Gig Review: The Morning Benders @ The Corner Hotel, 5th January

Last night one of the real ‘bands of now’, The Morning Benders, played a Falls Festival sideshow at the Corner Hotel. Not only was their performance immaculate, but it was great to see a band so truly appreciative of the reception they received and having such an awesome time. Add a top notch support act in The John Steel Singers, and you have a wonderful gig.

I arrived at the venue at exactly 8:45, the time The John Steel Singers were scheduled to play. I was very excited to see them live again for the first time in a couple of months, and was surprised to see that the venue was pretty much deserted, and I could easily walk up and secure a spot in the second row and directly in the middle of the stage.

As thrilled as I was with the position, I was equally frustrated to see that not everyone had arrived at the venue early enough to see The John Steel Singers, who really are one of the best Australian bands going around at the moment. Thankfully however the band delayed their arrival on stage for a few minutes, and the venue rapidly filled up, indicating that perhaps a lot of people did indeed base their arrival time on the support act.

By the time The John Steel Singers eventually did take to the stage, the Corner Hotel was suitably packed, and everyone crowded more and more around the stage as the set progressed.

And it was yet another great set- I will never get sick of hearing these guys live. They have such a great energy and a great vibe to their music, with the constant use of a trombone, trumpet and truly infectious galloping drum beats. Strawberry Wine provided an early sing along for crowd members familiar with the band’s older stuff, but Overpass was undoubtedly met with the most enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Band members swapped instruments with ease, and seemed to be having a really great time. Masochist was as always brilliant, and the closer, Evolution, was equally so. These guys are amazing, and to be honest I’m kind of surprised that I can still see them as a opening act.

But I’m certainly not complaining- this was my sixth time seeing the boys from Brisbane do their thing, and they were as fun and as awesome as ever.

By the time The John Steel Singers were departing the stage the venue was completely packed. There was something funky going on with alternate stage of The Corner Hotel which would have meant that capacity was slightly less than usual, but nevertheless a very enthusiastic and sizeable crowd had assembled.

We were all there to see Californian band The Morning Benders, whom Pitchfork had bestowed the hallowed label of ‘Best New Music’, and whose performances at the Falls Festivals were met with rave reviews. And, right on time, the curtains parted.

And there on stage were the four members of The Morning Benders. Wasting no time whatsoever, the band broke into opener Wet Cement. It is a bit of a slow build, and certainly isn’t one of my favourite tracks from 2010’s highly acclaimed ‘Big Echo’, but it served as a good introduction to the show.

Promises really got the show started, and demonstrated what the band are capable of live. While they don’t change their studio arrangements around too much, they certainly add a bit of extra punch when it is called for, resulting in a more powerful sound than they capture in the studio. Personally I could tell straight away that I preferred The Morning Benders live than in studio form, and given that I love their records, that was saying something.

It was also immediately obvious that the band had a quirky but yet effective stage presence. Lead singer Chris Chu used the stage at large, repeatedly walking right up to the front of the crowd, while the other band members seemed more content to stay rooted to the ground but nevertheless complemented the overall feel of the band very well.

Chris announced that the band would be playing ‘Big Echo’ in its entirety, which was met with huge applause from the crowd. However there was still a smattering of songs from the band’s debut album ‘Talking Through Tin Cans’, including the excellent Boarded Doors.

Cold War was great, as the band really rocked up that chorus and got the drum beat to dominate the venue as those at the front of the crowd began hesitantly dancing and moving around with some encouragement from Chris. Hand Me Downs was one of my favourite songs of the set.

It was then time for the band’s well known cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. It was a sublime moment. It is of course a stunning song, and The Morning Benders really did it justice, with a lot of help from the crowd, who provided chorus vocals to great effect. “I think that was the best singing we’ve ever heard,” said Chris happily.

“Thunder only happens when it’s raining, players only love you when they’re playing”.

Chris really does have the nice guy frontman role perfected. He was so very likable and charming, and somehow every single thing that he said seemed completely genuine, which is no easy achievement for a musician on stage. The band were hugely appreciative of the response they received, repeatedly saying that it was one of their best ever crowds and how much they were loving playing in Australia for the first time.

Stitches and All Day Day Light left only one song from ‘Big Echo’ remaining, and everyone knew what was coming when the band announced that they only had one song left. Excuses was absolutely magical. The crowd got into the song more than we had anything else the whole night, as Chris jumped down from the stage into the front section of the crowd to sing the chorus.

So there I was, singing one of my favourite songs of 2010 while literally standing next to the lead singer of The Morning Benders, as the crowd swelled and surged around him and that infectious chant of ‘da-da’s rung out fiercely from around the entire venue. The song was extended live, featuring ample use of loop pedals and a lot of crowd participation. It was easily the high point of the night, and finished with Chris slumped over his guitar, sitting on the stage, completely exhausted.

It would be perfectly understandable if this had been the end of the show, however some loud cheering and encouragement from the awesome stage manager saw the band return for a one song encore. The song of course was Virgins, an unreleased track the band have been playing live a fair bit, and it was utterly mesmerising, while the contrast between it and the preceding song perfectly demonstrated the versatility of this great band.

And, with a final emphatic thank you to the crowd, the show was over. “Will you come to see us again when we come back here?” asked Chris needlessly, and the crowd responded with a deafening roar which said more than actual words ever could. Chris still wasn’t quite done however, and jumped into the crowd one last time to hug people who had been near the front. When he got up to me he offered a handshake but I was having none of that and rather enjoyed my hug with the lead singer of The Morning Benders.

It was a wonderful gig that completely surpassed all my expectations. Excuses was naturally the highlight, but the decision to play all of ‘Big Echo’ proved a masterstroke, and there was not a single lull in the entire set. The stage manner of the band at first seemed slightly awkward, however as the show progressed the guys became more and more likable, and by the end of the night they had completely won over the entirety of the crowd with both wonderful live music and their genuine appreciation of the response it received.

2011 is off to a hell of a start indeed.

One Response to “Gig Review: The Morning Benders @ The Corner Hotel, 5th January”

  1. ah i thought i saw you there! i freeaked out when chris came down into the crowd for excuses, we were face to face! my friends and i got to chat to tim and jonathan after the show, they are seriously the nicest band ever

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