Live Review: Mammal

19 September 2022 | 9:03 am | Rod Whitfield

"Mammal are still the very essence of rock‘n'roll in a live setting."

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A relatively recent formation, Melbourne four piece Stealing Moss definitely have something to say, musically. First impressions are that of a joyously blue-collar alt-rock act with a very straight-ahead groove and gritty but catchy vocals, although they certainly shake things up nicely, throwing in more curveballs rhythmically and vocally, as their set progresses. At times they sound a little stonery, at times they inject a little boogie into their sound, the lead vocal tradeoff between the two guitarists works a treat, and it’s all supported and driven forward by a cast-iron rhythm section. They may be a new band, but Stealing Moss have already assembled a ripping collection of tunes and have the potential to become a serious live mainstay on the local scene.

A real surprise packet awaits the building crowd next. Hailing from Geelong (Djilang), The Kite Machine take the live music punter across a gamut of styles, taking you to different places and eras In the history of rock music. At times you feel like you’re at a pop concert, then you’re watching The Who, then Led Zepellin, then maybe someone like the Chili Peppers as they rock the funk out, and maybe even a band like Little River Band, as they delve unashamedly into more schmaltzy territory.  It's a wild and varied ride, but focused and coherent, and all delivered with an infectious exuberance that puts a big, fat smile on the face of every punter in the place. Their set features old-school keyboard enhancements, three and four-way vocal harmonies, big fun, and something for just about anyone.

For the uninitiated, King Of The North are, strikingly, ‘just’ a two-piece: a guitarist, who sings lead, and a drummer, who sings backups. There is no bass, no second guitar, no keys, but the way they have things set up, they don’t need any of that ‘superfluous’ stuff. The guitar covers such a broad range of sound, the drums sound so fat, and the grooves are so deep, the big room is filled with enormous sound, fire and intensity with just the two of them playing.

The next things you notice as you watch this unique act are the strong Led Zep influence to their sound, the rampant riffery, and the effortless, toe-tapping sense of boogie they deliver it all with. The two of them work together like an iron fist in a perfectly tailored silken glove (and holding a sledgehammer). Tonight they treat us to a whole bunch of brand new stuff, music they’ve been working on since before the pandemic, and it all sounds rather spectacular. This band has been understandably a little quiet recently, but hopefully they are back with new music, a new release and more live shows soon.

We are now ready for the main event, although you are never quite ready for this particular headliner.

Thinking back to the late 2000s for just a moment, Melbourne’s Mammal were one of the top live acts in the nation. They were selling out venues across the country, playing big festivals, gaining massive momentum with every show, and even flirting with overseas success. Then it all ended, just like that, with an announcement on social media. When it was announced recently that they’d patched up their differences (replacing their bassist in the process) and reformed, questions arose: has more than a decade away made a difference? Has time and absence wearied them? Will they have difficulty re-capturing the blinding, blistering fire they once had?

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The answer to those questions comes tonight: it is an unequivocal, emphatic NO.

It can be officially reported that they have lost nothing. First up, new bassist Kade Turner has slotted in as seamlessly as can be imagined. Secondly, the rhythm section, in fact the band as a whole, is still tighter than a clenched fist whilst still playing with the monumental flair and abandon they always did. And thirdly, singer Ezekiel Ox is still a true force of nature, a frontman who grasps the audience’s attention with an iron-clad grip and holds it unflinchingly for an hour and 20 minutes. Holds it with his completely over-the-top stage presence and antics, regular costume changes (which often result in some of the most outlandish stage gear you will ever see, Viking helmets, mirrorball hats and more) and kamikaze forays into the crowd.

Of course, all the flair, on and off-stage antics and costume changes don’t mean a damn thing if a band’s music doesn’t cut it, and Mammal still possess the songwriting and instrumental chops to back it all up. The songs (including the brand new ones they hit us with) are still intense, funky, catchy and choc-full of freight train-level energy and propulsion.

Mammal are still the very essence of rock‘n'roll in a live setting, they remain a bristling, scintillating beast of a live band that is so much fun to watch. Whether or not they can regain the momentum they had almost a decade and a half ago remains to be seen, but the tools, the chops and the attitude are still present, and present in droves.