October 02, 2006

Excelsior

[Since the place this should go, the Tactics MySpace page, still isn't up to it (come on, guys!), I guess we're just going to have to put the reviews of the recent reunion gig here. Thanks to the fabulous CupTime CakeModulator for writing it up (no, of course I wasn't there, in disguise or not...) and originally submitting this as a comment elsewhere on Tight Sainthood, and thanks to Anonymous (aka Stephen H.) for the pic:]

David and Ingrid

Out of the haze of memory comes a night from the Tardis (well two, actually, 23 & 25 September 2006): Tactics reformed, playing lots from My Houdini and bits from Glebe at what seemed the last pub in Sydney willing to host a post-punk micro-reunion, the Excelsior in Foveaux St, across from ye olde Trade Union Club and the neversleeping antheap of the underground taxi base.

A gig mag conspired to deplete the faithful by pointing them to the other Excelsior in nearby Glebe, and I couldn't drag the 15 year old punkette from home along... but there were still enough of us for critical mass, including your very own A Squared and Anonymous (sound engineers on second and first records respectively, with A Squared on the mixdesk again on the second night, and Anonymous down from the country for 12 hours), the serious sisters Astrid, Madeleine and Ingrid (she on stage), and a bizarre cast of aging dinosaurs and cupcake princess types the rest.

I was under the influence of nostalgia and memory, the first for that distant near-forgotten milieu suddenly revived in the flesh (with the help of these pages), and the second for the soundscapes and aural promises swirling in the mix on My Houdini (the only album I was really familiar with, not heard in years but embedded in deep strata ready for the trigger).

The real sounds of the live band came to me overlayed with the special effects and sonic conceits of the remembered studio album (was there ever a more studio album than my Houdini?!) - a deleriously great result, as if the work of a psychic remix engineer with the latest post-neural FX box - perhaps the late Martin B down the aether, playing with yet another techtoy? Not sure if anyone else had the same reception, pity if not.

Unlike the decidely patchy (OK, shockingly awful in parts) Monday gig, the Saturday gig was one long UP escalator, culminating in the encore one of the earliest songs, Standing by the Window, the words of which I'd earlier found myself muttering under my breath during the long night drive into town from the SeaChange hut. (Someone commented on the ludicrousness of Dave Studdert singing 'I couldn't think of what to say, couldn't think of what to say' - the wild lyrics and startling images bursting again out of that breaking sound wave belied this claim of a tied tongue.)

It was a real thrill to be in a tiny, capacity crowd (top marks for the micro venue, felt packed and sweaty) roaring aloud along with the choruses on anthems like New York Reel and Second Language. Amazing how many people knew the words, or at least the loud bits.

Did I say anthems? What had in the past on vinyl sometimes sounded like disjointed sketches or scratchy dead-ends here came into their own, full-bodied rolling stock, rattling along the rails with urgent momentum and thundering mass. Great to dance to, the supremely excessive drummisms suddenly making a lot more sense, and the plunging bass making you want to take up that axe again.

Dave's vocals were less screechy than at their worst, but still carried the implied menace of a nicely tuned angle grinder creeping too close to one's extremities, the ideal clear vehicle for his lyrics and vision.

Speaking of 'down the aether', new guitarist (whose name escaped me, sorry) did a ripper job of channeling Angus' angular guitar. Angus, who is recuperating in the North, was remembered from on stage, as were your correspondents Anonymous, A Squared and even Jimmy Little (names decrypted of course).

Ingrid's alternately delicate and urgent keyboards were just right, though memory had to add in some of the effects from the studio sound. The noise from the boys behind her seemed a bit distracting at times for her, though I reassured her later that the loudness actually made a lot of sense and worked (easy to say from off stage).

Can you tell I thought it was a truly great gig? Even Monday, which recovered from a classic punkoid dwarl in mid set (capped by DS' out of tune guitar just as the exploratory lines from Glebe deflated all drive and urgency) to finish if anything better at its best than Saturday. Enough to restore your faith in the whole damn thing, to give the early Tactics songs a setting where they all made musical and sonic sense (some for the first time), and to restate Tactics' claim to their place in the first rank of original Oz bands of that era (and this one too for that matter, because I'd rather listen to this stuff than most of the formulaic dross that seems to infest the live dives today.)

Will we hear its like again? There's some talk of Dave being able to make it back from London again next year - let's hope so.

— "CupTime CakeModulator".

(Part of both A History Of The Sky and Punk (and Later)).

4 Comments:

At 10/03/2006 4:43 AM, Anonymous A Squared said...

Tactics – Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills 23 & 25/9/6

Set list by memory - in and out of order

Between The Trains
Second language
Come To My senses
Hole In My life
Arthur Lee
Centrepoint
Frozen Park
Coat Tails
Detective Joe
New York Reel
Mr Rollo
Buried Country
Standing By The Window

I did have a smoke on the way to the Excelsior on Saturday night and then a number of schooners of Coopers Pale Ale (do you get that fabulous drop out on the Estuary, Jimmy), which I’m using as my excuse for not recognising some people whom I should have. We all looked pretty good, or nice, as Stephen’s Mum would say. Respectable even, with three of us working for the ABC and not knowing it til now, others in the hallowed halls of universities. A bunch of bent squares as David said.

So I was flying well by the time Nick’s drums kicked off Between The Trains and the crowd started bopping and singing along. I was amazed at the number of punters who seemed to know all the words.

Brought in with not much time for rehearsal, Nick and Matt on lead guitar (doing a fabulous version of Angus’s wonderful lines) and Pete on trumpet, got well and truly into the groove behind David and Garry and Ingrid. A combination of anxiety, and old time and new time intensity, propelled the show along to the great approval of the crowd. Someone said to me, “They must be having a good time, they’re smiling. They never used to smile. It was always a serious look first time around.”

The songs sound fresh and ahead of the mainstream, just like they were when they were first played, which is why we all got involved with Tactics in the first place. Detective Joe, was the interloper who slotted in smoothly.

On Monday night, I was completely sober, due to finding myself behind the mixer, twenty four years since I’d last done a live Tactics mix and I found the arrangements still in the memory and moving the faders in the right places. I had a seriously smiling good time.

There was a bit of a dip in the middle of the show, a couple of squeaks of feedback and some tuning issues (so what’s new in all that) but the smaller crowd, most of whom were there for the second time lapped it up and bounced and sang along.

Closing with Standing By The Window, I saw David disappear from view, thinking he’d dropped his guitar, but his body had decided to stop dancing for a bit and pay an involuntary visit to the stage floor. He got back up again and finished off on Pete’s mic and then it was all over and we’d all had a bloody good time. Cool gigs.


My Houdini and Glebe are re-released on October 7th as The Sound Of The Sound Vol 1 on the Reverberation label.

http://www.reverberation.com.au/Item.aspx?Item=MEM02

 
At 10/07/2006 11:15 PM, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

"a squared" — thanks again! Not bad for a bunch of bent squares :-). Nice review...

 
At 11/01/2006 2:37 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

Just posted some video of the second gig to YouTube - see Frozen Park and Outdoors.

 
At 11/01/2006 4:23 PM, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Thomas -- thanks! I'll be putting links to them up on the newly-refurbished Tactics MySpace page if that's OK with you...

 

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