The Real McKenzies: Empire Hotel, Sydney Australia – 19TH March 2004

Its very rare that overseas acts ever live up to the expectations or the hype that surrounds them when they come to Australia. For some reason, it appears all too common for European and American bands to think that they can come down here and dominate the market, even with a mediocre live performance. Such has been my experience on many occasions.

Nevertheless, I had heard good things about tonight’s show, and looked on in keen interest. I arrived at about 9.30pm as local act Bagster opened up the night. I’ve seen these guys many times, and each time they seem to get a little tighter, and their set more cohesive. I cant help but think that they sound very much like Reel Big Fish, which is not really my thing – nonetheless, they are relatively entertaining and tight, and combine power-pop and punk riffs with horns..

Soon after the beer began to flow more freely, and the crowd seemed to loosen up a little as The Go Set took to the stage. I had heard good things about these guys, but never managed to get out and catch them when they’ve been in town. The seem to be touring all the time, and after watching tonight’s set, the road time is obvious. The Go Set combine some traditional Australian and celtic folk influences with Clash inspired punk, and they do it well. Songs about Australian history, war, and sailing the seas made these guys the perfect support for the McKenzies. They were tight, aggressive, self assured, and singer J.Keenan engaged the crowd for interaction continuously. Matthew McNasty and a couple of the other McKenzie lads climbed up on stage for a couple of songs, which was a highlight of the night. These guys are definately on their way to bigger things.

A short break, and The Real McKenzies hit the stage with an energy never before seen at the Empire. These guys blasted into their set with a series of songs from their new album Oot and Aboot. Highlights were Bone’s amazing guitar work on ‘Cross The Ocean’, and of course ‘The night the lights went out in Scotland’. The McKenzies had, by now, worked the crowd into a moshing frenzy, and included a number of older tracks such as “Bitch off the Money” and ‘Nessie” from their Lochd and Loaded album. Each of the members of this band are amazing players, and Paul McKenzies is one of the most intense and engaging front men I have ever seen.

I recently read a review of ‘Oot and Aboot’ that rated it as an ‘average’ punk rock album. Obviously this reviewer has never seen this band live. Tonight was one of the best shows I’ve seen in years, and for $17 a ticket it doesnt EVER get any better than this. When Paul McKenzie sang “MacPhersons Farewell”, the friendship and bond that had been developed between these bands and with the audience, through a booze soaked and sweaty pub room, was as thick as blood. A member of one of the band’s had told me earlier in the night that seeing the Real McKenzies live was a life-changing experience – he was’nt far off the mark. Sooner or later, Australians will catch on to this, and when they do more people will experience what these select few experienced tonight.
Review by Matthew Burke Punk Australia Zine

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