It was a still Melbourne night, neither hot nor cold, and pulses restfully pumped in anticipation for post-punk royalty, The The, to impart both art and music upon their loyal, missing fans.
It’s been almost 30 years since the band have performed in Melbourne, and 16 since they’ve performed at all, although a calm still themed this evening with faith of a memorable return.
And what a wonderful venue to welcome the five-piece collective back to, the State Theatre spiralled within Arts Centre Melbourne. It’s a cherished tract where music, theatre, and words collide under velvet and twinkling lights. The night bore delicate and other-worldly. The The’s lead vocalist, Matt Johnson, fronted the evening with a keen angle of perception. Johnson spoke gracefully when painting the image for the evening.
As a band, The The mark their collectivity with all black attire, both equal parts dashing as emotive. A three quarter white — one quarter black — screen is their backdrop when the show begins with a long drawn-out instrumental. ‘Flesh and Bones’ is then welcomed, and comes in full-swing. As the song slowly burns and lights up, so does Johnson’s face, a shade of deep green. We’ve now become exposed to the rawness of the return.
Plenty is learnt about how the songs were first devised and evolved, one of note being their seminal track, and possibly most widely recognised, ‘This is The Day’ from album Dust. Johnson tells the tale of how his 20-year-old self had all the advancements a young man could when writing it: his first signed record deal and a love interest. With the audience taking on these two racing emotions, the recognisable sounds of ‘This is The Day’ brought us back down from above. We float amongst the nostalgia and sway. Although Johnson keeps the once-rocketing track down to a restrained and part-serious energy, it is wonderfully explored on this evening.
The band gift a two and a half hour performance and Johnson continued to lead us through his thought paths and stories. Some of which took political curves too. It is here we came into contact with his geopolitic intimacy. ‘The Beat(en) Generation’ from Mind Bomb illustrates this as Johnson repeats within a — I must say — kind of cheesy melody: “The beaten generation, the beaten generation, open your eyes, open your imagination.”
‘Love Is Stronger Than Death’ energised the crowd and lifted them from their seats. Hands were flung and wrapped around neighbouring fans, and ‘Uncertain Smile’ fuelled the last of us as the theatre rejoiced. At the same time, we were reminiscent of the band’s exclusive effect with their music. The keyboard solo in this track was all power.
It’s clear The The have curated their comeback special to the beat of their own heart. The setlist was tight, and curated with reason — nothing shall obstruct its path. As the band unite, thank the crowd and walk off, they return with a final blast of ‘Lonely Planet (Ode to Bill Hicks)’ that reminded us all of the perception The The’s music holds within: “If you can’t change the world, change yourself.”
Highlight: The ‘Uncertain Smile’ keyboard solo
Lowlight: The refusal to play ‘Giant’, although respect for sticking to their decided setlist.
Crowd Favourite: The Beat(en) Generation