Antiskeptic @ The Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (11/02/2012)

Antiskeptic quit the game back in 2008, with their last show being at The Hi-Fi in Melbourne. This show was captured for the final-sounding Goodbye Goodnight DVD, but only three and half years hence, the band made their Melbourne comeback with a slightly rejigged line-up at The Northcote Social Club.

Frontman Andrew Kitchen and drummer Nick Coppin were back with two new bandmates in Ryan Mclerie (guitar) of House Vs Hurricane and Travis Wardlaw (bass) from No Love for Lexi. Andrew reasoned that if Ian Kenny can be in Karnivool and Birds of Tokyo there was no reason why they too couldn’t share members.

The ‘Back in the Game Tour’ has been interspersed with support slots and festival gigs. For their Melbourne stand, they brought three bands with them; Adelaide’s Move To Strike along with Perth’s Emperors and Adelaide-via-Melbourne’s The Miracle is Now. Move To Strike had second billing and put in a thoroughly enthusiastic set. The Adelaide boys seemed to really enjoy themselves in front of a constantly building crowd. Vocalist Ben Green said numerous times what a pleasure it was to share the stage with Antiskeptic, calling it like being “a kid in a candy store”. While their set had merit, due to the fact most of the crowd were hardcore Antiskeptic fans who’d been waiting over three years for a night like tonight, it was hard for the band to really get the crowd involved due to their obvious lack of familiarity with their songs. It was their cover of Green’s self professed favourite song The Sweetness by US pop rock maestros Jimmy Eat World that got the crowd going the most.

After Move To Strike finished, the curtain on the stage was swept across while the roadies got the main act’s gear in order. A two-thirds full band room waited with anticipation for the Melbourne lads to make their way onstage. As soon as the lights dimmed, the crowd noise was incredible, especially given the amount of people in attendance. With enthusiastic waves from all members, they got stuck into it. Sounding like a band who were half way through a year long tour and had never missed a beat, they wasted no time getting the crowd excited.

After the second song, frontman Kitchen exclaimed “we’re back!”, while simultaneously raising a triumphant fist with glee. He then looked at the crowd excitedly and said, “we’re going to play Called now.” Arguably their best-known song – and one that brought them a high level of attention due to its frequency of rotations on both Triple J and Triple M back in 2002 – for this particular reviewer it felt for a few short minutes like it was grade seven again, and that Antiskeptic’s brand of optimistic rock was once more very much in season.

As the set wore on, Kitchen kept telling the adoring audience how much he appreciated them coming along. Combining genuine thanks with more than a few jokes about their “last” Melbourne gig, at one point Kitchen thanked John Farnham for giving them the comeback idea while plugging DVDs and T-shirts in honour of their last ever show. Kitchen was sweating up a storm and declared that he’d forgotten how much of a workout playing live was. There was no doubt that the band was as happy to be there as the crowd was to have them, and yet as the night continued the band struggled to transfer the joy of their live Melbourne return into their songs.

Their set didn’t contain any bad songs, and none were received with anything less than complete enthusiasm, but towards the end of the night, their exhaustion began to take a toll on the songs’ energy. A pity, but forgivable for a band whose two original members have been out of touring mode for a few years. A few more gigs in and they’ll surely manage to keep their groove right the way through; they’re too experienced not to.

The obligatory encore was always going to happen, in fact they barely walked offstage before they returned. Treating fans to two more songs and sounding rather revitalised, they finished with the brilliant Dancing on the Inside. While they are playing smaller venues than when they left the live scene, their enthusiasm, charm and loyal fan base will most likely see them work their way up into bigger venues in the coming months and years.

Showing off their new song The Kids Aren’t Scared to the audience proved that the band is back to make progress and finished what they started, to gain new fans and please existing ones, not simply to rehash old material to those who still cared. A solid gig from a veteran Aussie band who proved that they mean business upon their return.