Brian Jonestown Massacre returned to Auckland’s Powerstation last night and we sent Simon Coffey and Brenna Jo Gotje to cover the big event.
Brian Jonestown Massacre aka multi-instrumentalist Anton Newcombe, are severely underserved by being labelled as Psychedelic rock. Their delicate blending of the ’60s birthed counterculture psychedelia, early 70’s anarchic-attitude and late 70’s avant-garde post-punk, symphonize into hook-rich, complex, sparsely produced compositions that fabricate a neo-psychedelic shoegaze that is idiosyncratic, edifying and beckoning.
Then again, Brian Jonestown Massacre could be just described as the apex musical embodiment of mathematical chaos theory.
Last in Tamaki Makaurau in 2018, BJM severely cemented their status as unmissable, reflected in the rapid sales of tickets to tonight’s show. It is surprising not to see them at a larger venue, though one should be careful what one wishes for, getting this up close to Anton Newcombe is an unmissable experience for this fanboy.
Three albums on, on the back of extensive US and European tours for the latest The Future Is Your Past, anticipation was hypomanic for hours of electrifying renditions of old and new material from this seven-piece colossus.
No opening band tonight due to a last-minute hitch, which means an earlier start for Brian Jonestown Massacre (perhaps they’ll make it through all eighteen songs on their setlist tonight)
An ever-continuous menagerie of onstage, checking, checking, checking by band and techs adds to the rising anticipation, hopes and dreams. While the band take their places, Anton swoops on stage, live broadcasting the venue on Instagram. All eyes, band and patrons are on Anton as he occupies his (stage right) safe space, his alter, with lectern, lights, drink table and amps, languidly plugging in his guitar.
At Anton’s behest, they launch into Number One Lucky Kitty, the crowd are already wowed, The Real follows momentarily, there are four guitars in play, yet the drums are sounding very upfront, it feels like a slow grind, but then the guitar comes front and centre and there is a groove on, on the dancefloor.
Anton is perplexed and vocal about the fanboys and fangirls taking photos of him and growls about not being a model, but he is a “Model Citizen Goddamit” Waiting, waiting, waiting, for Fudge, a gentleness pervades the room, dominated by Joel Gion tambourine …and then it kicks in… So far the night seems clinical, the perfectionist has it all under control, but like the volume level, the energy in the room is lacking.
But, wait, as Brian Jonestown Massacre reaches Wait a Minute (2:30 to Be Exact) the crowd feels it, and begins to revel in the aural atmospherics, “is the show finally getting heat?” There is the first restart of the night (Phish), and Anton redacts to the art of tuning, and knob turning. The band, his band, waited patiently.
Mid-set, the sound is better, though Anton is flipping through his songbook and the setlist feels like it is in tatters, maybe they played my favourite from The Future Is Your Past, Your Mind Is My Cafe maybe they didn’t, or maybe it was a version. All throughout the night, Joel Gion (Mr Tambourine Man) is on and off stage. Somewhere about now, the maracas appear, later to be replaced by a dual tambourine and maraca combo, his presence is reassuring. As is the hugging, Anton, it seems is a hugger, and the bassist Hákon Aðalsteinsson is a recipient of much of Anton’s love, as is Anton’s guitar tech/personal assistant, he’s the one with the floppy Huggy Bear hat.
Anton demands the drums be louder. In a juxtaposition, as the rest of the band tune up, Anton (perhaps fighting complacency) does his best throat singing impression in the style of Mongol-Tuvan throat singing, or perhaps he just feels safe in his podium to be himself.
Almost 90 million plays on Spotify! Anthony Bourdain has a lot to answer for. It’s the one many in the crushing room have been waiting for. As the keys harmony pervades, and the bass splendidly comes hither, there is mass hypnosis in the crowd, swaying in rapture, in love. Anemone is always worth waiting for, and though there is onstage love for the bassist, the drummer feels Anton’s displeasure shouting out mid-song for him to slow it down.
Sadly as 11.15 pm beckons, all that perfectionism has eaten up time, and Anton declares they need to skip a couple of songs, he threatens not to play Servo, then does, it is a magnificent recreation!
The Huggy Bear hatted one slings on a guitar and it’s now five guitars on stage for the final song Sailor, as the band leaves the stage, instruments are left onstage distorting, and turns into a jam session a drone of noise, with Anton Newcombe out of his safe space, mid-stage, back to the audience, in his element.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Brenna Jo Gotje:
#1 Lucky Kitty
Do Rainbows Have Ends?
Wait a Minute (2:30 to Be Exact)
Your Mind Is My Cafe
You Think I’m Joking?
Don’t Let Me Get in Your Way
That Girl Suicide
The Mother of All Fuckers
Maybe Make It Right
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