Shining Bird don’t just write songs, they create experiences. On record they are expansive, drawing out dreamy pop elements into elongated, illusory episodes that are nothing if not experiential. But live on stage, they are something else altogether.
With an abundance of charm and a cacophony of sound at their command, Shining Bird ascended to soaring heights at Newtown Social Club last night.
Playing to a packed-out Newtown Social Club, the band launched their new record Black Opal last night with the fervour of a band at the height of self conviction. Never have Shining Bird sounded more explorative, more confident or more together.
Kicking off with Black Opal opener I Can Run, Dane Taylor’s thunderous baritone immediately demands attention, clear in diction and smoked with the poise of a master storyteller.
Despite the liberal use of echo on his voice and the pillow of sound provided by the parade of instruments behind him, Taylor’s knack for narrative isn’t lost. If anything, in a live setting, his words are clearer and less encumbered by embellishments, and new phrases, stories and meanings emerge within the songs because of it.
Stare Into The Sun, the 7 minute epic from Leisure Coast and Black Opal’s dark horse Morning Light followed I Can Run, and with it the cast of cohorts that circle Taylor’s central figure began to emerge from the shadows.
Shining Bird live are very much the sum of seven parts, with each member providing their own flourishes and oddities that are harmonious in their dissonance.
Russell Webster’s dual keyboards provide padding synth sounds and luscious soundscapes that sit closely with Taylor’s strummed acoustic; Michael Slater’s bellowing sax and Alister Webster’s weeping guitar are often interchangeable, trading off blows and esoteric flourishes; and the backline of chugging bass from Nathan Stratton, cavernous drums from Ricci Quirke, and crucial electronics and indigenous Australian percussion from James Kates all culminated in something that can only be described as absorbingly cacophonous.
The band’s mid-set experimental jam is an excellent example of this. Starting off with a free-jazz sax solo, the jam transformed into a groove-heavy interlude that recalled the ghosts of Air before accelerating into a hallucinatory wall of noise.
Again the band showed off their dynamic nature with a calm, swirling rendition of Black Opal album track Utopia before launching into a masterful reinvention of Echo and the Bunnymen‘s The Killing Moon, invigorated by the band’s salt-caked Australiana essence.
Rivermouth – the first single we heard off Black Opal – marked the end of the set. The track, which once sounded so foreign, was now embraced by the crowd like an old mate, all swaying along with uplifting melancholy. When the band left the stage you knew they weren’t done, and to wails and whistles they returned for a stripped back version of Helluva Lot.
With Taylor on his acoustic and the band scattered around mics, arms over shoulders singing backups, the song was imparted with even more poignancy than the original – a wistful plea for action against the annihilation of the earth which Shining Bird embody so much.
Ending on a high note, Leisure Coast’s magnum opus Distant Dreaming followed to swells of emotion and rapturous applause from the packed room; a climatic finale to a soaring set from Shining Bird which only further affirmed to us that they are, indeed, one of the finest band’s in the country.