It’s hard to know what to expect when going to see a band that has been around for decades. Unless they’re in the ACDC/U2 category, you may be going to watch pairs of leather pants trying to spit out the love handles of grandma and grandpa. The fame monster has many victims and every musician fears becoming that guy or gal with age!
So when my good mate Paul Gildea from Icehouse invited me to watch their show at The Enmore, I went not knowing what to expect. I knew the leather pants would stay at home, but the show as a whole was a mystery. Only because I shamefully knew very little about Icehouse. Not only was this gig a-maz-ing, but I received a serious education. It was perfect timing too.
Flying solo, my seat and beer made me as comfortable as I could be. At this stage, I was still trying to manage anxiety, particularly in music and public settings, so the emotions were a little wobbly – but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Funny thing though, I hear a voice directly behind me say, “Oi, the guy in front of us looks like Michael Hutchence!” Sweet! That’s good for my ego. The recipient replies, “Noooooo, Michael Hutchence is waaay hotter!” Thanks, numb nuts!
The first thing I notice is the atmosphere. Every single soul was open and ready for Icehouse. The air was buzzing with anticipation. That’s a big deal these days. There’s so many reasons to be somewhere else, but this multi-generational crowd was here not only physically, but inside.
A great live experience will make me forget that I’m a musician. From the first chord of their set, I was gone! The hairs on the back of my neck wanted in. The rise and falls of dynamics were supported by a light show clearly driven by someone with musical intuition. There was choreography that stayed transparent to the mind. Front-house speakers were pumping out a mix that was clearly as rehearsed as every member on stage. Icehouse have quite an array of sounds, from simple drums bass and guitars to synths and backing vocals. Hard to mix in a live venue. Especially while trying to preserve the essence of the song. Iva’s vocals and those around him made me melt. Seriously! So much depth and power. Not Jimmy Barnes or Steve Tyler type power – it’s different. I can’t describe it. It almost feels like the song sings through him rather than the other way around.
The songs. The songs!!! I grew up on blues roots, so unfortunately didn’t have any Icehouse in my collection. With regards to blues rooted music of all styles, if it doesn’t move me, I’m following it with my mind. Note for note. Only because I understand it. But these songs come from a place completely foreign to me. It’s another language that could only speak to me through emotion. If I want to analyse it a bit, the arrangements can be quite complex. Chord melody and structure choice are sometimes far from typical, as is the production. Yet it all feels completely natural. Everything flows and supports the purpose of the song. It’s a real talent to build a song from the depths of musical intelligence without it sounding self-indulgent. There wasn’t a song that didn’t translate to the untrained.
Iva and Paul broke up the set with a few little stories and some casual banter. The lack of egoic stage presence had every member feature and shine at different times throughout the night. There were moments where I caught myself in a trance, thinking that they were just playing to me. I know everyone around me had those moments as well. We were nowhere else because THEY were nowhere else. It honestly felt like the world around us had shut down.
The train ride could barely put me back on the planet. During a time of “soul-cleansing”, their performance helped to dust off another part of my own vision. I hit my pillow with the following reminders circling my slumber.
- A great song transcends the listeners knowledge of music.
- Stage power and presence is not exclusively proportional to physical movement and loudness.
- Purposeful tours. Purposeful performance.
- People can’t be, and don’t want to be anywhere else if you’ve shutdown the world outside of the room.