Live Review: Northlane

21 June 2022 | 9:07 am | Rod Whitfield

Only headliners Northlane get to play for a decent length of time tonight, and it’s a good thing too, for they put on the type of show that needs at least an hour to do it justice.

(Pic by Kim Quint)

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There is little surprise that this incredible and eclectic lineup packs out the mighty Forum, the grand old dame of Melbourne live music, twice in two nights. Tonight is a Sunday, a school night, and people have still shown up in their droves, and a very strong contingent even shows up at 7:20pm for the openers.

Adelaide’s Alt. are well named. They pump out high-energy, powerhouse alt-rock, with a strong influence drawn from the Aussie alternative heavy rock scene (Karnivool, Cog, Dead Letter Circus etc), although their sound is a touch more straight-ahead. The music may be comparatively simple, but they deliver it with flair and passion, vocalist Dan Richards in particular singing and performing with a gusto that is infectious. He injects some fun and rousing moments of crowd participation, and the punters react in kind.

Alt’s 20-minute set flashes by in the blink of an eye, leaving everyone wanting more.


Speaking of wanting more, the UK’s enigmatic and sensational Sleep Token are up next. Known for their mysterious persona, the four-piece take the stage wearing long, dark cloaks with the hoods pulled up and white masks, shrouding their faces and identities. But of course, as they have said themselves, it’s the music and the performance that matters, not who they are, not what they look like (cynical haters may say this in itself is a gimmick, but let’s not worry about them). And the music and performance this night are phenomenal. The band sounds enormous, their musicianship is exemplary and their music is dynamic, powerful and evocative all at once. Their entire performance has the feel of being witness to some kind of dark ritual rather than a rock show, and they hold the audience mesmerised.

This band is unclassifiable. Their music is not really rock, not really metal, not really prog, and it’s certainly not pop, although it contains elements of all of the above. They exist in a genre of one, and tonight such labels do not matter one iota. Only the overall experience does. And the one and only problem with that is that it was way, way too short, and we get only the briefest, most teasing and tantalising taste of the Token. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have this band come all the way from England for just thirty minutes onstage needs a good talking to. But, we take what we can get while it’s there.

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This band must come back some for a full headliner.


The somewhat dissatisfying vibe of the night continues into Plini’s set. One of the best guitarists on the planet right now, as well as composer of some of the best instrumental guitar tracks, Plini and his fabulous band are on fire this night. His lead lines sound so clear and so pure, the notes selected with such tasteful precision, it all brings a tear to your eye, until 15 minutes into his set he walks off stage for a moment, only to return to tell us he’s been told to finish his set then and there. Just as the set is hitting its stride and momentum, bang, it’s all over. No real reasons given. And we are all left hanging.

This is a guy who’s amassed an astonishing national and international following over the last half-dozen years or so, a bloke who’s had artists like Steve Vai singing his praises and Doja Cat ripping him off, being told to stop 15 minutes into a 40-minute set.

Disappointing.


Only headliners Northlane get to play for a decent length of time tonight, and it’s a good thing too, for they put on the type of show that needs at least an hour to do it justice.

Like Parkway Drive, it is fantastic to see an Aussie heavy band go to the time, effort and expense it takes to put on such a massive rock show. The lighting is astonishing, the flames, pyros, flashpots, smoke and criss-crossing laser effects only add eye-popping emphasis and massive entertainment value to the package, and the crowd is left speechless by what they are witnessing.

Of course, all the crazy visual effects and production values in the world are for nought if the band’s music and performance are lacking. Thankfully Northlane, who could almost be deemed to be veterans on the scene now (they’ve been around for almost a decade and a half and are currently promoting and celebrating the release of their sixth album Obsidian), are very much up to the task. Their music incorporates heaviness, progressive stylings, interesting tribal and dancey/bouncy rhythms, odd-time sections and a whole lot more, and this ensures a compelling and varied show. At the same time, it’s a thunderously loud maelstrom of sound, and combined with the swirling visuals it's a heady mix, sending the crowd into a frenzy. A heaving circle pit soon forms.

The band is on fire, frontman Marcus Bridge sings and performs like his life depends on it, and the set proper is a pretty satisfying one hour even, highlights being the awesome mid-set showstopper Quantum Flux and the lone encore Clockwork.

The bands tonight are magnificent, it’s the setup and organisation of the night that is a touch disappointing. Nonetheless, tonight is another breathtaking night of local and international heavy music.