"It was a victorious return for a songwriter and band who continue to write and perform literate and melodically ornate songs of the highest order."
Returning to Sydney after nearly six years, Martin Phillipps is currently riding high on the critical acclaim for The Chills' recently released Silver Bullets album and the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent proved to be a fitting setting for his many-faceted, dark pop songs.
The new album was the centrepiece of the set with Phillipps introducing songs and adding tidbits of information about each one as the rest of the band provided tight, soaring and, at times, muscular backing. Phillips has always had a unique way of taking melodies and dynamics in his songs and adding unexpected and fascinating twists and turns. Live those elements come to fore as the rhythm section wrestled with the ghosts of Krautrock and post-punk, the keyboards and violin filled the tent with washes of sound and Phillipps wrung beautiful chords and riffs from his guitar while his crisply enunciated and multitudinous lyrics tumbled forth. The new album's title track, Underwater Wasteland and Warm Waveform in particular were heartily embraced by the audience who were there to hear some of the favourite songs of their youth yet still gracious and curious to hear the artistic resurrection of Phillipps.
Pink Frost is a widely regarded classic of gloomy early '80s post-punk and after a clever alternative beginning that fooled most of the crowd the familiar sparkling riff shone bright across their smiling faces. A gothic tale of murder, Phillipps delivered it with just the right amount of blank-faced spookiness and dread. From there we got early single Rolling Moon, Male Monster From The ID and their crowning glory and clever swipe at the world of pop music the euphoric Heavenly Pop Hit, complete with bubbles falling from the tent rooftop. It was a victorious return for a songwriter and band who continue to write and perform literate and melodically ornate songs of the highest order.