They’re one of our best bands at the moment – and this gig could have been perfect

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This wrap of shows around Melbourne includes a gig by a group that is currently one of Australia’s best bands, a sold-out arena show by country superstar Luke Combs and an exhilarating deep dive into the work of Franz Liszt.

Body Type ★★★½
Corner Hotel, August 19

Body Type does silly as well as they do serious. Exhibit A: at their headlining Melbourne show in support of their second album, Expired Candy, the four band members walk on to the stage soundtracked by the Oompa-Loompa song from Willy Wonka, before blasting off with Holding On.

Body Type perform at the Corner Hotel on August 19.Credit: Rick Clifford

It’s always a riot with the Sydney band, and they’re tight as ever. Expired Candy leans into a poppier sound than their 2022 debut, Everything is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising, and the balance between the two sonic worlds is well-struck in the set – a transition from newer pop-punk track Anti-Romancer into one of their best, the furious The Charm, is especially seamless.

Body Type splits vocal and songwriting duties between three members: Sophie McComish, Annabel Blackman and Georgia Wilkinson-Derums (the group is rounded out by drummer Cecil Coleman).

Each brings a distinctive personality live – Blackman’s songs, such as Couple Song and Albion Park, are darker and more sombre, while McComish and Wilkinson-Derums’ yelps drive the likes of Weekend and Creation of Man. Joyous gang vocals drive Expired Candy’s title track, and Miss The World – a love letter to Body Type itself – is even more fun live.

Body Type is in fine form, and it’s always a pleasure to watch them on stage together,Credit: Rick Clifford

The band is in fine form, and it’s always a pleasure to watch them on stage together – they’re clearly having fun, and McComish in particular adopts an old-school rockstar vibe.

It’s hard to fault their performance, but a strangely quiet mix and a half-full bandroom with a mostly docile crowd lets down what could have been a perfect gig. It’s a shame to see the band – truly one of Australia’s best at the moment – give so much energy and passion on stage and have it largely unmatched. A smaller, more intimate venue would have suited this show much better, and allowed that dynamic – normally a fixture of their gigs – to shine.
Reviewed by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen

Luke Combs ★★★★
Rod Laver Arena

Luke Combs is seriously loved. Some people told me they’d driven from three hours away to be here, bringing along a car full of kids. Others had boarded a flight from Tasmania accompanied by half a cabin of country-loving folks wearing denim jackets and neon-lit Stetson hats.

This sort of commitment explains how the North Carolinian Combs – despite not being on the radar of many of Melbourne’s music hipsters – managed to sell out two Rod Laver Arenas within days of tickets going on sale.

Luke Combs sold out two Rod Laver Arena shows within days of tickets going on sale.Credit: Rick Clifford

Even before Combs strode on stage, the crowd was ecstatic, singing along to a pre-show soundtrack of Australian rock anthems. His eventual arrival elicited a roar as loud as any you’ll hear at this venue – including for the likes of Federer and Williams. This set the tempo for a show characterised by the love of the audience.

From the opening number, the honky tonk rocker Lovin’ On You, through to Combs’ latest platinum hit, a cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, people in the seated areas were up on their feet, dancing, swaying and singing at full volume. Those on the floor tried desperately to edge closer to the 33-year-old country music phenomenon and his band of slick Nashville session pros.

During his 2016 breakout single, Hurricane, the audience investment became even more passionate, a testament to how long some people had waited to see their everyman hero.

The crowd for Luke Combs was one of the most engaged and doting audiences you’re ever likely to be part of.Credit: Rick Clifford

Combs in person was just as he seems on record – an average, bearded guy in denim trousers and a trucker cap who sings about his feelings just as much as he sings about cracking open an ice-cold beer.

There was something comical about witnessing a packed arena of people singing along to the mega-hit Beer Never Broke My Heart – “Long neck / Ice cold / Beer never broke my heart” – but while Combs mightn’t be collecting a Pulitzer Prize anytime soon, you couldn’t question the unifying power of this performance.

A few songs earlier, Combs had asked people to raise their hands “if you’re having a drink with me tonight.” The whole room erupted, couples hugged and groups of friends said cheers to one another, while kids younger than 10 let out screams of joy.

Nothing could contain the sheer enthusiasm of this crowd – one of the most engaged and doting audiences you’re ever likely to be part of.
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Liszt’s Lance into the Future: Transcendental Etudes ★★★★
Australian National Academy of Music, Abbotsford Convent, August 18

Very few figures in the history of music have been quite as fascinating or as influential as Franz Liszt, whose precocious talent for self-promotion and reinvention was mercifully matched with extraordinary pianism, searching intellect and almost endless creativity.

In seeking to contextualise Liszt’s influence through a series of concerts entitled Liszt’s Lance into the Future, pianist Michael Kieran Harvey and his colleagues at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) have brought together a welcome variety of performers and repertory to enrich students and listeners alike.

Opening this bold initiative, Kieran Harvey and ANAM students Reuben Johnson, Matthew Garvie, Ronan Apcar, Leo Nguyen and Po Goh formed something of a relay team to tackle the almost insuperable challenges of Liszt’s 12Transcendental Etudes.

Pianist Michael Kieran Harvey.Credit: Peter Mathew

Each study a musical maelstrom, these performers valiantly attempted to manage fistfuls of notes while giving listeners a mountain-peak view of the composer’s grand melodic conception. The daunting task of balancing romantic abandonment with technical precision, of background and foreground, remains for most a work in progress.

After canvassing Liszt’s virtuosic side, ANAM artistic director Paavali Jumppanen gave deeply considered and tellingly expressive accounts of three short Liszt works dating from the 1880s. Grey Clouds, Dark Star! Sinister, Disastrous and La Lugubre Gondola all reveal a composer at the cutting edge of thematic and harmonic development.

Kieran Harvey then brought his fearless, trademark bravura to Johanna Selleck’s Homage to Liszt, a vibrant 2013 work that refracts Liszt’s virtuosic and emotional power through a colourful contemporary lens.

ANAM head of piano Timothy Young brought the concert to an exhilarating close with Fitzroy Jazz II, a movement from Kieran Harvey’s Piano Sonata No. 6. Played with flair, this heady mixture of infectious enthusiasm and edgy, slightly manic energy percolating up from the keyboard would surely have gained Liszt’s approval.
Reviewed by Tony Way

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