11 May, Hordern Pavilion
A sold-out Hordern Pavilion is more than just a gig. It’s a stark milestone in any Australian artists’ timeline. The venue, nearing 100 years old, stands as a symbol that you’ve made it. You’ve sold out the biggest venue in Sydney, not including seated stadiums and conference centres.
The vast and cavernous internals of the Hordern are noticeable when there’s only a few hundred in there, but if you’re a young rapper from Western Sydney named Kwame you treat it like a 50-person club gig. He, along with booming hype-man and fellow rapper, Raj Mahal, prowled and growled and rapped on the huge stage like they owned it before taking over the floor and bouncing with the decent early crowd. An impressive presence and a humble voice with huge potential. Surely not the last time he’ll play the venue.
“This is my first ever performance here. The first time I ever came here, I saw Black Eyed Peas!” Jack River is now on the same stage with her full band and dives straight into Palo Alto and the crowd go with her, swaying, singing and feeling the good vibes. Her voice was flawless and her presence – magnetic. Strumming continuously on her guitar and looking every bit the budding rock star that she is (with a little bit of ‘70s Janis Joplin inspiration), Holly Rankin showed off why she is becoming a such a force in the Australian music scene.
All this without having released an album. We are treated to a couple of songs from the upcoming Sugar Mountain (due for release in June), including Fields, a probable next single with a rocking alt-pop feel that she is becoming famous for. The well-constructed and flawlessly-performed set closes out with Fools Gold.
From the inner-north of Canberra to international success, Peking Duk’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Through all of the bangers, the comedic shenanigans, the cheekiness and the parties, the duo of Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles remain grounded and have a reputation for just being a couple of nice fun-loving lads.
Through all of the hype and anticipation, their arrival on stage is almost anti-climactic. Despite a strange little video opener encouraging us to make some noise, I was waiting for some sort of huge entrance, but instead, the boys grab their instruments – Reuben on bass and keys and Adam on guitar and along with their drummer – kick into the title song of the tour, Wasted. The crowd, with a distinct mix of either very young and very old punters, dance tentatively at first, trying to warm up from the chilly night outside.
The style of Peking Duk is such that you can’t help but get into it and watching the boundless energy from Adam Hyde on stage is a bloody inspiration. Fellow Canberran and Safia frontman, Ben Woolner (him less a frantic stage presence), joins the group for Say My Name followed by the very excellent voice of ex-X Factor and Flight Facilities singer, Michaela Baranov, on Let You Down.
The guests kept coming as the duo reveal their brand new song, Distant Arizona. Alister Wright from Cloud Control takes over the vocals and sings a song that is distinctly more downbeat than the majority of the catalogue. The recognisable outlines of the duo dance in front of a big red screen before dropping the epic Fake Magic. Still a huge-arse track.
We’re 25 minutes into the gig and it’s time for an intermission, Peking Duk-style. It’s a segue that sees the pair take their old-school positions behind the decks and deliver, in their words, “some fucking bangers!” It includes an interesting array of tracks, including some Justice, some sing-a-long Killers culminating in Celine Dion. Yes, the Titanic theme is belted out around the venue, accompanied by an almost disturbing video of Adam and Reuben replicating Jack and Rose’s famous pose.
Back into the originals, the pair gives a shout-out to triple j for their early career support before playing The Way You Are followed by dropping the brand spanking new track Fire, (released that day and never before performed). Adam, not for the first time shares how damn sweaty he is before ripping off the shirt as Reuben leads the crowd into The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. We are asked to all sit down (which, seriously is a bad idea on this grotty floor), but the effect is awesome as we all jump up and scream out the famous riff.
High rounds out the main set before an encore sees a pair of competition winners come to the stage for a ‘meet and greet’. This turns into a marriage proposal on stage. It’s a weird moment and seemed a bit staged, but Adam declares, “That was a bit boring. She didn’t say no!”
The concert rounds out with Ben Woolner returning for a version of Take Me Over, that transitions from acoustic to a massive drop and the crowd unleash their energy and euphoria.
For a group that barely has a dozen songs to their name, we are given a set of pure gold. Yes, the intermission of DJ tracks may have been a bit of contentious padder, but for a crowd that was there to dance, it set up a second act that really delivered. It’s a joy to watch the rise and rise of a couple of lads from the nation’s capital as we wait to find out the next milestone that they can crack.