Sydney Opera House, 04/06/17
Photos by Ken Leanfore
It’s a little known fact about myself that I’m actually on a mission to find the hardest live band to review. At first, like an amateur, I thought Sigur Ros would take that claim, with the ethereal nature of frontman Jonsi’s bowed guitar and falsetto vocals proving themselves almost impossible to describe. Then Explosions In The Sky came along, and I thought surely that the indescribability of their epic, spine-tingling crescendos would go unchallenged..but these bands are both child’s play compared to The Necks’ show at Sydney Opera House last night. The experimental jazz trio have to be Australia’s hardest band to review – and that’s exactly why we love them.
Featuring Chris Abrahams on piano, Tony Buck on drums/percussion and Lloyd Swanton on double bass, The Necks’ entirely improvised live show is like nothing you’ve seen or heard before. Each of the band’s performances begins with a simple and quiet music motif, played by either Abrahams or Swanton. From here, the other musicians slowly add texture to the idea, experimenting with their chosen instrument in order to accompany the introduction without overshadowing it. Buck for instance will drag his drum stick across the floor tom, creating a jarring series of vibrations, or Swanton will play his bass with a bow, echoing low resonant notes around the room. From here, the music will grow more and more complex, as the trio naturally transition from that deceptively simple start into an all-encompassing and hypnotic crescendo. Then, when they’ve explored every possible permutation, every outcome of that starting figure, the lights come up, and they stop. The band take a bow, then walk off the stage, leaving the crowd in a state of pure awe.
This may not sound like much, but it creates a deeply personal and highly cathartic environment, which offers the audience a rare chance to witness unfiltered and raw creativity; to experience the entire progression of an idea from inception to end. The band performed two of these 45 minute ‘journeys’ (sorry, that’s honestly the least wanky way of putting it!) last night, with the first being relatively calm and reflective, and the second dialling up the intensity.
It sounds like tacky cliches, but you truly lose track of time during the sets and find your mind wandering to the most unexpected and interesting places. Much like Sigur Ros and Explosions in The Sky, I highly recommend bringing along any and all existential issues to a Necks’ gig, and using the performance to work through them in the most elegant possible way.
Now disregard everything I’ve said, book tickets to the next Necks performance, and see where your mind takes you.