Reviewed on Sunday March 9

After some time out in the proverbial wilderness, The Medics returned to Sydney for the first time in over a year with a set filled entirely by new material from their forthcoming second album. The new songs see the band reaching into both its most atmospheric degrees of ambience and its most unrepentant, down-tuned intensity. At its centre are lyrics detailing a deteriorating, disillusioned outside world, sent out as a desperate cry. All this, however, seemed to be lost on a room with maybe 30 people scattered about, and most not even paying attention. Never mind – they’ll wish they had when this album comes out; just you wait and see.

On the subject of attendance, tonight sadly had to be one of the poorest turnouts in recent years for a show at the Metro, with the barrier taken out and the infamous ‘curtain of doom’ looming behind the mixing desk. Full credit goes to the man of the hour Dan Sultan for making the very most out of a dire situation. He was all smiles from the beginning, showing off new material from his forthcoming third album, Blackbird. From what we’ve gathered thus far, it’s a rock record; heavy on the guitar and focused on the groove.

After falling out with former collaborator and guitarist Scott Wilson, Sultan has stripped his backing band down to just three. Long-time rhythm section Josh Jones (bass) and Pete Marin (drums) remain, but a new sideman has emerged in the form of Even’s Ashley Naylor. He appears to be having a lot of fun working with Sultan, and the two played off one another’s top-notch guitar work all evening. Sultan, meanwhile, could barely keep his mouth shut in between songs, excitedly talking about touring with Bruce Springsteen and misunderstandings about some of the songs he’s written. It definitely helped in breaking the tension a little, and ease people into enjoying the show a little more – although some took it to serious mum- and dad-dancing territory.

Sultan is a strong talent, perhaps one of the more underrated that we have. Although tonight’s crowd numbers did him no favours, one can only guess that a full room will be greeting him upon Blackbird’s release.

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