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Gig Review: Portugal. The Man And Givers @ The Corner Hotel, 9th February

It’s pretty rare that you can see three fantastic bands at the one gig for one very low price, but that’s exactly what those who visited the Corner Hotel last Thursday enjoyed. The double-headline bill of old indie favourites Portugal. The Man and new kids on the block Givers was a brilliant combination albeit a bit of an odd one, and chuck in opening act Guineafowl and you really do have an incredible gig for a Thursday night. It was lovely to get a bit of a taste of Laneway, and all the bands involved definitely delivered.

I arrived at the Corner a bit later than I would have liked, and as a result only caught the last few songs of Guineafowl‘s opening set. The band were featuring a bit of a streamlined lineup compared to their set at Splendour In The Grass last year when no less than eight members had taken to the stage, but they still produced a rich and full sound that delighted the reasonable crowd that had already gathered in front of the stage.

The double hit of Botanist and The Lie Is was nothing short of inspired. It’s quite incredible how lead singer/Guineafowl himself Sam Yeldham has managed to turn a bedroom project into a fully fledged live band genuinely capable of blowing the roof off a venue, even as an opening act. It was an indicator of the quality of their set that they returned for an unplanned encore consisting of a very enjoyable cover of The Cure’s Close To Me. Sam had just enough swagger to pull it off, and besides, any gig that starts with a Cure cover is always going to be a good one.

It may sound a bit hyperbolic, but there really aren’t many other small Australian bands that I would rather see live than Guineafowl at the moment. There’s an inescapable power and confidence about their live show, and while this set certainly doesn’t compare to their festival-stealing Splendour performance it was still the perfect way to start this double-headline gig.

I had been surprised to see that Portugal. The Man were going to be playing the first headline slot of the night, but thankfull the venue was pretty much full by the time the band walked onto stage. The American guys have a reputation of being extremely hardworking and genuine, and sure enough they played a set full of very solid, polished, and enjoyable rock music. I don’t have too much knowledge of their songs, however the standout for me was an early number featuring a brutal double-drumming beat that resonated strongly throughout the venue.

People Say was of course absolutely fantastic (although I would have preferred the acoustic version), as was opening number So American. The band kept banter at an absolute minimum, allowing one song to flow into the next with barely enough time for the crowd to show their appreciation, but when lead singer John Gourley did speak he was utterly charming, and seemed so very appreciative of the large crowd assembled, which really was refreshing. Plus his cardigan was rockin’.

Closing with probably their most recognisable song, Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now) was a smart move, and left the venue buzzing as the band departed. It had been a very professional and polished set from Portugal. The Man, and it seems hard to imagine the band ever putting on a disappointing performance. I thought the set would have left the crowd well and truly pumped for the imminent arrival of Givers, but to my surprise pretty much everyone walked out of the Corner following the end of Portugal. The Man’s set.

It was a relief therefore when most people returned just before Givers took to the stage, although it’s still safe to say that it was the first headline act which enjoyed the biggest crowd. Regardless, the young band from Louisiana launched into an upbeat and energetic set that demonstrated perfectly why they are so very hot right now. Opening number Saw You First provided the perfect springboard into the rest of the set, driven in equal parts by the ukulele of Tiffany Lamson and the vocal interplay between herself and guitarist Taylor Guarisco.

There was a real chemistry to Givers’ set as one song led into another and band members routinely swapped instruments with ease. The energy of frontman Taylor and frontwoman Tiffany pretty much made their live show, especially as Tiffany made full use of her array of instruments including the uke, a mini drumkit, a cowbell, and a xylophone. Givers’ music relies on a sense of passion and excitement, and their live show is no different.

Ceiling Of Plankton is my personal favourite song from the band, and thankfully it did make an appearance, and really did get the crowd moving nicely. There was plenty of banter this time round, perhaps unsurprisingly given that the band only had one album’s worth of material to draw on.  Yet again, in what was a definite trend for the night, everyone involved was completely charming, and hearing Taylor and Tiffany try their best to impersonate Australian slang words the crowd were yelling out was thoroughly enjoyable. They really did seem like a lovely group of people just enjoying the ride.

Up Up Up closed their main set and immediately became the anthem of the night as a makeshift mosh developed in the center of the venue to that insanely energetic and oh so catchy chorus. Yet again the energy emitting from the whole band was infectious, and it was impossible not to feel the need to move around a bit as you watched the band putting every ounce of effort they had into their live performance.

Givers returned for an encore which perhaps was a bit of a strange move given that pretty much anything they did would seem anticlimactic after Up Up Up. However any chance to hear more music is was of course welcomed by the crowd, and the band used the opportunity to play what I believe was a new song. It was still great, but they may have been better served by closing with their biggest song.

And just like that, the gig was over. Both in terms of value for money and sheer enjoyment it had been a show to savour. While the dual-headline pairing may have seemed strange at first the two bands complimented each other perfectly, and Guineafowl topped everything off very nicely. Ultimately I would have probably paid $40 to see any one of these three bands live, so to witness all three at the one gig seemed almost unfair. Not too shabby for a Thursday night.

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