Gig/Concert: The Wretched Villains, Thirteen Bats
Venue: The Globe Theatre, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Date: 9 April 2010
Headliners: The Wretched Villains
In One Word: Spooktacular
The Wretched Villains have been knocking ’em dead (pun most certainly intended) in Brisbane, Australia for many years now, but unfortunately remain a well-kept secret outside of that sleepy little town…ahem, city. Which is a great shame, because the years have been more than kind to this gang of goth-rock stalwarts, and if anything they just get better an’ better as time (and many a line-up change) passes them by. New guitarist Brendan Murphy is easily the most polished lead guitarist the band has ever boasted, and drummer Stuart Hodgson, the latest in a long line of percussionists, ensures that this is by far one of the tightest shows the group has ever played. Add to this some spectacularly spooky lighting, and one does not envy any other “darkwave” act that is forced to follow them on-stage.
Which is exactly the burden that relative newcomers Thirteen Bats are obliged to shoulder. Following the “6-piece-with-keyboards-and-viola” line-up of the Villains with a “two-piece-with-laptop” line-up is not the best of starts, but the two brave young novices do their initial best to make up for that with big (correction: make that HUGE) hair and cheesy dancing. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the lead singer could dance OR sing particularly well, but for the most part he is only passable in either capacity, and certainly can’t pull off both feats at once! The bassist/sometimes-guitarist/sometimes-lead singer(!), in contrast, is actually pretty impressive, oozing more genuine stage presence than his partner without trying nearly so hard. In all honesty, I’ve seen MUCH worse shows, especially when the band explain that this is only their second-ever gig, and perhaps they will grow into something more noteworthy as their confidence and skills improve…most of the time they SOUND good, upholding the “death-rock” tradition of late 70s/early 80s goth rather nicely, but the stage presence of the pair fails to fill the space left by “missing” band members, and the between-song banter is frankly embarrassing.
Not a good sign when the set’s most compelling moment proves the one where the frontman walks off stage to leave all musical AND vocal duties up to his colleague! Also not good when TWO persons are required to fulfil Ian Curtis’ vocal duties on a Joy Division cover!! Close, but no cigar, guys… here’s to the future, though.
© Michael Bowser, Music Vice