The Larry Normans at The Anthology Lounge 25 May 2023

The Larry Normans

The Larry Normans, to clear up a possible misnomer, are not a tribute act for Californian Larry Norman, widely recognised as the first musician to successfully bring an explicit Christian message into mainstream rock music, in the Land of the Free, ie. the founding father of Jesus Rock, though I’m sure such an act exists somewhere on the North American continent.

The Larry Normans formally started assaulting live audiences around 2002, released their debut album Used in 2005, played a Big Day Out and then in 2008 went into hiatus until founding member Andrew Ashton (also of Head Like A Hole) got the itch again, and with original drummer Paul ‘Bubs’ Stephenson, grifted two new members into the band, singer Nathan Rea and bassist Jonathan Bowen, to once again foister their brand of hook based grunge punk rock onto Tamaki Makaurau-ens again.

The Larry Normans

Tonight’s show at Tamaki Makaurau’s deepest music venue, K’Rd’s Anthology Lounge is filled with the dirty rock n roll sounds of the ’70s, 80’s and ’90s. DJ Rockpig is in the house and on the wheels of steel (proper vinyl) spinning classics by Thin Lizzy, Budgie, AC/DC and many other choice cuts which set a mood of anticipation for tonight’s only act, no support bands, which is kind of refreshing (no 1am finish tonight)

Fifteen years on, The Larry Normans, certainly look hairier and a little larger for sure (though the bassist Jonathan Bowen is clean shaved, and looks like he just got back from a sunset surf at Piha) With confidence The Larry Normans launch into Texas Boogie (from their 2005 debut) with little ceremony, and as the songs rack up (at almost the same rate of the handles of beer drunk by singer Nathan Rea) the collective skill takes over and guitar riffs, bass lines rhythms effuse through as Rea’s grunge-style vocals overlap to complete the evening’s sound.

The Larry Normans

Tonight’s show is to celebrate the release of the single Coup De Gras, from their forthcoming second album (18 years later) Dirty Living in July, as a bonus it’s also a way for locals to celebrate NZ Music Month. Their performance of Coup De Gras is a highlight tonight, with many/most in the audience getting down and dirty.

The Larry NormansThroughout the 17-song set, which features from Used, and I suspect many from the soon-to-be-released Dirty Living, there is a dirty rock n roll dynamics and vibe. As they draw carefully from their favourite act of the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s, it is easy to catch sight (sound) of many of them. From The Stooges aka Radio Birdman aka AC/DC (the Bon Scott period) long-haired rock n roll vibe to the Soundgarden style drumming, the occasional Alice In Chains drawn-out guitar riff, and the Seattle styled grunge vocals.

The Larry Normans have carefully crafted their synthesised brand of dirty Grunge n Punk n Rock n Roll, that blisters the ear holes, is filled with familiar (and unfamiliar) hooks and keeps the audience wanting more. Can’t wait to hear Dirty Living when it is released in July.

Simon Coffey
Simon Coffey