Image courtesy of the Barbican
The bandmembers were then introduced to the stage by a bombastic, preacherly compere, and they kicked things off with ‘Too Hot To Move, Too Hot To Think’. With a relaxed, at-home feel to the performance, the stage had been made to resemble a lounge room or backyard bbq, complete with a bar to the side where the guest performers could stop and have a beer until they were needed. A well-planned rehydration schedule for the musicians in place, the performance could run for over three hours without intermission with singers and musicians changing places as the increasingly trying MC introduced them. Unfortunately, the audience weren’t so well hydrated and before too long there was a steady stream of people heading to or from the bar (fine if people are standing in a room or a festival field but much more annoying in a seated concert hall).
Distractions aside, the audience clearly revelled in this rare chance to see their heroes perform, along with plenty of guests. Rob Snarski’s first turn at the mic for ‘In The Pines’ early in the set clearly got everyone warmed up, and Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds) singing ‘The Seabirds’ was another early highlight. The stripped back start of ‘Bury Me Deep In Love’ had a particularly haunting, elegaic tone, and the feeling of attending a wake was made complete when David’s brother and band-mate Robert McComb talked us through a slide show of old photos and read some of his teenage poetry. It soon returned to the music, and ‘Ocean of You’ from Rob Snarski and The Blackeyed Susans reminded us that McComb could write beautiful songs outside the Triffids too. Eventually the compere drew out one pause a little too long and found it filled by a polite heckle, vaguely cheered by the audience. Perhaps that sour note added a little extra pressure, because the karaoke-bar rotating vocalist policy came undone when Stuart Staples (Tindersticks) launched in to an overly breath-y ‘Wide Open Road’ and fluffed his lines. The audience were forgiving though, and a few songs later it was standing ovations and encores all round.
A non-stop three hour tribute might seem indulgent, but the Triffids’ and McComb’s legacy is one well worth indulging. The literate and passionate songs are as powerful today as they were in the eighties, and the cult band from one of the most remote parts of Australia are still able to fill a hall and treat the fans to something special.