Aussie legends bring their garage logic to the Triple Rock
Better than: A streetwalkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm. Or a Hawaii 5-0 Marathon.
Aussie cult legends Radio Birdman aren't so polished with the stage banter:
Guitarist Deniz Tek: Here's a song written by [vocalist] Rob Younger and [bassist] Jim Dickson"
Younger (surprised by the applause): Uh, it's like it's for us or something...
Tek (woodenly to crowd): Stop, you'll just make it worse.
(Band launches into "You Just Make It Worse")
But what they do extremely well, probably better than any smart party band before and since, is to blend earnest intensity and genuine fun together seamlessly.
Drawing on the legacy of 60s garage bands, the MC5, the Stooges, the Doors, Blue Oyster Cult, and a healthy dollop of surf music, Birdman's music draws on the past, but old treasures like "Do the Pop" and "I-94" feel as fresh as the day they were recorded. Singer Rob Younger's voice has lost some of its rich dark lower range, but he's made up for that with laser-like focus. When he's not looking at the crowd with a wandering yet penetrating gaze, he's as lost in the music as we are, mixing Iggy-ish arm gestures with good ole-fashioned mic-stand wrestling.
The band embodies the same kind of deadly serious fun. Egged on by moonlighting You Am I drummer, Russell Hopkinson, the fifty-somethings tear into treasured favorites like "Burn My Eye" (leaving a friend breathless with its speed), "Smith and Wesson Blues" and new songs from last year's Zeno Beach, like the aforementioned "Worse" and "Subterfuge," with drive and precision. Keyboardist Pip Hoyle is absent due to family problems on the eve of the tour, but the band musters a few extra guitar fills and soldiers on admirably. The band ends the main part of the show with a roaring "Aloha Steve and Danno" with the crowd shouting the chorus: "Steve, I want to say thank you/For all you've done for me." And after a roaring five song encore, that's what I want say to Birdman, too.
Personal Bias: As a teen visiting Australia in 1975-76, I saw Birdman posters in the train stations. But it was 1984 before I finally heard their classic LPs "Radios Appear" and "Living Eyes."
Random Detail: 15 members of St. Paul's Harding High Class of '80 were in attendance.
By the way: Back in the day, the band designed their logo to be easily duplicated by a kid with a stencil and a can of spray paint. Nowadays, you can have a shirt with that logo—drips and all!—for twenty bucks.