You Am I @ The Annandale Hotel, Sydney (14/11/09)

Playing three shows at the Annandale, this was almost the perfect place to see one of Australia’s iconic rock bands of the last 20 years. It was unclear whether You Am I decided to play these shows to support The Annandale’s financial battles with council or merely that they wanted to get back to basics in a small and sweaty pub venue.

Either way, it didn’t matter as they played a solid two hours of life affirming rock –  “n roll that took in all the cliches of the genre but delivered them with such verve and gusto that hardened cynics would have had to check their attitude at the door.

Warming the crowd (after a solid set by Skybombers ) was a completely unknown band by the name The Crimes. After a bewildering bout of “I recognise that guy!”, it quickly became apparent that The Crimes were in fact The Vines playing an undercover support slot. Flanked by what looked like twins on bass and guitar, Craig Nicholls ran through his back catalogue and introduced us to a new song off an album due in 2010.

Gone were the erratic tantrums and unpredictability from the frontman. The signs were still there, but he appeared relaxed and enjoying clearing out the cobwebs with a rare live set. All the hits were there – Highly Evolved, Ride and Get Free – balanced by some of his sweet –  “60s ballads. It was a powerful and fun set that reminded how much more than a one-hit-wonder The Vines have become, making for a bright looking future.

You Am I bounded on stage looking like they were boxers entering the ring; Tim Rogers immediately taking on the role of ring announcer/pirate/showman. Over the next two hours, he spouted wisdom, bullshit, jokes and heartfelt thanks while the band navigated a now large back catalogue of hits and –  “should have been’ hits.

Seeing You Am I live generates a familiar feeling, with memories of summer nights in pubs, sun baked Big Day Outs and the heady days of the late –  “90s when the music seemed so life-affirming. As a result it was like catching up with old friends, the bouncy Davey Lane, the immovable Andy Kent the rollicking Russell Hopkinson on drums and of course Mr Rogers.

The songs are what makes it all so energising and they were happy to oblige the fans with hits from across their career. Gunslingers, Cathy’s Clown, Mr Milk, a storming version of Junk and ton of others were all played with renewed gusto. Heavy Heart was reworked into a tougher, faster romp that showed they respect their older songs but want to keep them fresh and fun to play.

A couple of covers snuck into the set, with the most impressive being the genius opening shot of Regurgitator’s I Sucked A Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am and The Lemonheads’ Rudderless. Both songs strangely sounded just like the originals while still sounding like pure You Am I. Andy Kent took lead vocals on Neil Young’s Come On Baby Lets Go Downtown while Lane and Hopkinson showed on a couple of songs that they too have strong, distinct voices.

You Am I showed yet again that as soon as you start to write them off as Stones copyists, they prove you wrong and show that they are in fact an amalgam of Gram Parsons, MC5, Mudhoney and The Faces. They can crank out the riffs and then strip a song back to a simple melody like no one else.

After playing a set out at Cronulla earlier in the day and then playing for 120 minutes the same night, it shows the enthusiasm and passion for You Am I still drives the quartet. If they take that into the studio, we could well see a return to the form of their classic early records.