Gig review: The Lemonheads, Metro Theatre, 11 December 2014

Starting out as a rough-edged hardcore-influenced band in the fertile Boston scene, The Lemonheads eventually morphed into a kind of country-tinged and beautifully messy amalgam of garage rock and laidback indie pop which became huge on college radio and then spilled over into mainstream success.

They’ve been far from prolific since their glorious early 90s peak, though these songs have dated better than anyone could have expected and benefit from the fact that the laconic songwriting of Evan Dando and friends has few contemporaries.

This Metro show proved a warmly nostalgic affair with many songs spontaneously turning into mass sing-alongs. It kicked off with Dando alone on stage playing the gently funny ‘Being Around’, before being joined by a full band including the prolific Chris Brokaw on guitar for a set packed with classic Lemonheads songs like ‘Confetti’, ‘Rudderless’ and ‘Style’.

Dando’s voice may have weathered over the years, but there’s still an appealing mellowness to his vocals and ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘Hospital’ were particularly gorgeous.

The encore paid tribute to the band’s heavy Australian influence with the wry Tom Morgan-penned ‘The Outdoor Type’ and an energetic version of ‘Alison’s Waiting To Happen’, written about the drummer from Smudge.

Even after the house lights go up, people are still baying for more. Two decades after The Lemonheads’ unlikely brush with commercial success, affection for these unassuming but casually brilliant songs remains undimmed.

Gig review: The Preatures, The Hi Fi, 5 December 2014

It’s been quite a year for The Preatures, having successfully completed a jump to the major leagues with their hook-filled debut LP. The slickness and pop sensibility of these newer songs are a long way for their early days as a more rockabilly influenced band, but the retro sensibility and unbridled energy live act remain thankfully intact.

Shrugging off some early technical difficulties, they’re soon into stride in stomping, muscular style. They’re a heavier proposition live – even something as lush as the spectral pop of opening track ‘Blue Planet Eyes’ is given a harder edge in the live setting.

The retro pop of ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Cruel’ have even the people on the upstairs balconies dancing, spurred on the energy of frontwoman Isabella Manfredi. Whether cartwheeling across the stage, dumping water over her head or just generally rocking a leather jacket like 80s Joan Jett, she’s a rock star through and through.

She can do vulnerability just as well as strutting though, and the uncharacteristically downbeat ‘Two-Tone Melody’ and a solo turn on ‘Business Yeah’ show her range. For the most part though, it’s a celebratory high-energy affair with the choppy rhythms and soaring chorus of breakthrough hit ‘Is This How You Feel?’ and the fist-pumping ‘It Gets Better’ proving ideal Friday night fare.

The encore provides a reminder that The Preatures have a second formidable singer in the shape of Gideon Bensen who belatedly takes centre stage on a gleefully raw version of old chestnut ‘Take A Card’. It’s yet another facet of a band whose rapid ascent shows no signs of slowing down.

Book Review: Nona & Me by Clare Atkins (2014)

In a dusty, sun-baked town, Rosie leads a fairly carefree existence, mostly focusing on navigating the changes in friendship that come about when she starts seeing popular older boy Nick, the brother of her glamorous friend Selena.

Then her old friend Nona, a Yolngu girl, returns to the school after years away. She and Rosie once had a supremely close friendship that crossed the town’s racial divide and the narrative is spliced with vignettes from their time together as small children, when the two saw themselves as sisters. Though touched by tragedy, Rosie’s memories of childhood with Nona are often idyllic, illustrating Nona’s deep connection with her family and her joyous relationship with the natural world.

Read the full review at The Sydney Morning Herald.