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Live Review: Good Morning, Cool Sounds @ Melbourne Recital Centre

7 June 2024 | 2:05 pm | Andy Hazel

Watching Good Morning perform before a near-sold-out Melbourne Recital Centre felt like a very fortunate place to be.

Good Morning

Good Morning (Credit: Laura May Grogan)

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One of the great coups of this year's Rising Festival was luring Australia’s most internationally hyped indie band of 2024 back home for a one-off performance. Fresh off a 26-date North American tour with Waxahatchee, Stefan Blair and Liam Parsons' "lil band/recording thing", Good Morning, is now ten years into its amiable and quietly impressive existence.

The duo's fourth album, Good Morning Seven, was released in March and showcased imaginative and intricate arrangements that, for a band best known for its jangly guitars and afterthought lyrics, was going to land either on revelation or ambitious mess.

But before we can learn how the band translate their latest and greatest album live, early-comers are treated to a deft set from Cool Sounds. For some bands, playing a venue like the Melbourne Recital Centre is the gig equivalent of being thrust under a microscope.

The fidelity and separation of the sounds here are so profound they can reveal sloppy playing, slapdash songwriting, an over-reliance on effects and lazy arrangements. Cool Sounds are guilty of none of these things.

The range of sounds, the respectful instrumentation, the sense of humour, and the sheer musicianship that runs throughout the sextet's beachy funk make tonight’s set a revelation. Each member seems to be thinking of the combined sound of the band, so they play quietly, actively listening to each other as they slip into a sweet, exsanguinated funk reminiscent of Chic or Talking Heads. Instead of incorporating an urgency or demand to get up and dance, Cool Sounds simmer away like an extremely inviting spa bath. 

“The rumour going around is that Good Morning spent all the money they were being paid for this concert," says singer and guitarist Dainis Lacey. "So instead of getting paid, the support band got ten of these." Lacey jokes, lifting the cap off his head and reading the words across its front. “Shut up and fish,” he frowns. “So, if anyone wants one…”

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Following the first song, as the applause is still dying down, a roadie wanders onto the stage, holding a recorder. He offers it to several members, who shake their heads before the roadie returns backstage. We're later told this is "our first show with our new tech, Borichek."

As the band peel through a series of steady, appealing grooves built around percussion-heavy rhythms and simple backbeats, Borichek returns holding a trumpet. "I just know I am going to use that trumpet," says Lacey. "But not right now." Borichek wanders off again, and the band launches into their closing song, 6 Or 7 More, another that is easy to love.

Musically, Cool Sounds sound like they could be from anywhere and anytime in the last 40 years, but the personality of and around their songs couldn't come from anyone else.

With seats filled and lights dimmer, the strains of Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman eke out of the speakers. The stage lights ignite, and the ten members of Good Morning arrive.

Opening with Arcade, the first song from Good Morning Seven, it immediately becomes apparent that no corners are cut here. The arrangements that helped make that album one of the best of the year so far will be brought to life in all their rich intricacies.

Dual backing vocals, saxophones, clarinet, viola, percussion, layers of keyboard and two, sometimes three guitars, whatever the song needs. It is all wonderful stuff. As the Rising program promised, "Think Dick Diver, Liz Phair and Brian Wilson soundtracking a black-and-white musical about drifting into your thirties."

Stretched in an arc across the stage with Blair and Parsons at either end facing each other from across the stage, Good Morning is another band that benefits from the audio microscope of the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Even as the same sounds anchor many songs (the trebly twang of a Gibson SG guitar, the muted thud of a hollow-body bass and the drumming of Dylan Young – so solid he seems to invert time), each shift in the context of the song's arrangement and the attentive live mixing of Lara Soulio. It is a mesmerising immersive experience for a band who have always been the aural equivalent of a good hang.

"It’s really nice to be here to play a hometown show in a fancy fucking venue," says Parsons with a grin. Full of nervous energy that he channels into his vocal performance, Parsons leads the band into highlights from the new album, Ahh (This Isn't Ideal) and Excalibur before handing vocal duties over to the rich, expressive baritone of Blair for Diane Said and Monster Of The Week.

The way Blair and Parsons work together in what seems to be an ego-free example of respect and making space for each other. In a concert, it is wonderful to watch.

A subtly compelling Real I'm Told, a triumphant Just In Time, and the closing trio of Escalator, Baby Steps, and the closing lo-fi pop of $10 are all highlights from a set that never disappoints. That the band didn't play, and no one requested the song that has 109 million plays on Spotify, Warned You, speaks to how far they've come and their (and the audience's) love of what Blair and Parsons are writing now.

The duo's very strange path to success is too long to relay here and would seem ludicrous if ever adapted into a biopic, but tonight, it feels like we've taken a tiny part of that journey with them. Tonight, before a near-sold-out Melbourne Recital Centre, it felt like a very fortunate place to be.