This evening The University of Sydney’s Manning Bar was packed with students glad for the end to another week pushing pens and slaying essays, and punters drawn by hype - for this was to be no ordinary guitar rock-out. Headliners Bluebottle Kiss had widely advertised the show as part of ‘a special never-to-be-repeated event’ in which the band would perform their newest offering, the double-CD ‘Doubt Seeds’, in its entirety. Including a 13-piece ensemble and choir , the special set was only to be performed on three dates on their nation-wide tour.
The first opening slot was occupied by folk/fuzzed-up-rock trio The Model School. The four piece, complete with frizzy-haired guitar ‘n' harmonica playing front-man, brought honest, heartfelt tunes to those assembled, with convincing clarity and gorgeous melodies. The band occupy the stage with a comfortable ‘what you see is what you get’ feel, aligning with classic Dylan. And they’re not afraid to kick it out and let loose with the odd indie stomper.
Second-degree openers Pivot stunned crowd with their synth-based endorphin-enhancing space-rock, straight from the annuals of Dr. Who. The instrumental-only act got the attention of the crowd almost instantly, with many moving inside to check out their trippy prog sounds in closer quarters. Expect to hear more from these guys. Check ‘em out, I say, if this kind of sci-fi electro’s your bag.
By the time the Bluebottle Kiss guys hit the stage, the audience were on their feet (having staged an impromptu sit-in to take in the openers). The stinger boys kicked off their unique set with a couple of storming, punky tunes, (complete with brass three-piece) which run against the loosely poetic lyrics of frontman Jamie Hutchings surprisingly well. To follow, the band slowed the pace, easing into the compellingly laboured, rolling rhythms of ‘Sheffield Brides’.
A special mention has to go to the plodding, cool strings of ‘The Weight of the Sea’ which swings along with an irresistible, street-wise charm. Delving deeper into the first CD of the double-disc set, the band coasts through sweet piano-centric tunes with a focus on poetic, heartfelt vocals and a strong (occasionally duel-drummer-driven) beat, courtesy of the stick-wielding Jared Harrison and bassist Ross Dickie.
They really hit their stride with the tambourine-enhanced rolling-rock of ‘Sailors Knot’, & spoken-sang vocals of ‘Fire Engine’, complete with a sound that resembles guitars underwater. Heading ever onward, Bluebottle Kiss end their first ‘set’ (while never stopping for a single breath) with the lyrics-focused, choral-enhanced slice of folk, ‘Little Disappear’.
The journey continues through ‘Dream Audit’, which contains a mad guitar-sax freak-out that would make the beat generation shudder in its boots. The double-drummer attack reappears with elephantine effect on ‘Little Black Dahlias’, and ‘White Rider’ seems like the perfect road-trip song, managing to evoke a feel of wide-open spaces and deserted highways.
Up next we’re treated to a surprise guest spot - op-shop-folk-pop queen Sarah Blasko drops in for a winning turn in ‘Speak Up Memory’. Her breathy, sultry vocals combine with vocalist Jamie Hutchings’ to great effect, creating a sound much like that of an accomplished, smoke and whisky-tinged 50 year-old bluesy songstress.
Up next, as Jamie explains, is ‘a tune about a prime minister who liked to go swimming’, ‘Harold Holt’, followed by the album’s lead single, ‘The Women are an Army’.
Every few songs the horns reappear, adding brassy confidence to tunes like ‘The Black Birds’ and ‘Miranda’. BK end their epic set with the charming ‘Silent, Golden’ which seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to ‘I Still Call Australia Home’. (However, judging by the looks I got from friends, maybe It’s just me.) The band end their CD-setlist on a high note, with guitarist Ben Grounds striking a pose like Keith Richards, and Jamie jumping into the crowd with abandon, and ending the set ballroom dancing with a random punter.
Of course, this is just the sort of band that you can guarantee a decent encore from. The band provides us with one, and when the crowd fails to disperse afterwards, front-man Jamie reappears to play a sweet acoustic tune to, in his words, ‘Make you leave.’ After this, the crowd is indeed adequately sated to go on their merry way - satisfied, and with large smiles.