The Beautiful Girls

on 13 March 2012 in Gig Reviews

The Beautiful Girls

Performing on 11th March 2012 @ Melbourne Zoo

The rain that has been threatening to dampen this evening’s Melbourne Zoo Twilight Concert has held off, right up until The Fearless Vampire Killers take to the stage. The fat droplets turn to a barely noticeable drizzle as these modern day rock ‘n rollers grin from their dry position in front of an expanding crowd. They’re certainly dressed the part – torn-at-the-faded-knees jeans here, a leather jacket there, a well-fitted denim coat on another, only one beard – and their garage sounds erupt in the early evening air. These Melbourne lads are exactly what’s needed to balance out the bright pop still dominating today’s independent music scene. Notable tracks include “The Sinner”, new songs “Wastelands” and “Mexico”, the latter which they debut tonight. With a light dusting of surf rock and underlying trenches of blues, TFVK put on a tight, tight show and make it increasingly difficult to stay sitting down.

Indeed, it feels bizarre to be still crossed-legged on the grass as The Beautiful Girls take to the stage one by one under the unseen slowly setting sun. Front man Mat McHugh catches up last to an extremely warm reception as the band open with the dub-heavy, reggae-influenced “My Mind is an Echo Chamber” from 2010 LP Spooks. Immediately, the crowd exudes the urge to get up and dance but with picnic rugs, young families and under the stares of intimidating security, it seems inappropriate to do so. A young boy nearby pleads to his parents if he can stand up just as McHugh greets the mass, “Wow, there’s so many of you out there. I think this is one of our biggest gigs. We’ve never played to a crowd sitting down before so if it feels right, you should dance.” A lone girl up the front obliges immediately and a small group of friends to her left stand up.

We’re taken by the hand and down the way of the many changing sounds The Beautiful Girls have created these past 10 years, further treated with a keys and horn section on stage and thankfully no rain… Yet. The girl down the front has since been told to sit down by a guard and it proves tough to truly appreciate songs like “Blackbird” – an already impressive single but which is always recreated again for their live shows. “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” gives another chance for McHugh and co to enlist a couple of hundred vocalists as we sing along.

Suddenly the most clichéd thing occurs: The Beautiful Girls start playing crowd-favourite “Music”, there’s a crack in the grey sky for not only the sunset but for a rainbow to peek through as well, McHugh sings “’Cause I got music and it makes me feel alright, got this here music and it helps me ease my mind” and we’re up. Just like that, it takes 6 songs into the set but a reverse game of dominoes begins and, from the front to the back, picnic rugs are forgotten and people are up and dancing. The band can’t stop smiling and even that seemingly cold security guard has started nodding his head along with the tunes.

It’s dark enough now for the light show to take effect as TBGs delve into 2007’s Ziggurats rock territory with “In Love” and “I Thought About You” following each other in quick succession and earning a small, peaceful mosh to form. “Rockers” garners more audience participation during the repeated “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, and I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life” and quickly becomes an anthem.

The band takes it in turns to solo as McHugh introduces them all. Bass player Paulie B never fails to impress with his ease on stage playing arguably some of the funkiest bass lines in Australian music these days. Bruce Braybrooke forever provides such a solid support on the drums, always beaming. McHugh thanks the animals for putting up with them and Paulie B gives a nod to Mother Nature for defying forecasts.

With an explosive instrumental finish, The Beautiful Girls exit the stage and we know what’s next – and so does Mat as he jumps back on stage alone with a sly smile. “So, which one do you wanna hear first?” before complying with the crowd and playing a slow and touching rendition of La Mar (The Ocean) from 2003’s Learn Yourself. It’s hard to know when to clap but when McHugh glances up with a reassuring smile, everyone bursts forward to applaud and shower their favourite musician with love as he’s joined again by the band to open up “Periscopes” –a track taken from their first EP Morning Sun back in the beginning of 2002. Discussing the longevity and staying power of this old favourite is a pointless exercise and time is much better spent simply listening.

Keep an ear out for the new LP Love Come Save Me, which has been confirmed will be released under Mat McHugh, in the near future.

- Louie Hill

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