Live Review: Dead Kennedys

7 November 2018 | 11:59 am | Lilas Fournier

"Lead singer Ron Greer has his back turned to his fans, mic in hands and ready to leap."

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“Kennedys! Kennedys!” scream the audience, most around 50 years old, to welcome their idols to their sold-out 40th-anniversary show. A spaghetti western soundtrack plays and, slowly, the red curtains open - revealing Dead Kennedys. Lead singer Ron Greer has his back turned to his fans, mic in hands and ready to leap. The first drum notes of Forward To Death from their debut LP Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980) are played and a mosh pit opens.

Fans are overexcited and sing every chorus, including Winnebago Warrior, from Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982). A father drags his 20-year-old son to the pit when Greer swings and roars the lyrics of Police Truck.

“Folks, I saw many people wearing tiny clothes and they were all going to a horse race. I know it’s your hometown but it’s not a real sport,” criticises Greer before the group play a rapid-paced Jock-O-Rama off the Frankenchrist LP (1985).

Greer keeps talking between songs, attacking Prime Minister Scott Morrisson; “He’s a little slack. I found people sleeping on the streets.” The crowd jeer at the comments. The four-piece execute Kill The Poor and let the audience sing the chorus. Greer flings himself at the public for Too Drunk To Fuck and Let’s Lynch The Landlord.

If some people in the audience want to hear what Greer has to say about politics and society, some moan they would prefer to hear more songs. “My doctor told me I’m too old for punk rock. It makes you too old, too. Punk rock is dead,” he proclaims. “Boo!” answer the crowd. Before playing Nazi Punks Fuck Off, drummer DH Peligro declares Australia's “got a lot of work to do” to fight racism and sexism, adding that the “punk community brings people together”.

The outfit close their show with California Über Alles and Chemical Warfare, mixing up covers of Shake It Off (Taylor Swift), Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley) and Sweet Home Alabama. “Thank you for celebrating our 40 years,” smiles bassist Klaus Flouride.

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Divisive as ever, after the gig an old punk named Simon regrets the absence of original singer Jello Biafra - "I saw them in 84-85 and even if they had a lot of energy tonight, it wasn’t the same” - while a couple of childhood friends share they’re happy to have seen them for the first time, calling it “one of the greatest performance [they've] seen”.