Live Review: The Necks

25 February 2016 | 11:33 am | Jake Sun

"To affect an audience in such a way is no easy task, yet The Necks manage to make it happen time and again."

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The announcement of The Necks playing Sandgate Town Hall came as a peculiar surprise to many a fan eagerly awaiting the delayed details of the Brisbane leg of this tour. The journey up to the end of the blue line proves to be a big win, however, as the low-key, serene surroundings compliment this occasion hugely. Everything from the ticket table to the bar (a kitchen service-counter at the back of the hall that looks as if it'd really rather be serving scones and tea than alcoholic beverages) adds to the quaintness of the setting. The charm continues on as an MC gets up and delivers an old fashioned introduction to the band.

Chris Abrahams is the first to open the conversation, with gentle loops of piano, and then Lloyd Swanton and Tony Buck respectively take cue. It's a subtle dialogue, but before a dozen minutes have passed they stumble upon something truly magical. Once The Necks are rolling the quirks of the environment begin to recede as the vastness of their sound slowly envelops both body and mind with its hypnotic hold. Oscillating rhythms and melodies create a musical portal, which acts as a sort of perception altering device, and the regular conditions of the present place and time seemingly move in and out of suspension. One look around the room and many can be seen to be on an inward journey — closed eyed, enraptured faces are the order of the day. To affect an audience in such a way is no easy task, yet The Necks manage to make it happen time and again through almost every performance. The fact that every one of their sets is an improvisation only adds weight to the monolith that is their live show.

After a brief intermission, they return for the second set and make quick work of finding their place of power again. Memory and pattern recognition play a fundamental role in defining our experience of music, and it's as if The Necks have made it their life mission to purposefully undermine both. Their progressive approach to repetition creates a shifting landscape where any attempt to identify the territory underfoot reveals slippages. The moment is as elusive as what lays behind and beyond, and the shifts between seem to be as imperceptible. There is nothing to grasp onto here, memory and pattern recognition are forced into a whole new game, and through this undermining there is a sense of freedom that invites an intense experience of personal play.

After all these years, we're extremely lucky to still be getting a tour from these home grown heroes every year. And who would have thought it, but one of the greatest live bands on the planet just played the Sandgate!

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