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2010-09-17 - 7:14 p.m.

The Metro. I've lost count of how many times I've been there. Of how many times I've heard the one about the big blue "bar" sign being the only thing you can see from the stage. Can't remember how long ago it was that I vowed never to buy an overpriced plastic cup of bad red wine from their bar again.

But it was good to be back.

I'm sure it's an amazing experience to hear your songs played by a Symphony Orchestra, but really, there's only so much you can do with it before it becomes contrived and lacking in spontaneity. Hearing the Whitlams play "Eternal Nightcap" front to back last year was... well it would have been a wet dream 10 years ago, but as much as I appreciated it, I knew it was time to go back to seeing a band of four on a smaller stage, drunk and fucking things up.

I don't know if the Whitlams were back to their best on Friday night or if it just felt that way because they gave me what I wanted- a trip down memory lane with a few surprises thrown in- but who am I to overanalyse.

They walked on to "Handsome Boy Modelling School", threw away some of their less inspired work early in the set, and then it was 1997 again for a while... almost. "Charlie No. 1", which was once described as "feeling youth faded for the first time", was followed by a new song (on solo piano) which continued the theme of growing old with a story about starting a family more or less from the point of view of a widowed grandmother-to-be. Sounds lame, but felt genuine.

"Buy Now Pay Later" and "Charlie No. 3" followed, the latter comprising a haunting two verses and two choruses solo before the band kicked in for the middle eight which always makes me think of all the thoughts getting louder and louder in the protagonists head until it becomes too much.

A Bee Gee's inspired romp through "Laugh in Their Faces" (never one of my favourites on the album but it always seems to impress or at least amuse live) was followed by a lyric perfect rendition of "Tangled Up in Blue". Another new song- "Has Anyone Seen Peter Brown?" was a jaunty number about the homeless amateur astrologer who wore socks and thongs in the early nineties and told anyone who cared to listen how geminis love wooden dragons. "Thankyou" predictably closed the main set, while a far less predictable cover of Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things" kicked off the first of two encores. "Where's The Enemy" had to be aborted as Tim couldn't remember the words, despite many an audience member trying to remind him. No matter, he played it in the second encore instead, no doubt after consulting the liner notes to Eternal Nightcap, or an i-phone.

The last two songs came down to a vote between "End of Your World", "Band on Every Corner" and "Shining"- the first two got up, and while I would've much preferred "Following My Own Tracks" as a closer, all up it was a great gig which almost made me feel 24 again.

Approximate Setlist:

Keep a Light On/ Fall For You/ Made Me Hard/ Fondness Makes The Heart Grow Absent/ Up Against the Wall/ I Will Not Go Quietly/ Blow Up The Pokies/ Charlie #1/ New Song/ Buy Now Pay Later (Charlie #2)/ Charlie #3/ Royal in the Afternoon/ You Sound Like Louis Burdett/ Has Anyone Seen Peter Brown/ Laugh in Their Faces/ Tangled Up in Blue/ Gough/ No Aphrodisiac/ Thankyou// Oh! You Pretty Things/ Where's the Enemy (aborted)/ I Make Hamburgers/ I Was Alive// Where's The Enemy?/ End of Your World/ Band on Every Corner

 

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