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Gig Review: Grouplove @ The Corner Hotel, 2nd August

Rarely do you get a band whose name so perfectly encapsulates everything that they are about as Los Angeles’ Grouplove. Their music is nothing short of brilliant, but yet it really is their energy and obvious love for one another and for their fans that make Grouplove’s live shows so very amazing. And they demonstrated this beautifully last night at the Corner Hotel for their Melbourne Splendour sideshow.

Opening the show was Californian rock band Young The Giant, indie stars in their own right and fellow Splendour artists. They were good enough so that the gig felt more like a double-headline show than anything, with the venue already packed by the time they arrived on stage and including a pocket of very dedicated fans towards the front.

They played a set comprised mostly of songs from their self-titled album released earlier this year, although also featuring a couple of old songs that were clearly fan favourites. The band have a palpable sense of energy about them on stage, although for the most part they seemed relatively restrained, constantly threatening to explode but never really getting there, perhaps as a result of not being the first name on the gig billing.

This being said, they still put on a great show, spearheaded by tracks such as Cough Syrup, a slower jam that got the crowd swaying as one and had lead singer Sameer Gadhia at his best, moving around the stage with what can only be accurately described as a swagger. His double-microphone setup annoyed me though, seemingly completely unnecessary given that they both sounded exactly the same and he only ever used one at a time.

Young The Giant finished their set with My Body and it was easily the best moment of their set, getting the crowd warmed up perfectly for what was to come. To me the band’s music borders on being a bit generic at times, but they made up for this with charisma and energy, putting on a fine live show. And anyway, seeing an international band of this calibre as an opening act is always a bit of a treat.

As always the Corner managed a relatively quick turnover between acts, and Grouplove were soon walking onto the stage to rapturous applause from the sizable crowd, even if the venue wasn’t quite sold out. Wasting no time they broke into opening number Don’t Say Oh Well, and as far as opening tracks go they don’t come much better. It’s just such a fun, charming song, and it had the crowd dancing, clapping, and singing, with special mention going to the guy next to me rocking out on crutches. The smiles that band members gave one another during the line “I told my band mates, they are my soul mates” spoke volumes.

Grouplove’s debut album, the aptly titled ‘Never Trust A Happy Song’, is out September 13th, and the band played plenty of new songs off it, including Lovely Cup and Love Will Save Your Soul, the latter of which had a real country vibe and sounded absolutely spectacular. It’s a radio hit in the making, of that there can be little doubt. Bookmarked between these two new songs was Itchin’ On A Photograph, the first single from ‘Never Trust A Happy Song’, which was one of the many highlights of the gig as the entire crowd joined in the frantic clapping at the start and finish of the song.

The energy of the band on stage was infectious, with Hannah and Christian sharing lead vocals for the most part as Sean threatened to steal the whole show with his colourful bass playing and awesome hat. The band had the crowd in the palm of their collective hand for the entire show, and it was a joy to watch them work their magic. Even their banter was spot on, with plenty of genuine praise for Australia, which according to Sean was “the first place that showed us any attention”. It really did just seem like the band were thrilled to be in Melbourne and to be playing to such an adoring crowd.

The show may had been a long time coming, as the band pointed out, but it had definitely been worth the wait.

Gold Coast was fittingly dedicated to all of Australia, but despite its name it is actually one of the band’s moodier numbers, building to a mesmerising conclusion: “Now what’s your story? And is there glory or hate? ‘Cause that’s the only way I think”. Naked Kids provided a bit more of a summer vibe, but its clapping rhythms proved slightly too complicated for the crowd, to entertaining effect.

Next up was new song Spun, which gave guitarist Andrew a chance to really shine as he played ukulele and sung lead vocals to the bouncy number that is unquestionably going to be one of the highlights of Grouplove’s upcoming album. Chloe saw Sean take over lead vocals for what was a more introspective and gravely song, before Tongue Tied, the band’s next single, saw their set finish with with a bang and a dance.

The encore break was a bit of a joke though; a transparent attempt to eat up a bit more time from a band that really don’t have enough studio material under their belts to fill their allocated one hour slot. No-one in the crowd would have minded the show ending ten minutes early, and everyone knew exactly what was coming, but oh well when a band is this good live they are free to do whatever they want, and I’m biased against encores in any situation anyway.

Thankfully it wasn’t much of a break, and the band were soon back on stage to warm applause. They promised to return to Australia very soon, which I plan on holding them to, and also thanked the people behind their Australian tour, including their Australian label Dew Process. And then it was time for the one and only Colours, giving Hannah a chance to don the mask that had been helpfully thrown to her by a very prepared member of the crowd.

And what a song it is. Live it took on a renewed sense of energy as everyone in the crowd lost all remaining inhibitions, dancing, screaming, singing, pointing, and even jumping. “And I see black, black, green and brown, brown brown, brown and blue, yellow, violets, red”. At times the sound emanating from the crowd made the band’s vocals somewhat unnecessary. It was just such a wonderful way to end the night; a real party of a song from a band as gracious, humble and charming as they are talented.

I think you can tell a lot about a band by what they do after gigs, and every single member of Grouplove wasted no time whatsoever in mingling with punters who had hung around after the conclusion of the gig. We had a really nice chat to Sean and Andrew, talking about Splendour In The Grass, Australia, and music, and also got a photo with Christian. Grouplove were just as personable off stage as they are on it.

And that was it for what had been nothing short of an exceptional gig. I thought it would be hard to impress me after Splendour In The Grass and considering that I was still rather tired, but there must be something seriously wrong with anyone who didn’t have an absolute ball at this gig. Grouplove are well on their way to being massive both in Australia and all around the world, and judging by this show it couldn’t happen to a bunch of nicer and more deserving people. 

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