As the city readied itself for a rowdy weekend of Mardi Gras partying, us alt-rock tragics retreated to the Factory theatre for an unexpectedly quiet Friday night affair.
Ben Britton of opening act Strangers clearly felt out of place on an acoustic tour. “We’re used to being quite loud,” he opined, as the band slid into another familiar and tightly composed track. Being seated made Britton’s occasionally impressive vocals inconsistent, but the harmonies lent by bassist Tristan Griffiths and guitarist Mark Barnes made up for the shortfall.
They weren’t the only friends Dead Letter Circus brought along with them, padding out their lineup with former Sleep Parade bassist Matt Delaney and a string duo of cello and violin. Rather than simply lowering the volume, DLC took pains to recompose their songs for the format, giving their audiences the flavour of the original material amplified by a stimulating sense of freshness.
Interestingly, the approach shed an unflattering light on DLC’s more recent discography – while material from their self-titled EP was polished to a high sheen, cuts from 2015’s Aesthesis (including ‘While You Wait’ and ‘Silence’) were significantly more matte.
Kim Benzie’s window-shattering vocal range meant his habit of holding the mic back led to a few lost lyrics, but he proved as always to be one the country’s most potent alt-rock voices, amply supported by his bandmates. Drummer Luke Williams often found himself without a reason to hit things, and so brought his baritone to bear, providing a fitting companion to Benzie’s tenor. As the strings swelled under ‘Here We Divide’ from breakout album This Is The Warning, it didn’t feel like simple nostalgic navel-gazing, but rediscovery and reinvention.
Warmth aside, one hopes that this softening of the scene is an exception to the rule rather than a pilot fish for the quieting of Friday night concert crowds. This reviewer is not one to rail against acoustic sets, covers or guitars without distortion, but given the power and energy of DLC’s full-volume shows and the quality of Australian rock, it would be a shame to see another stalwart Sydney venue succumb to the plague of noise complaints.
That future often feels one step away, but for now, we can celebrate our artists’ gentle reappropriation of their own textures, and think wistfully of reaching out, grasping their amp’s volume knob and winding it up to 11.