Review: The Panics, Palace Theatre, Melbourne
Venue: Palace Theatre, Melbourne
Friday 14 October
The Panics are often given the thumbs-up as being the soundtrack of Australian lives. As husky frontman Jae Laffer said at the show when spruiking ‘Don’t Fight it’, “It’s been played on Home and Away like 15 times.” The Summer Bay jukebox success story conveys their clean-cut Australian image. No red-wine-stained teeth for this band – they’re straight-edge with bottles of water.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that as I stood mingling with a crowd sporting old-man spectacles and, more interestingly, including a guy who looked like the love child of Ron Weasley and Dandy Warholer Peter Holmström, I overheard a group of girls having a loud and public chat about their current relationship problems:
“I just don’t know if we should stay together.”
Encouraging nod: “I felt the same way about James and I.”
The Panics are like a support group for this crowd of twentysomethings. Theirs is the music played in a house during a breakup or dinner party. Their sweet, harmonious keyboard notes act as a background to fill the void. Yet, when they eventually took the stage, bathed in blue lights, it became evident that they present a bit of a conundrum when it comes to live shows.
Without any introductions and only a shy smile, the Panics kicked off with the track ‘One Way Street’ from their new album Rain on a Humming Wire. The crowd clapped politely but the atmosphere remained flat and smoky.
As the show progressed the audience warmed up, clearly enjoying familiar songs from the 2008 album Cruel Guards such as ‘Feeling is Gone’ and ‘Get Us Home’. During these songs the audience got involved in a group swaying session, with couples nestling closer together and people singing along to their favourites.
However it was hard to separate the songs; one merged into the next, and there was little friendly banter or talk from the Panics to break up the songs. The emotions in the songs were heartfelt and the keyboard riffs soothing, but it never rose above background music.
Things got a bit more exciting when Laffer broke into an extended keyboard instrumental for ‘Creaks’, which had the crowd on their feet and clapping along. The Panics played a selection of songs from their four albums during the night, including some of their older material such as ‘My Best Mistake’, ‘Kid You’re A Dreamer’ and ‘Sleeps Like A Curse’. For the long-time fans, these oldies were absolute bliss.
That said, it was hard to believe this was the main band of the night when everyone looked so weary. It felt like a Saturday morning on the couch watching Channel 31’s Tenpin Bowling Show rather than a Friday night in the city. There was, of course, the token band groupie, a guy in black losing his shit while fist-pumping to the Panics. My boyfriend and I agreed that this guy should have been nominated the leader of the Panics’ cheer squad.
Although the crowd got passionate during a few songs, I was genuinely surprised that they fell into a state of epileptic frenzy when demanding an encore. The Panics returned to play an encore of one song, an acoustic song and solo performance from Laffer. All this made for a pleasant hour, but never a really exciting one.
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