Karnivool, Regular John, Coerce @ The Palace Theatre, Melbourne (02/12/2009)

Four pain staking long years after their debut Karnivool’s Sound Awake arrivedand the boys from Perth have every right to be damn proud of their latest effort. They have been touring it all over the world and in their final Australian appearances of 2009, Melbourne’s Palace theatre graciously hosted Karnivool for what could quite possibly be defined as one of the loudest, rawest shows performed all year.

Opening the nights proceedings were Adelaide band Coerce, who took to the Palace stage to a surprisingly large crowd so early on in the night. Beginning their set with Extortion Turned Publicity and Laneway, the boys of Coerce managed to grab my attention, so I promptly ushered myself to the barrier to have an upfront first hand Coerce experience. Continuing with Hotel Addiction, over the next forty-five minutes Coerce continued to push their way through a setlist full of spine tingling guitar riffs, demolishing drum solos and vocals which blasted the eardrums.

A short but sweet six song setlist was rounded out with tracks from their debut album Silver Tongued Life Licker, with A Sordid Past; This Hex Will Last offering a highlight of the night, but they saved the very best for last with the album’s title track succeeding in providing excellence in progressive rock.

Much to the disappointment of many punters, a last minute line up change saw the departure of San Francisco alternative rockers dredg, who had to pull out of their highly anticipated visit to our shores. The sudden change left many punters, but a last minute replacement slot saw Sydney favourites Regular John take the position and fill the void left by dredg.

Performing an incredibly enjoyable selection of tracks from their new album The Peaceful Atom is a Bomb they reminded me heavily of Grinspoon. Highlights included Transmitter, Sister Sister and their final song, Language. Blistering guitar solos, and an energetic in-your-face performance by lead singer Ryan Adamson (who broke two guitar strings during the set) proved that Regular John were a more than adequate replacement for dredg.

Karnivool’s dedicated fan base and song writing has grown immensely from the humble days of Persona into the mature and breathtaking brilliance of Sound Awake. The cult following is now an empire, and it is with no surprise that the anticipation for the Perth boys was immensely high, chants of –  “Karnivool!’ echoing throughout the Palace.

The lights drop and guitarist Hoss leads the band onstage to much applause. With the group on stage, Ian Kenny graces Melbourne’s crowd once again with his presence, complete with his very own quirky Disney 3D Movie glasses. With everybody in place, Kenny subtlety nods, and the party begins.

Opening with the first single from Sound Awake, the pulse racing Set Fire to the Hive, the mosh pit begins to thrive like a hornets’ nest, a suiting fit to Kenny’s distorted vocals. It’s the perfect opening to set the atmosphere and ferocious pace of the night’s proceedings. Heralding back to the days of Themata, the next two songs are none other than Roguefort, which is greeted with raw intensity and excitement, and the out of this world Cote.

–  “Well hello everybody and welcome!’ says Kenny as he greets us with a devilish grin, before launching into Illumine. Punters crowdsurf through the mosh to the stage, before being yanked by security. As Hoss begins with the melodic taps of the xylophone, Sound Awake’s opening track Simple Boy begins and cheers erupt throughout the crowd. Simple Boy strips back to the emotional depth of Karnivool, with its slow melodic moments and its deep brooding chorus lines. It lead into Goliath; a song which lives up to its name. John Stockman’s bass could be felt as the room trembled with each stroke of the instrument, you could not have felt more a part of the show than at this moment. Karnivool have no trouble in letting the Palace tremble beneath their feet as the crowd lap up the atmosphere.

One of the show’s many highlight’s came in the performance of the ten minute long epic that is Deadman, which showcases their power to perform long ballads, intricately intertwined with guitar solos and Judd’s drum lines. With the vocals and beautifully written lyrics, the song is a perfect example not only Kenny’s commanding vocals but of the band’s willingness to explore and showcase a myriad of songwriting and sonic possibilities.

Breaking into their next single All I Know, the crowd’s enthusiasm for Karnivool sees the mosh pit boiling and a very small circle pit briefly appears. When all seems to quieten down for a second, the beautiful, roaring masterpiece that is New Day begins like a choir, with possibly every member of the audience singing along. New Day is truly a highlight in not only the show, but in Karnivool’s career. It’s long been played at previous gigs, tested for crowds during the four year production of Sound Awake and the finished product is just a finely crafted product of the time, effort and dedication that has been taken with the album.

The Medicine Wears Off provided a slowdown in the tempo, but much like on the album, was blended seamlessly with The Caudal Lure. Finishing off the main set for the night, the song which could be considered the unofficial national anthem of Karnivool Themata began with its booming bass and thematic opening guitar riff. To have seen the crowd, you would describe it as chaotic brilliance as they sang along with each and every word. To be a part of it is something no self confessed –  “Vool fan can deny is a one off sheer velocity.

In what will no doubt be described as the undeniable highlight of the night, the first encore saw the arrival of a very special and unexpected guest, with Wally De Backer, better known to some as Gotye taking to the stage. Those familiar with both Gotye and Karnivool’s early work will know that Karnivool covered Gotye’s song The Only Way for the remix album, Mixed Blood. The sight of two of Australia’s finest vocalists sharing the stage for one very special, perhaps even one off performance is something I don’t believe anybody in the Palace will forget. When it came to the chorus, as Gotye reached the high note singing –  “This is the only way!’ even Kenny joined the crowd and looked on in awe. Truly a marvellous moment, that had to be seen to have been believed.

Unfortunately, conclusions are inevitable. And what better way to end a such a charismatic show than with the Sine Waves and Mirrors tour song – the blockbuster Change. Like a mixed bag of the whole show, Change simply is Karnivool at their very best. As the ten minute long epic reaches its crescendo, Kenny strums an acoustic guitar, and Drew plays some subtle keys which slowly winds the night down to its conclusion, as though the imaginary curtain is closing on the stage. Behind him, Steve Judd concludes the night, blistering through the drum solo finale, as the entire Palace theatre crowd watches on in awe. A brief split second silence and Karnivool are drowned in applause and cheers for more as they depart the stage, but not before Kenny can stand before his crowd and hold his hands up high triumphantly.

Karnivool had once again raised expectations. It is inevitable that they are destined for bigger and better things. –  “The show will begin. Please wake up.’