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Live Review: Ariel Pink

22 November 2017 | 12:11 pm | Guido Farnell

"Tonight he's a party monster in a blonde wig and skin-tight silver shorts determined to show fans a really good time."

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Why is it that the things we enjoy are usually considered bad for us? After taking in the warnings about smoke machines and strobes being used in tonight's show, the ushers dutifully hand out free disposable ear plugs. Our fingers are crossed that the decibels are going to fry our collective brains tonight, but Ariel Pink and his band don't max-out the volume. 

Despite his delightful records, Ariel Pink's live sets have typically been a bit of a mixed bag. At Supersense a couple of years back he came across as a capricious noise merchant unwilling to crowd-please who later reverentially played guitar for the legendary Manuel Gottsching. Tonight he's a party monster in a blonde wig and skin-tight silver shorts determined to show fans a really good time. Supporting his latest long-player Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, Pink and his band kick this gig through the goal posts and well out into the outer reaches of the cosmos with this solid 90-minute set.

The spaced-out Another Weekend starts us off with sweet pop melodies and retro vibes that drift into weird psychedelics, which distort and derange before snapping back into more obvious pop realms. Pink's tunes are a strange musical chimaera that connects the dots between rock'n'roll, '60s pop and psychedelia, and '80s alternative with flecks of glam thrown in for good measure. While Pink's pop hooks reel us in, even at his most accessible there is a spaced-out distorted weirdness to almost every song. "Melbourne, you are too straight," is about the only thing Pink has to say to the crowd tonight. On so many levels Pink is too right, but what he's probably more concerned about is that the sedate crowd is sitting down and very passively taking in what his band have to offer. As the crowd stand up and start dancing in the isles, Pink sandwiches the very lovely Put Your Number In My Phone between I Wanna Be Young and Feels Like Heaven. It's surprising that Pink often sinks into a deep, John Maus-esque baritone delivering lyrics with a sarcastic drawl and a post-punk vibe. The John Maus T-shirt Pink's androgynous backing vocalist wears is less of a surprise in this context as he strikes curious and theatrical poses, looking like Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show in an ushanka.

Pink presents a masterclass in how to deliver accessibility without relinquishing independence in order to retrain the capacity to be fiercely experimental. It's with the stench of 'herbs' in the air that the freak flag is proudly flying over the Recital centre tonight. Round And Round is an obvious closing tune, but its brilliance shines brightly as it brings the night to an end.

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