“Let’s give thanks to the weather gods for making the rain stop,” cracked The Living End’s frontman Chris Cheney partway through his Taronga Zoo set. 

Indeed, an outdoors show in the middle of one the wettest weeks of the young year was never going to be the live experience the band’s fans are used to.

 

But it wasn’t just the weather that was altered: everything was different, from the venue to the audience demographic to the altered, family-friendly setlist. And yet did all that change serve a good show?

 

Smoke drowned the stage as the group kicked things off with ‘Moment In The Sun’, an ambient opener accompanied by a string quartet. But things soon got heavier as ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ merged into ‘Raise The Alarm’.

 

That said, Taronga Zoo quickly proved to be the wrong venue for a group of The Living End’s ilk. Only the most diehard of the band’s fans squashed themselves against the perimeter of the stage, forming an impromptu moshpit, while the rest of the audience remained huddled on picnic blankets.

 

The gig was uniformly too reserved, and the mood wasn’t exactly helped by a guest appearance from Josh Pyke. Joining The Living End for a couple of numbers, his music brought the tone of the show down immediately: only a few members of the crowd seemed to appreciate his presence, as smatterings of polite applause floated around as each song ended.

 

Though the nifty little bluegrass jam mid-set was impressive, it was one of the few moments in the evening where the band really felt like themselves. Indeed, the energy only hit significant levels at the gig’s conclusion, when the End blasted through a Cold Chisel cover, ‘Rising Sun’, before closing with ‘Prisoner Of Society’. It was for those two songs that the middle-aged couples and their families shook off their hesitations to cheer and sing along, camping chairs be damned.

 

The Living End are a punk rock band, but at their Taronga Zoo show they seemed to brush closer to pop, meandering through a tame performance defined by a lack of the usual profanities and energy. Nonetheless, it was eventually an enjoyable show – but only by the final few songs.

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