Live Review: Even

20 August 2012 | 3:22 pm | Guido Farnell

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It is a bustling Saturday night at Melbourne's favourite rock'n'roll hangout, Cherry. Thumping '60s garage and rock'n'roll that goes well with a few beers produces a feel-good vibe that puts a smile on everyone's face. The easy-going crowd are here for the evening's celebration of one of the greatest glam rock albums of all time, David Bowie's The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. Ageing baby boomers have packed out the room. Most of them have long since left behind the glittery camp fashion excesses for which glam music was known. Sadly, only a handful of young fans have turned up wearing glittery Aladdin Sane make-up, looking a touch flamboyant.

Melbourne three-piece Even warm the crowd with a five-song set that leads off with No Surprises, released way back in '98. One of the most overlooked bands to emerge from Melbourne in recent years, they have honed their skills across countless gigs in pubs around the country. Even sound tight and remarkably polished as they work their way through Black Umbrella. As the set progresses it becomes obvious that Ashley Naylor, the band's frontman, is deeply influenced by a range of pop and rock music from the '60s and '70s. The hooks and melodies of Rock And Roll Saved My Life and Bowie In My Dreams wash over like vintage Bowie with a harder Britpop edge, making it easy to understand why Even are performing the Ziggy Stardust album later tonight.

Even leave the stage but Naylor has already made it clear that their performance of Ziggy Stardust won't slavishly reproduce what Bowie put down on record all those years ago. After breaking out the Ziggy songbook, the band launch into Five Years with the help of three additional guest musicians on keys, sax and cello. The lack of make-up and period costume makes it clear that Even are no tribute band, rather they are here to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of an album that has profoundly influenced the music they produce. They provide rough and ready versions that twist the grandeur of the songs on Ziggy Stardust into rousing pub sing-alongs. Even seem surprised that they have managed to instil a little Bowiemania in the crowd tonight. Naylor smiles but complains about the complexity of the chords used in Soul Love. Many in the crowd take the opportunity to sing along to every song in the set. Some probably own the 20th, 30th and 40th anniversary remastered versions of Ziggy Stardust and could probably tell you how each successive re-release improves on the original. The genius of Moonage Daydream strikes strong emotional chords with punters and it blurs into an epic version of Starman.

Naylor and his spiders from Melbourne flip the record and start playing side two, which starts with the dreamy Lady Stardust, undeniably haunted by the ghost of Marc Bolan. It's hard not to hear the record playing in your head as Even rip into Ziggy Stardust and Rock'n'Roll Suicide. Hearing these songs again it is hard to believe that Bowie was able to draw from the music of the '60s, galvanise glam for what it was about to become and predict punk and new wave across a concept album of just 11 songs. Back in the day Bowie was an androgynous space cowboy rocker from another planet who provocatively traded on his trashy glamour and ambiguous sexuality. Tonight Even strip it all back and prove that when the hype and publicity stunts fade all that is left of Ziggy Stardust is just classic rock'n'roll.

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