THE ORWELLS @ Jack Rabbit Slim’s gets 9/10

The Orwells @ Jack Rabbit Slim’s
w/ Joys
Saturday, September 23, 2017

9/10

Chicago’s finest The Orwells made a long overdue visit to Perth over the weekend. It’s just a pity not more people made it down to catch one of best live rock shows of the year. Living up to their raucous reputation, the five boys, still all in their early 20s, tore the joint up as they ripped through a set of infectiously energetic, short, sharp garage rock songs.

Having just released their third album proper earlier this year, Terrible Human Beings, they have a solid repertoire of great tunes to choose from, most hovering around the three-minute mark. The group have been playing together since early high school and are a seriously tight unit, fronted by the enigmatic wild man Mario Cuomo, who attacks each show with reckless abandon, just like real rock and roll stars are supposed to do. And when the chops match the attitude, it makes for a hell of an entertaining show, and those present lapped it up.

Joys scored the support – the fairly new local band were a suitable choice with their grungey melodic rock and crunchy guitars. Singer/guitarist Rleanne Evangelista has a big voice and a lot of presence on stage. It was a pretty small, sparse crowd for their set but they didn’t let it hold them back from putting on a good show and have some good songs.

After a bit of a break, some more punters started to roll in and move to the front, forming a small but boisterous pit. It was a young crowd and they were obviously all dedicated fans, pumped to finally see The Orwells in town. The air was thick anticipation and excited chatter.

The band finally made their appearance onstage round 11, taking their positions and bursting into action with Black Francis, their Pixies tribute song, which got things off to a kick ass start and they didn’t look back. The group are in fact touring with their heroes, Pixies, as well as Weezer, later this year.

One immediate and surprising difference was vocalist Cuomo – who fans are used to seeing throwing himself around, face obscured, under a mane of long, curly, blonde locks – sporting a short, slicked back haircut, looking not unlike Josh Homme. Dressed smartly in a white shirt, red sweater and white pants, Cuomo looks like a new man, and seems determined to change up his image as the band matures.

Fortunately he wasn’t lacking any of the manic intensity or kinetic energy he’s known for that’s seen him end up half naked, or thrown out of gigs. Stalking the stage and screaming his vocals right into the audience’s faces, he has an amazing presence and charisma as he struck poses with the mic, staring out with his piercing blue eyes.

Charging through the awesome Dirty Sheets Cuomo’s booming baritone at times sounded Jim Morrison-esque. Finishing with some trademark cheek, he quipped to the audience, “I threw my back out last night humping your mom”. Lewdly charming and hilarious, these boys don’t take themselves too seriously, but do take their music seriously, which is something of a combination of their influences – The Strokes, The Black Lips, The Hives, Pixies, Iggy Pop.

The set comprised of the best tracks from their last two albums, moving through the swampy stomp of They Put A Body In The Bayou, touching on their first record with the swagger of In My Bed featuring an impassioned delivery from Cuomo that had the pit moshing hard, and dirty rock of Southern Comfort.

The band behind him still rock out, but are more sedate, mostly immersed in their instruments, leaving Cuomo to be the focal point. He was more than happy to indulge, as he held hands with audience members, writhed on the floor, ran up the stairs side of stage and was generally a menacing figure, as he spat out his lyrics of teenage drunken debauchery.

Live, these guys are really in their element and it’s hard to deny the likeability of their songs. They’re not pushing any boundaries in terms of originality, but they have their own style and sound. And when you’ve got songs like Buddy, a rip-roaring little number that clocks in under two minutes and the Strokesy riff-fest of Who Needs You (the performance of which on Letterman scored them a viral hit), you can’t argue they don’t do it well.

The charming thing about The Orwells is they play shows much like your favourite local band. They have no pretence and are there to rock out and have fun as much as the audience is, and there’s a real bond and interaction between band and crowd. There was a lot of love from the small but enthusiastic crowd, who moshed and slam danced their way through the whole show, singing all the words.

Finishing the set with one of their most progressive and epic tracks yet, and the closing song of their new album, the seven minute plus Double Feature ended in a huge climatic instrumental wall of noise that saw guitarist Dominic Corso attempt to wedge his guitar in the rafters.

And just like that, they were gone, with no encore. If they do bless our town with their presence again, do yourself a favour and make sure you get down. Inspiring stuff, proving the future of rock and roll is in (un)safe hands.

Words and Photos by
ALFRED GORMAN

 

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