The Murlocs finally hit The Forum stage on Saturday, February 19 as part of their Bittersweet Demons Tour.
What an absolute privilege it was to review a gig again, let alone that gig being one of the biggest headliner shows The Murlocs have played to date.
Having first discovered the group playing on a tucked away side-stage at Queenscliff Music Festival in 2013, to now see them headlining at The Forum Theatre in front of thousands of adorning punters, felt like a pretty special sight. Especially considering the show was a reschedule of 2021’s ‘Bittersweet Demons’ tour, meaning for many members in the crowd this was a set they’d been eagerly looking forward to for a year now.
And it was evident; with the entire crowd exerting ecstatic energy that was unparalleled to any Uncle Murl show I’d previously encountered.
Admittedly though, everyone was pretty darn revved up from CLAMM’S blistering opening set. Having dropped their debut album Beseech Me at the start of 2020 (to massive amounts of hype), to then cop two years of lockdowns, it really felt like people had been holding out to witness the group live for quite a while now. Delivered with fuzz-rock energy akin to Thee Oh Sees but with slightly more of a punk edge, the three-piece tore through tracks like the punchy Sucker Punch and Beseech Me, with Liar standing out as a clear crowd favourite. Considering the group features members of Gamjee, there was never any doubt that they would be a great live act, but after seeing their work live, I can confirm that CLAMM is on a completely different level.
By the time Murl hit the stage the crowd was buzzing, and when the opening harmonica of Francesca kicked in they absolutely lost it. It was an excitement that couldn’t be matched. Noble Soldier made its way in as the second song in the set, which came as a big surprise that clearly had the crowd enthralled, with singalongs that at times drowned out Ambrose Kenny Smith’s vocals into a collective chant coinciding with the crowd; the vibes were at an all-time high.
Folk Bitch Trio has been turning a lot of heads in the Melbourne music scene over the last year, making their addition as on stage vocalists an incredibly welcomed surprise. It also highlighted a perfect collaboration, with the trio’s beautiful vocal harmonies delicately paired alongside Kenny-Smith’s vocals, adding an incredible amount of emotive depth to numbers like Bittersweet Demons and Eating At You.
Considering The Murlocs are now five albums deep, and the tour was in support of their fifth album, I don’t think anyone was necessarily expecting older songs to make it into the setlist. Meaning there was evident surprise and excitement in the crowd when both Rattle The Chain and the mesmerising psych-based Loopholes were played.
Comfort Zone is always a standout when the group performs live due to its melodic keys; building guitar riff and Kenny Smith’s impressive vocal crescendos. This time around was no exception, with the addition of FBT only making it all the more memorable. At times almost feeling like each of the four vocalists on stage were propelling each other to hit their parts even higher. Not in a competitive sense, more so in a way that highlighted the evident fluidity between the vocalists and their mutual knowledge and respect for each other’s talents. It was an unforgettable performance.
Giving an indication that the group may have a new album in the works, previously unreleased singles such as Bellarine Ballerina were also debuted to Melbourne crowds. Feeling like a nod to some of their earlier material, the rock-based number was immediately well-received by the crowd.
In future Rolling On, will be hailed as one of the greatest Australian songs of the era; for many fans of The Murlocs, it already is. With a deep sense of community that many had been missing over the last two years, the crowd belted out every lyric with a beer in one hand and their other arm around their mate’s shoulder. People weren’t just excited to be seeing Murl tear up the stage, they were excited to be singing it side by side with their best mates.
If that’s not a party, then I don’t know what is.