After a metal-heavy ear drubbing from Melbournian psychobillies Fireballs – led from the back by the ever dry (some might say atrophied) humour of drummer Eddie Fury – a man who bears a curious and slightly unsettling resemblance to Britpunk renaissance man John Robb, so close in fact I found myself squinting at him in probably strange fashion throughout the band’s all-too-brief set to satisfy myself that it wasn’t actually old man Gold Blade himself in the living flesh – and from the front by the athletic standup bass stylings of Joe Phantom – the thinly-attended Metro begins to swelter as we wait for the headline attraction and the support band turn on the gas. Fireballs are a great band by the way – probably best seen in their own natural habitat rather than supporting genre titans like Tiger Army – and you should definitely check them out should you stumble across them in the future.
Anyways, back to tonight’s main event. Thankfully the crowd has filled out – though a curtain still rails off the Metro’s upstairs bar area, leaving we happy band of brothers and sisters that have come out to see what’s up being crammed in together in suitably communal style to witness the boy 13, former Warrant drummer Mike ‘The Sack’ Fasano and double bassist/Lemmy associate Djordje Stijepovic in action.
And what good, at times brilliant action it is too. Opening with the stupendous Firefall from last year’s excellent V…- opus may seem like a no-brainer, but you never know what ‘artistes’ are going to do these days so it’s nice when they do what any right-thinking fan of the band thinks they should… the song is met with gratifying whoops and a minor breakout of what we used to call in the business ‘chicken dancing’ and we’re away… as the band plunders all sections of it’s impressive back catalogue over the course of a surprisingly intense hour-long set. Nick 13 is as quiet, thoughtful and respectful an interviewee as you could hope to encounter, yet tonight his frankly barking alter-ego takes over, leading the band through breakneck renditions of tracks like True Romance with fire in his heart and sweat on his brow. It’s hard to believe that this song is eighteen years old, as the band attack it with such vigour and verve it sounds like it came out only yesterday. If Firefall kicked down the door and announced the band’s presence at our stylish little soiree, True Romance sees them taking control of the stereo and settling in for the night. And, from where I’m standing, I don’t see anyone complaining.
A stripped down I Am the Moth features some great drumming from Fasano, but really cries out for some of the frippery that accompanied the studio version. The approbation with which the song is received probably indicates that I’m in a minority on that one, and at this point your reviewer decides that too much analysis is probably a bad thing, and that it’s best to crack another beer and just start enjoying.
A jaunty run through Devil Girl aids that process, with a nice Setzeresque solo from 13 getting feet moving all over the dancefloor. Whatever the band’s severe haircuts, black clothing and exhortations to ‘fuck the world’ might suggest, this is essentially music for pleasure, and tracks like Cupid’s Victim, delivered with exuberance tonight – underline that fact.
Dark and Lonely Night gives the feet a chance to rest – and affords a neat little rehydration window – but a magnificent reading of Pain gets everyone dancing and elicits the first mass singalong of the night. The band have us where they want us now, ramming home their position with a metallized F.T.W; It’s a miracle Stijepovic has any fingers left after that, but he does and he uses them to great effect on the similarly hellbent Jungle Cat, digits flying as the band rock out as if the last twenty one years never happened. It’s impressive stuff, Nick 13 seemingly possessed if not by the power of moonlite – which sadly didn’t get an airing – then certainly by the primal urges unleashed by this venerable old warhorse.
Rose of the Devil’s Garden flies by, whilst another selection from last year’s V…-, Devil Lurks Along the Road is given a superb, bluesy makeover that leaves it sounding not a little like George Thorogood in it’s greasy, destitute and very nasty riffage. A poignant Never Die is dedicated by Nick to his late mother, and ends the main part of the set amidst crashing cymbals and ringing powerchords. We’re not made to wait long for the encores, the crowd amusing themselves by continuing to chant Never Die! NEVER DIE!! to pass the time, but time isn’t on our side now as the night starts to slide away and the band are back launching into a crisp rendition of Afterworld. We pause briefly to vote on what gets played next – Nocturnal gets the nod, and then we get the rousing Sea of Fire to round things out on another anthemic highlight.
Great stuff then – you couldn’t have asked for a more well-balanced or varied set, and there wasn’t one member of the Tiger Army – either onstage or off – who didn’t end the night with a big, catlike grin on their faces.
Pics: Kathryn Adams