Radio Birdman’s legendary Adelaide shows, from back in their heyday, playing at venues like the Marryatville Hotel and the Unley Town Hall, and which have now been further immortalised in their recent documentary, still rank as possibly the greatest live shows I’ve ever seen.
So, for me, and their multitudes of local fans, it’s always a great experience to get the opportunity to see the band, once again, steam through their catalogue of timeless Australian garage rock classics. Their setlist at The Gov on Sunday night delivered everything a Birdman fan would want to hear (except, sadly, no Murder City Nights – what were they thinking??)
The only problem with the gig though – and it was a significant one – was the sound mix. It was as if every knob and fader on the sound desk had been lazily turned up to 11. It was a bit like hearing Iggy Pop’s unlistenably heavy-handed remix of Raw Power, where all light and shade was removed to ensure every speakers would blow and all ears would ring for evermore.
Rob Younger’s voice was, as a result of this ‘louder is better’ philosophy, never more than a mumbling drone over the relentless wave of drilling guitars.
These songs obviously do need power and volume, but the result of an over-supply of both at this gig was that there was no sound separation between instruments at all – and so much of Deniz Tek’s still superb guitar work was subsequently lost in the sound tsunami.
Occasionally, Pip Hoyle’s keyboards could be heard, adding a touch of subtlety to Birdman’ sonic sledgehammer, but these moments were rare.
Whilst the set was Radios Appear heavy as to be expected, the band did find room to pay homage to their Detroit garage rock roots and they served up some razor-edged covers of Iggy’s Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, The Amboy Dukes’ Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind, and finished off with Roky Erickson & The 13th Floor Elevators’ seminal You’re Gonna Miss Me.
Despite the aural pain, memories of ’77 were rekindled when the band ripped through old favourites such as Do The Pop, Non-Stop Girls, Descent Into The Maelstrom, All Alone In The Endzone, Hand Of Law, New Race, and an extended encore that included some of the aforementioned covers, as well as Anglo Girl Desire, Aloha Steve & Danno and What Gives?
My devotion to all things Birdman still remains undiminished after this gig – but 12 hours later my ears are still screaming and paying the price for being, stupidly, ear plug free!
Radio Birdman played The Gov on Sunday 30 September.
Their documentary, Descent Into The Maelstrom, was released on 21 September and is available in independent record stores now.