Review and Photography by John Bentley

Tonight is a real labour of love for me seeing my favourite ‘new’ band of the past two years, Aussie psych polymaths, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Let’s just call them KGATLW. Their main claim to fame in 2017 seems to have been achieving the goal of releasing five albums in one year. No mean feat, especially considering that they managed to maintain the musical quality control throughout. However, it also probably meant that none of their albums got in the spotlight in the usual end-of-year ‘best albums’ charts. The band has a very busy world touring schedule and live they are a real phenomenon. Tonight the sold-out Academy is heaving with bodies as fans come to see KGATLW on this year’s rather short UK tour.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard by John Bentley

Disappointingly there’s no photo pass available for Gig Junkies for tonight’s gig and I’ve even forked-out twenty quid of my own cash to be here. The photos are mine from KGATLW’s 2017 gig at Manchester’s Albert Hall.

Interestingly the support band on the tour is Mild High Club who collaborated with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on last year’s joint-album, the laid-back jazzy ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’. Although Mild High Club play a variation on the theme tune from the Sketches album there’s no team-up with the Gizzards to play any of their collaborative album, which would have been an interesting proposition. Unfortunately Mild High Club’s quiet and low-key set gets rather lost in the ambient noise of the large hall and really would have been better suited to a small and more intimate venue.

Tension builds as KGATLW leader Stu Mackenzie briefly appears to check the equipment, but we have to wait a little longer until the band finally takes to the stage and launches into the headbanging ‘Rattlesnake’, which really rattles and chugs along, setting the tone and pace for the evening. As they play, impressive graphics pulsate on a screen behind the stage, propelling the song along. Next up is new song ‘Greenhouse Heat Death’, a highlight from last year’s fifth album (‘Gumboot Soup’, released on the last day of 2017). A great song with doomy, twisted, eastern-sounding psych riffs. Then we’re back to more songs from ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’, arguably the best of KGATLW’s five albums from 2017. Maybe the band agrees with this assessment as during the evening we get to hear almost the entire album. KGATLW play the gig in two sets, with the first particularly rich in the microtonal psychedelic material that has cropped-up on their recent albums. This involves some specially made guitars that allow them to play intervals smaller than a semitone that are not found in the customary western tuning of twelve equal intervals per octave.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard by John Bentley

The energy and pace of the music is relentless and by the time we get to ‘Sleep Drifter’, the customary KGATLW gig crowd-surfing is in full-swing. There’s a slight breather as the band give us versions of ‘D-Day’ and ‘The Book’, taken from the more relaxed ‘Sketches of Brunswick East’ album, before we launch into an extended and rather excellent epic version of ‘Billabong Valley’. For this frontman Stu Mackenzie moves over to let keyboard player Ambrose Kenny-Smith take centre stage to sing their co-written song.

There’s an interval before KGATLW perform the second set. Cleverly the gap is 15 minutes long, the exact duration of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sister Ray’, which plays loud and distorted over the PA system, while there is a digital time countdown on the screen at the back of the stage. It really keeps the adrenalin going even while the band is off-stage. KGATLW resume and crank the pace up again in opener ‘Evil Death Roll’, before we are served a selection of tracks from the sci-fi concept album ‘Murder of the Universe’. This becomes a thunderous heavy-metal freakout by the time we get to ‘The Lord of Lightening’ finale: as the band play the opening chords of the song the audience are already singing the words. Fan-favourite ‘Cellophane’ is the one ‘old’ song offering of the evening before we (briefly) head back to a more laid-back vibe as Stu plays flute on ‘Polygondwanaland’. Then its full-tilt manic playing to the end of the gig, culminating with rockers ‘Robot Stop’ and ‘Gamma Knife’.

Wow! This has been an exhausting gig, keeping-up with the sheer pace and energy of KGATLW. The seven-piece band, which includes three guitars and two drum kits, really make a terrific racket. A great performance and a really good setlist taking us on a trip through much of KGATLW’s best material of the past two years.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard by John Bentley

Set 1 setlist: Rattlesnake; Greenhouse Heat Death; Nuclear Fusion; Open Water; All is Known; Anoxia; Sleep Drifter; D-Day; The Book; Billabong Valley; Doom City. Set 2 setlist: Evil Death Roll; Welcome to an Altered Future; Digital Black; Han-Tyumi, the Confused Cyborg; The Lord of Lightening; Cellophane; Polygondwanaland; Crumbling Castle; The Fourth Colour; Robot Stop; Gamma Knife / People Vultures (beginning only).

One Response to “King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard + Mild High Club, Manchester Academy, UK – 22nd February 2018”

  1. Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » Gig Junkies Year in Review 2018 Says:

    […] HRH Metal 2018 Hell Is For Heroes + A + Vex Red Brian Fallon & The Howling Weather + Dave Hause King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard + Mild High Club Album Review: Love Is a Basic Need by Embrace Morrissey The Front Bottoms + The Smith Street Band + […]

Leave a Reply