There’s no doubt that 2013 has already been another career-defining year for the Drones. After curating All Tomorrow’s Parties festival I’ll Be Your Mirror, they dropped sixth studio album <>I See Seaweed, which was rapturously received by fans and critics alike.
You’d think opening for a band that is arguably at the peak of their career with be nerveracking, but support act King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard play confidently to a decent crowd. Squealing harmonica, maracas and a theremin set them apart from Melbourne’s occasionally homogenous rock’n’roll scene – but once the Drones come on stage, the seven piece feels like distant memory.
In shadowy lighting, the Drones launch into the title track from their latest album. Lead singer Gareth Liddiard has developed a reputation as talented lyricist, and the combination of storytelling, stark imagery and pessimistic proselytising in the opening track validates this. In the cavernous opulence of the Forum Theatre, Liddiard appears like a demented preacher, as he spits and growls lines such as “It’s like I’m shooting at a shadow that a bomb burned on the wall”.
The band play intuitively. Keyboardist Steve Hesketh’s deft tinkling is a highlight, especially on I See Seaweed track ‘How to See Through Fog’. The older tracks, such as the award-winning 2006 song that came to define them for a while, ‘Shark Fin Blues’, are still satisfying. However, it’s during the newer tracks that the show rises above even the rousing performances the group are already known for. Troubadour ballad ‘Nine Eyes’ is another standout, with bass player Fiona Kitschin’s backup vocals just as arresting as on the album.
‘Why Write a Letter that You’ll Never Send’ is a fitting closer for the evening, building from contemplative with just the lightest tapping of drummer Mike Noga’s cymbals and Liddiard rasping to the cacophony of Dan Luscombe’s guitar, culminating with the wail: “Who’s surprised they went and chose a Nazi for a pope?”
With lines like that, we’re confident the ‘Shark Fin Blues’ legacy has been overthrown.