You Am I @ The Tivoli, 26.06.2013

You Am I @ The Tivoli, Wednesday 26 June 2013

I’m heading to the Tivoli for the first night of two You Am I shows at the venue, where they’re playing their Hourly Daily and Hi Fi Way albums in full Don’t Look Back-style. There’s no information saying anything about support acts for the night and the band’s Facebook page announces that they’re playing at “7:40pm sharp”.  It seems really early even if they are playing two albums back-to-back and presumably a few more songs as an encore.

It’s an early evening of high drama with another change in Australia’s Prime Ministership, which leaves me glad that although I might not (yet) have a vote in the place where I’ve been living for the last nine years, at least I don’t get a fine for not voting.  I don’t leave the office until 7:20pm but any worry that there’s going to be a massive line down the road from The Tivoli quickly dissipates as the venue comes into view.  In fact there’s no line at all, only a few people milling around outside, and I walk straight in.  The reason for the lack of queue is that it’s very quiet inside The Tivoli.  It suggests that a lot of people obviously didn’t get the memo about the early start time but as the night progresses confirms that the first night just hasn’t sold very well, as the venue remains maybe half full.

I’ve seen the band numerous times since I’ve been in Australia and have always considered them a good but not great live act.  In fact the time I enjoyed them the most was the first time I saw them, supporting The Lemonheads in Wolverhampton back in 1997 when they were completely unknown to me (and presumably everyone else who saw them on that tour and who wasn’t Australian).  Given the timeframe, the band would have been playing from the same collection of songs on show tonight.  Similarly I’d class the albums that they’ve re-released and are playing tonight as good but not great.  There’s a smattering of really good songs on both albums but with quite a lot of filler material.  Both albums, even in their original form (16 songs for Hourly Daily, 14 songs for Hi Fi Way) are way too long and both would have been improved by being cut to 10 or 11 songs.  Then again, these aren’t my albums, they’re supposed to belong to the people that have come to see them tonight, not that you’d know it based on tonight’s audience.

I requested to photograph tonight because I wanted to experience the Australian soundtrack for a generation.  I expected it to be something similar to the really magical night of Screamfeeder playing Kitten Licks at The Troubadour but on a much larger scale, but it doesn’t come anyway near.

Although people have paid $70 each to go tonight, where I’m stood, admittedly not at the front but about half way back, everyone is far more interested in talking to each other and checking their mobiles.  A group in front of me who have been among the worst offenders for talking even leave half way through the Hi Fi Way section.  The atmosphere is really flat for the whole night, although it does pick up a bit for Hi Fi Way and probably reaches its crescendo during ‘Cathy’s Clown’.  After each song there’s a muted response of polite applause but other than maybe the first half dozen rows crammed against the barrier at the front, everyone else seems non-plussed by the whole event.

The reviews paint completely different picture though, portraying them as evenings of triumph.  I think You Am I are, in the eyes of the Australian music press, as close as you can get to untouchable, even more so than any other Australian act.  In summary, a good but not great live act and an audience that for the most part couldn’t care less either way.  Maybe the second night was a vast improvement.

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