This post first appeared on The AU Review
The Griswolds are home. These words seemed to be theme of the night as loyal locals packed The Metro on Saturday for the band;s first Sydney show since the release of their debut album Be Impressive. Coming off the back of a mammoth stint around the U.S, in their hometown of Sydney and on lead singer Chris Whitehall’s birthday no less, I’d say there wasn’t a soul in the popular Sydney haunt that could say they weren’t ready to party. As if you needed a band like The Griswolds to give you a reason.
Smooth, luscious pop tunes permeated the start of the night as the show opened with Central Coast rockers Sea Legs. Combining their well known Coastie charm with a slick sense of city living, they blasted through their set with a headliners confidence, showcasing familiar pop drives and sexy, melodramatic breakdowns. Half of this unit used to play with Pepa Knight (of Jinja Safari fame) back in the day, which is just a small hint at their ability to craft brilliant, likeable songs. Although a little more rock ’n roll than Jinja Safari, they lit up the fast building dance floor with the single “Christopher Strong”, catching the eyes of new fans-to-be by the cargo load.
More local pop mayhem ensued with the next act Castlecomer, introducing the set with a pure brand of ethereal, synth laden pop. I wasn’t so familiar with these guys coming into the set, adding to the excitement of discovering such a tight and talented act as they drew and controlled the crowd. Many of their tracks had mixed country vibes peeking through, as vocals bounced deep and falsetto, while speedy guitars struck over the backing of fully formed pop tunes. Their cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” fucking ripped the roof off. Onlookers grinded and grooved from start to finish, peaking when two of the band members revealed a horn section breakdown to top it all off. If you need one definitive reason to check out Castlecomer, this it it.
At one point in the night I could have gone home happy with that. The support acts were strong, the beer was cold and the fun times were in strong supply. But The Griswolds have build a reputation on smashing expectations and I should have known tonight of all nights was not going to be the one to break that. Shadows of the four band members glistened on the stage before they opened with the catchy, carousel-like “Right On Track”. Fans immediately got into the spirit, jumping onto the shoulders of others, swaying with the heights of the track and screaming the lyrics back at the band. The album opener, “16 Years” followed, speeding up the tempo of the night with conviction. It’s the kind of song that could earn them rock-god status in retrospect. Between the shattering vocals of frontman Chris Whitehall, a smooth breakdown to bridge the feel and the versatile, perfectly placed percussion of Lachie West, it’s one of the standouts on the album and was replicated with precision on the night.
Old favourites like “The Courtship of Summer Preasley” and “Mississippi” were definite party favourites, showing that The Griswolds’ popularity is not newly found. They’ve been doing this since the get go. The album’s title track, “Be Impressive” broke up the set nicely, calming it down briefly with child chorus samples and backing up again with a sort of urban tropical bravado tanked with wily lead guitars and cheeky vocal melodies. Alongside all their unique brilliance, the crowd shimmered at the introduction of the recently recorded cover of Vance Joy’s “Riptide”, one that properly rivals the original.
Every set has it’s highlight. You know, that song that sticks with you for ages after. No matter how many drinks down, and in spite of set list favouritism, there’s always that one song that you come back to whenever you think of that night. When I say “If You Wanna Stay” was the highlight of the set, I wouldn’t even be doing it justice. The deep bass tones, tumbling percussion and crispy key drives leaked pure energy on the crowd before it, giving off that odd mix of wild passion and no-fucks-given that The Griswolds seriously nail every time.
The lead single, “Beware The Dog” closed the set as predicted, showcasing tropical sways and stop/start meatiness in spades. If you’ve listened to this single before, there’s really no description needed to understand why they’re getting so much hype behind them all over the states at the moment. Teaming up with the crowd, they yelled the lyrics “Now you’re fucking crazy”, like they really meant it. The crowd was absolutely elated and out of control, like they didn’t know what fun was before that song started. They walked off for a brief moment only to peek back out with “Down & Out” and “Heart Of A Lion” to wrap things up in turbo party-mode. It was a well placed track, climaxing perfectly as several band members participated in a booming percussion solo to solidify the true end of the set.
Sadly, the night had to end at some point, and Chris Whitehall had some serious birthday celebrations to carry on to. But the crowd surely gave him and the rest of the crew something to remember. They’ll be scoping the globe in support of Be Impressive, playing to bigger crowds by the minute. When a band of this quality packs a gigantic score of Sydney locals into The Metro for an occasion like this, one thing’s for sure: there’s no place like home.