Van She, Rufus, Panama, Beni @The Metro Theatre, Sydney 14/7/2012

Four years is a long time between drinks for Van She with debut album V having been released way back in 2008. With new record Idea of Happiness having just hit stores, there were plenty of punters frothing at the bit to see how the new songs would fare in the live arena. This coupled with a top notch domestic bill of up and comers including Panama and Rufus and with Beni spinning tracks off the back of his time touring with Groovin The Moo, made the night a rather exciting prospect for both the live music fan and those generally more comfortable in the darkened confines of a nightclub.

Opening duties of the night fell to Jarrah McCleary’s (Ex The Dirty Secrets) new project Panama. They kept the early revelers entertained with their blend of buoyant, eighties indebted indie rock. The carefree and summery pop songs they trade in where greatly enhanced in the live setting by the five piece band that included both a bongo player and a saxophonist. When they brought their set to a close with current single Magic which is currently earning a fair bit of play time on triple j few in the crowd were resistant to its upbeat pop charm and much of the audience begun to dance along.

A change over in sets brought Beni back out onto the decks to play a selection of club hits and while it kept much of the crowd entertained and dancing throughout the so often monotonous set changes. It also caused an equal amount to flee from the constant barrage of noise and escape to the front bar of the Metro to catch a breath and actually hear one another speak. As a result when Rufus took the stage after a short change-over they were greeted with only a half filled room. It is a testament to their rising popularity off the back of last year’s infectious self-titled EP that by the conclusion of second song Nocturnal, the venue had suddenly filled out to capacity. All three members of the band abandoned their usual instruments to pick up percussion on multiple occasions in the night, locking in on the rhythm provided by the top notch drumming to produce an outstanding conclusion to new single The Summer. Mid-set they delivered a competent, but seemingly unnecessary cover of Gotye’s Hearts A Mess with the sole purpose to further highlight the skills of the drummer particularly during the epic drumming solo at the conclusion of the track. Paris Collides served as a fitting conclusion to an impressive and exciting live set that saw Rufus not only win over the home town crowd but also put on a serious challenge for the headliners to produce something as thrilling and entertaining.

Van She spent a considerable amount of time promoting and touring V so it comes as little surprise that they may be somewhat tired of playing songs off it. It is a pity this was made clear tonight when early into the set Changes and Strangers were played back to back at a rushed pace, the loss of space in these songs resulted in both sounding like poor covers of their original source. Luckily this was not the standard of the remainder of the set with old classic Kelly eliciting an impassioned sing along from punters.

The best moments of the night where reserved for the new tracks from Idea of Happiness, when playing these new songs the band played with a level of energy enthusiasm and precision that was missing at several points throughout the set. This commitment was rewarded by the audience who were more than happy to dance and sing along. The Beat of The Drum with its use of calypso rhythms and summery guitar was given an extended treatment that saw the band build the track towards a thrilling and jovial climax that would have elicited a cheeky grin from even the most jaded of hipsters.

Tears closed out the main set and before the band even had time to leave the stage they had already returned and kicked off into current single Idea of Happiness, which was taken as an invite by the rowdy Saturday night audience to pretend they were at Big Day Out and jump on one another’s shoulders. With the liberal dose of summery pop on offer tonight it is understandable that some punters may have become confused and mistaken themselves to be at a summer festival.