choice smattering of back catalogue tracks, such as the gorgeous ‘Love Will Grow’. And they pull a rabbit from the hat and further delight us all with their penultimate number, a barnstorming version of classic Easybeats track, ‘Sorry’.

With most of the crowd gleefully singing along to all the words and sharing knowing smiles throughout, it’s a truly celebratory and revelatory evening, that serves as fitting milestone to the legacy of this much loved Aussie band.

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