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Gig Review: Jonathan Boulet And The John Steel Singers @ The Corner Hotel, 27th March

This is going to be a shorter than usual gig review, because it was a bit of a meh night for me to be honest. The music was perfectly capable, but it came from two bands who I have seen live five or six times each, and the whole thing just felt a bit routine. That’s nothing against the artists, they did a wonderful job and put on a great show, but personally I was just a bit drained, which is perhaps unsurprising considering that it was my third gig of the weekend.

Anyway, this show was part of the cleverly titled ‘Here’s Johnny Tour’, and featured two of the hottest bands (still) in the country right now, The John Steel Singers and Jonathan Boulet.

Up first was The John Steel Singers, and I was pleased to see that the venue was pretty much packed by the time they took to the stage, because they are too good not to be playing to sold out venues.

They played a brilliant set, spearheaded by Triple J favourite Overpass. As always they had a fantastic vibe to their live show, with band members continually swapping instruments and featuring the added punch of brass instruments when the song called for them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when they break into those galloping beats you can’t help but feel you’re witnessing something a bit special.

There was plenty of charisma on stage from the various frontmen, and the crowd were very enthusiastic, especially considering that it was a Sunday night. The older track Strawberry Wine was greeted with applause from a few of their older fans in the crowd.

The closing song Evolution was one of the highlights of the whole gig, and got the venue moving around nicely. It was a short and sweet set from The John Steel Singers, and there’s not much else I can say about it really. They thankfully weren’t struck down by the first-act-of-a-dual-headline-tour-curse, but instead actually did seem like a headliner rather than a support act, and demonstrated perfectly why they are so very hot right now.

Next up of course was Jonathan Boulet, and from the moment he and his band broke into their first song it was obvious that with the growth of Jono’s beard has come a new sense of power and purpose to his music.

This wasn’t a set from the gentle-mannered and awkward frontman I saw live early last year. It was a decisive, confident, loud, and powerful set from a performer who seems set to break onto the international scene with his upcoming second album.

The dual-drumming setup, always a feature of Boulet’s live show, has taken even greater prominence, and the sound absolutely destroyed my ears. Eventually my mates and I decided to settle for a more chilled out location towards the back of the venue, given that we were all pretty tired and didn’t want to be anywhere near those speakers. If I had been more amped I probably would have thrived on the loud and powerful music, but like I said I wasn’t really feeling it.

This can’t be said for the rest of the crowd thankfully. Everyone was impressively raucous and, well, drunk, considering that it was a Sunday night. One group of people gradually built up a very impressive tower of beer glasses, to the point where it was as tall as a person. Another group started something of a mosh circle in the middle of the crowd, dancing insanely while bouncing off one another and playing some kind of rather brutal looking drinking game.

Jonathan seemed to appreciate the enthusiastic crowd, especially given that he had complained about the majority of the crowd the last time he was in Melbourne. His music reflected the energy in the room, with the highlights of Ones Who Fly Twos Who Die and 321 Ready Or Not. His banter was as charmingly awkward as usual, but Jonathan Boulet has unmistakably grown exponentially as a performer and a musician since I first saw him live.

All roads were leading to the last couple of songs, A Community Service Announcement and You’re A Animal. Each one was absolutely fantastic, and got the crowd moving around as one more than anything else had, and saw the night end on a definite high.

So that was it. Jonathan’s set could never compare to the last time I saw him live, but I think that as a whole he has grown as a performer since then. His music seems more powerful and more purposeful than it has before, and it’s difficult to imagine that this won’t result in a very strong and very successful second album.

If I have one criticism of both bands it is that the gap between their great songs and the rest of their songs is very noticeable. In this way they are both quite suited to short sets like the ones they played here, and in all fairness this gap will almost certainly close once they both have greater back-catalogues to draw on as opposed to just the one studio album each.

It was a great show, but I was damned tired and slightly apathetic. It’s the last time in a while I do three gigs in one weekend, because it’s surprisingly draining. Whilst it was a fantastic show from two brilliant bands, only one thought was on my mind as I was walking out of the venue: I have to be up in a few hours for uni.

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