McLusky*, Horror My Friend, Dilettantes @ Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide 10/1/2020

Mclusky were a band that existed for at the tail end of the 90s and only into the first half decade of this century until bass player and co-vocalist Jon Chapple left to pursue a different sound. The remaining members Andrew Falkous (Falco) and Jack Egglestone continued on as Future of The Left latterly with bass player Julia Ruzicka. Following initial one-off “reformations” starting in 2014 and recent UK shows which were basically FOTL supplemented by Damien Sayles, as a three piece sans Julia they are currently touring Australia under the banner mclusky* (perhaps indicating that this is not the original line-up although it is quite unlikely that Jon Chapple will form his own touring version as has been done in the case of other bands’ retro reformations to varying degrees of success and usually viewed with cynicism by fans).

Prior to the headliner, local supports Dilettantes played a set of ambient feedback, and slowly building hypnotic, rhythmic grooves overlaid by loud, emotive, interchanging shouting and screaming while Horror My Friend seemed to do a considerable amount bass and guitar swapping between songs that included back and forth, call and response vocals alternating from whispers to screams over pounding drums, driving fuzz distorted bass and sudden dynamic changes. Unfortunately both their sets were hampered by a bass sound too high in the mix occluding the individuality of songs although thankfully this was later corrected allowing for more clarity in the mix during the mclusky* set that followed.

An appetite for nostalgia and fans who are happy to ignore what could be seen as perhaps an opportunistic divergence from Falco and Jack’s outings as FOTL have resulted in there being a significantly larger audience assembled than the 28 that Falco later states turned up at their last appearance in Adelaide back in 2004 with more than that number in the audience claiming to have been there to his protests and disbelief.    

Commencing their set with the potentially autobiographical Fuck This Band which is not as self-deprecating as the title would imply, just another in a long line of self-descriptive band on the road dispatches. The relatively physically static Falco was in contrast to the far more visually active Damien on bass, although the energy Falco was giving off was prominently notable from the neck up.

A couple of songs in and the danceable groove of Without MSG I Am Nothing pulled in the audience with the unchanging, repetitive vocal refrain of “Everywhere I look I see darkness” creating increasingly more tension as it progressed. Damien took over the vocals for What We’ve Learned demonstrating that although his style differs from Jon Chapple, he is a more than adequate proxy.

“Don’t get excited. Nothing’s happened yet” is only one of many examples of Falco’s renowned sarcastic wit displayed throughout out the set between and even within songs such as when Damien appears to briefly pass out on stage. That the set is peppered with Falco’s asides as he is egged on by a bloodthirsty audience and that there are several false starts to songs are not to the detriment of the set but rather an enhancement of the overall experience. He even openly acknowledges his more than occasional commentary with, “A little confrontation elevates the art form don’t you think?”

Light Sabre Cocksucking Blues incites a rousing audience chant, the front and centre coming alive to mosh, Falco commenting afterwards, “That’s my favourite Supergrass song to play” which is not his only sarcastic self-comparison to that band during the evening. “This next song is lyrically trite and a minute too long” he tells us before adding not that we won’t like it but that we shouldn’t like it prior to That Man Will Not Hang. He clarifies,“this song is better than the last one” and the song that follows begins by sounding like a cover of “that” song from Silence of the Lambs (Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus). Although it might not be a cover as such as it becomes recognisable by the chorus of “Alan was a cowboy killer”, Damien early on appearing to dance in a similar fashion to Buffalo Bill from the aforementioned film.

Falco Vs The Young Canoeist is introduced as a “song we call cardio”, reportedly a reference to the physical and vocal workout employed therein. There is a stand out performance of You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus before the apparently new inclusion to the set (Falco introduces it as never having been played by the band before, and perhaps not as this line up) of  the band’s most pop moment She Will Only Bring You Happiness which is nearly withheld by the band reacting to a heckle comparing Damien to Ed Sheeran (simply based on him being a redhead) and there is an audience sing along of “our old singer is a sex criminal” (and no it’s not about Jon Chapple for the uninitiated as he was in the band when they released it and Falco reportedly holds no animosity towards his former band mate).

With the final medley of To Hell With Good Intentions and Reviewing The Reviewers the set almost comes full circle. Damien appears recharged, performing the physical dynamics that he commenced the set with. The segue into the final song brings the show to a close with the cryptic autobiographical lyrics seemingly an appropriate bookend along with the clearer lyrics in the opening song Fuck This Band, perhaps putting into perspective that for most of his life in jobbing bands Falco has been living only a step above hand to mouth. Let’s hope that now as a family man with a child in tow he and his bands will deservedly get the recognition that will elevate him above everyday financial constraints because I think that would be a good thing for us all.  

Live Review By Jason Leigh

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