Last night I got to go to my first gig since the Big Day Out, and that was to see Helmet play at one of our local clubs Fowlers Live. Even though Helmet are now a very different lineup from when I saw them last in 1997 (Singer/Guitarist Page Hamilton is the only original member left in the band), I was excited about seeing them, especially when I heard they’d be playing all of their Meantime album. Being one of my favorite albums, I’m happy to saw the band did and awesome job, and as an added twist, played it in reverse order.
The opening band were called Lady Strangelove. The came on pretty much as soon as I walked throught the door and brought a drink. They’re a psychadelic rock band, with a bit of a stoner rock influence. They seemed to play pretty well, and had a lot of on-stage energy, but personally I felt they spent maybe a bit too long with extended solo’s and jams. Extended jams can be good if you’re into the band, but when most of the crowd aren’t really digging it, and you’re waiting for the main act, it gets a little tedious. And none of the musicians were really skillful enough that I though at any point “man this is really cool”. However, they did a good job, and the songs they had were pretty good, and are far from the worst support act I’ve ever seen!
After a relatively short setup period (all of the bands equipment was already on stage and soundchecked), Helmet came onstage, starting with the only track (Swallowing Everything) played from their most recent album Monochrome. Following a couple of Aftertaste tracks, the band started playing Meantime in reverse order, starting with Role Model and eventually ending with Meantime. Better and Turned Out were definitely highlights for me, and the band were extremely tight all throughout the night.
Page was in quite a good mood throughout the night, frequently chatting to the crowd and apologising for taking 10 years to get back to Adelaide. He also appears to be a big Coopers fan, which will come as no surprise to most South Australians.
After finishing Meantime, the band left the stage briefly and eventually returned, playing an encore of Wilma’s Rainbow, See You Dead and Crisis King. These final couple of track featured some extensive guitar noodling, none of which I found particularly exciting. In fact the encore was a little dissappointing, though I guess once you’ve played through an album like Meantime, you don’t leave yourself anywhere to go.
Personally, I enjoyed the set list, though would have like to have heard something from Strap It On and Size Matters, or possibly some more from the new album. Seeing all of Meantime was great, but part of me would have liked to see a little more variety, and given that the last tour was from the Aftertaste tour, a few less tracks from that album would have been nice. I guess there’s only so much you can fit into a 90 minute show.
The venue was a pretty cool place to see Helmet. It’s reasonably small, the capacity is about 500, and I don’t think the show sold out. The sound was great, though possibly a little loud. My ears are still ringing as I write this. That could be old age though! It was a very intimate performance, and it was easy to get a great spot, in my case right on the barrier.
Fowlers also uses an electronic ticketing system provided by Moshtix, which worked really well, and entry was fast and painless. More venues should look into this system, as it’s basically a swipe card you load your tickets onto when you make a book, either online or in the shop. Potentially, this could be a great way to combat scalping.
After the gig, all the members of the band came down to the front of the stage, and chatted with the crowd. I managed to score a setlist, and shake hands with Page and the rest of the gang. Too band I didn’t have anything to get an autograph with though.
Overall, it was a great show. My initial fears of them being a bit past it were well and truely put to rest, these guys were as good as the Helmet I saw in 97 and 93(?). Despite the revolving-door band lineup, the band was tight, and played all the songs with a lot of energy. Considering it was the fifth straight night they’ve played, and the last gig of the tour, I thought that was a good effort.
If you get the chance to see these guys play in your town (they’re doing a short European tour in June) then make sure you check them out. It’ll be well worth it!