Live Review: Radio Birdman, Died Pretty, Kim Salmon

20 June 2017 | 3:09 pm | Ross Clelland

"At times he seems about to completely throw himself into the maelstrom of the racket - then pulls back, as if worried he might pull a hammy."

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The legend is probably bigger than the band.

Forty years on, Radio Birdman have books and theses written about them - and now even a documentary where power plays, psycho-dramas and melodramas seem to come in equal measure. But tonight the mostly middle-aged faithful - many sporting faded T-shirts with that logo I had stencilled on my schoolbag - are here to see them on a stage bigger than they ever got to back then.

Kim Salmon has some history too: start with The Scientists and Beasts Of Bourbon and go from there. In solo mode, with a couple of gadgets - a vintage Walkman and short-circuiting guitar jack among them - his noise shimmers, shatters, then self-harms. One moment swampy, then the cold croon of the Beasts' Cool Fire, and then overflowing noise.

The Died Pretty backstory isn't as fraught, but their back-catalogue stands up in this company. So, while the idiosyncratic spectacle that is Ron Peno shimmys, struts, croons, and keens; Brett Myers is smiling broadly as he spools out those guitar lines of muscly pop songs like Stops 'N' Starts and DC, or the off-kilter gallop of Harness Up. The pressure's not on them tonight, and they relaxedly soar - even offering a support band encore of the sinuous Radio.

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There's a rush back from the bar and the loos as the Radio Birdman battle flag unfurls as stage backdrop. An opening tear into longtime set-piece, The 13th Floor Elevators' garage nugget You're Gonna Miss Me short-circuits the argument as to how many original members have to be present to honour a band name. Guitarist Deniz Tek and singer Rob Younger are still the centrepieces. Tek, a lean and intense presence, dealing out ribbons of noise even while committing that crime of uncoolness of wearing his own band's merch shirt. For his part, Younger isn't getting any, er, younger - although his growl through Alone In The Endzone shows he's in good voice. At times he seems about to completely throw himself into the maelstrom of the racket - then pulls back, as if worried he might pull a hammy.

Of the 'newer' half of the band, drummer Nik Rieth is the machine-gun punk rattle or surf band rumble as required. Oddly, they probably play 'better' than back in the day, but that feeling they were sometimes teetering on the edge of a precipice has gone. But they're still capable of going from Murder City Nights' MC5-ish clenched politicism to Ramones/Stooges trash like Do The Pop from song to song. Meanwhile, The Doors homage/pastiche of Man With The Golden Helmet now has patience and richness, original keyboardist Pip Hoyle rolling out classical snippets and even some Ray Manzarek in his phrases.

The 'hits' are present: the Hawaii 5-0 goggleboxing of Aloha Steve And Danno foams and roars, and we punch the air and 'Yeah-Hup!' as required as their best-known anthem appears - but did the New Race ever imagine it would one day get a Senior's Card?