live review

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Auckland

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Auckland

September 05 2008
Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland

Reviewed by Clayton
29th March 2010

"I don't care if you hate me," Anton Newcombe, leadsinger of the Brian Jonestown Massacre sneered at the audience, apropos of seemingly nothing, "I don't care if you hate me or you hate Joel, because of that movie. That's not something I have to deal with."

To which Joel Gion, camp tambourine player extraordinaire with an-almost full beard bizarrely trimmed to resemble a Planet of the Apes extra, replied, "I was great in that movie." A beat. "That was when we were sucking each others' cocks."

The movie in question is of course is documentary DiG!, and of the audience packed like sardines into the once-again oversold King's Arms, half seemed to be there for the music, and half seemed to be there for a repeat of the documentary’s intense antics of Newcombe. Fortunately, over the whopping 2 plus hours playing time that the main act provided, there was plenty of time for both. For those that were there for the music, a seemingly improvised playlist that refused to end when most bands would already be high-fiving back stage seemed just the trick for the teeming masses up front. And musically the band were on form, a psychedelic headtrip that - even with the band's newer songs - seemed a welcome return of 90s indie rock. We even got a treat of having Newcombe's wife join for one song. Two words: lucky bastard.

For those that were there for the show, as typified by Newcombe's legendary penchant for kicking audience members in the head, punching his bandmates onstage and truly bizarre verbal outbursts, while there may not have been anything to the level of the recent alleged bandmate- stabbing that threatened to stall this very tour, there were some moments of truly sublime non-sequiturs. "Fuck off!" an audience member (one of many who seemed to be there as much to rark up Newcombe as to enjoy the music).

"No - you fuck off!" Newcombe retorted, before catching himself, "Oh come on guys, tonight's not about fucking off, its about rainbows. And unicorns." "Play some fucking music!" someone from the back cried during one of the band's several onstage cigarette breaks (during most of which Newcombe seemed content to sit and shoot the breeze with audience members down the front).

"What? Who are you to ask me that?" Newcombe raged, "I don't know you. You're a fucking stranger to me! What do you want? What do you want? Money? You want some change?" before reaching into his back pocket and pulling out a NZ $2 coin, ordering it to be passed to the offending audience member.

Two people away from this writer, near the stage, a white guy with an afro stabbed his finger accusingly at Newcombe "Play some fucking music!"

Newcombe ducked, thinking something had been thrown (some accounts have it that there was indeed throwing, or spitting, but this writer didn’t see it) and, in true rock n roll fashion, he ordered the gig over until the offending member removed.

What started the evening as an almost self-deprecating parody of himself (his earlier outbursts seemed self aware and ironic), soon evolved into sometimes nerve-inducing exchanges with his band. One band member apparently made an error in one of the songs, which Newcombe immediately ordered to halt before embarking on a 5 minute dress-down of how this kid was unnecessary to his band. The lead guitarist, adequately playing Newcombe’s foil for the evening, offered to the audience, "We'll get back to playing once we stop making fun of each other."

After repeated threats to leave ("I don't give a fuck, I'll go sleep") Newcombe finally did without farewell after over 120 minutes hours of stage time.

Rather than the band returning for an encore, only the lead guitarist and drummer did. The guitarist, half performance but perhaps with a sprinkling of genuine ire: "Anton's left the building, so you can go or stay and listen to us. We can play without the genius. The pussy genius."

Despite all the posturing of both band and audience, however, the whole experience was an entirely engaging and unique one. At its best, it was watching an artist truly engage with not only with his band and with his audience, but with his art and with his own creative genius, as twisted and as tormented as that relationship may be.

More authentic art you couldn't ask for, and it makes for great music and indeed, great watching. And funny: "You know what pisses me off?," Anton declared, "I was in my hotel room all night fucking supermodels, and when I turned on Maori TV the next day, they were playing the same shit they were playing the night before. I want more Maori TV."

Long live the pussy genius.

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