Violent Soho live in Brisbane: Mansfield’s finest go shredding into the sunset

September 9 and 10, Fortitude Music Hall: For their last shows before an indefinite hiatus, the rock band went all out with an explosive (if predictable) showcase of their strengths

So it’s come to this – after thousands of shows, millions of tinnies, and enough sweat to fill the Brisbane River, Violent Soho are throwing in the towel.

The night before the first of their two “farewell” gigs, guitarist James Tidswell told NME that they’re calling it quits for now because they’d achieved what they set out to do some 18 years ago: reignite Australia’s passion for pub-rock and inspire a new generation of rockers and rollers to pick up a guitar, crank up an amp, and go absolutely fucking buckwild. Given that dozens of bands today cite Violent Soho as a primary influence, it’s without a doubt they’ve pulled it off.

With the likes of Melbourne grunge-rockers LOSER and Soho’s fellow Brisbanites DZ Deathrays opening these post-BIGSOUND Brisbane gigs last weekend (September 9-10), the crowds were teeming with energy even before Soho took the stage. DZ in particular have toured with Soho since their inception in 2008, and as the rapturous singalongs proved, the venn diagram of their fanbases is practically a circle. Their Saturday set saw two guests: LOSER’s Craig Selak on ‘Fired Up’ and Dune Rats, who rushed the stage for a surprise, explosive rendition of their 2017 hit ‘Scott Green’.

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Violent Soho
Credit: Mitch Lowe

Soho crowds are intense at their weakest, so given that these two shows were their last chances to prove their might – and that both sold out in seconds – it shouldn’t surprise anyone that all hell broke loose as soon as the first snare crashed on ‘Sleep Year’. Halfway through their second song on Friday (‘Hungry Ghost’ favourite ‘In The Aisle’), Soho were forced to hit pause because punters had burst through the barricade.

As a whole, the band’s setlist was tight and satisfying, if predictable: the 17 songs drew from the pool of 20 or so that Soho have played for the past few years, with the closest thing to a deep cut being the mid-tempo scorcher ‘Muscle Junkie’ (from 2010’s self-titled album). Another self-titled gem came early in ‘Love Is A Heavy Word’, but it would have been cool to hear ‘Son Of Sam’ or ‘My Generation’ thrown in for the old-school fans.

Other glaring omissions, in our opinion, included ‘Scrape It’ (Soho’s debut single), ‘WACO’ highlights like ‘Blanket’ and ‘No Shade’, the acoustic ‘A-OK’, and the fan favourite ‘Neighbour Neighbour’. Expanded to 19 songs, Saturday’s setlist gave longtime devotees an extra treat in the downright anthemic ‘Tinderbox’ – but why Soho chose the mid-tier ‘Pick It Up Again’ for that second bonus, we’ll never understand.

Violent Soho
Credit: Mitch Lowe

Nevertheless, what they did deliver was nothing short of stunning. A standout passage came in the set’s middle, when Soho sandwiched the vibey ‘Hungry Ghost’ cuts ‘Saramona Said’ and ‘Fur Eyes’ between two ripping ‘WACO’ anthems, ‘So Sentimental’ and ‘How To Taste’. Despite only being played live once before, the band’s official swansong, ‘Kamikaze’, felt like a generational classic with the way its singalong chorus soared. And of course, when the main set ended on Soho’s biggest hit, ‘Covered In Chrome’, frontman Luke Boerdam was entirely drowned out by the rapturous chant of “HELL FUCK YEAH!” 

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As they always do, Soho themselves gelled with the aplomb of chosen brothers. Tidswell’s frenzied shredding wrapped tightly around Boerdam’s angsty and impassioned yells, while the grungy rumble of Luke Henery’s bass added a wealth of depth to the soundscape. Mikey Richards was sorely missed behind the kit – on Instagram, he said he’d already “parted ways” with Soho and is “moving on already with [his] future” – but his substitute, lovingly dubbed “replacement Mikey”, did a solid job of beating the shit out his snares.

The mood throughout was bittersweet, with tears shed, hugs shared, and all the usual quips of banter subbed out for heartfelt expressions of gratitude. “We started this band, like, straight out of high school in our garage,” Boerdam said in the set’s tail end, “and all we wanted to do, no matter what happens, was always keep that feel – so welcome to our fucking garage, and thank you for keeping it real!”

Violent Soho
Credit: Mitch Lowe

Whether or not this truly is the end for Violent Soho remains to be seen – Tidswell stressed repeatedly that songs were being played “for the last time ever”, but when announcing their disbandment, they assured fans that they only aim “to take a break and lay low for a bit”. Whatever the case, the band’s legacy will continue to live on, whether in Henery’s side project Total Pace, Tidswell’s role in leading UNIFIED imprint Domestic La La, or Boerdam’s work as a producer. And they’ll always have a place on the stage: as Boerdam sang sweetly in the show’s closing salvo, “I don’t ever want to go / This cathedral is my home.”

Violent Soho played:

  1. ‘Sleep Year’
  2. ‘In The Aisle’
  3. ‘Viceroy’
  4. ‘Love Is A Heavy Word’
  5. ‘Lying On The Floor’
  6. ‘Kamikaze’
  7. ‘So Sentimental’
  8. ‘Saramona Said’
  9. ‘Fur Eyes’
  10. ‘How To Taste’
  11. ‘Vacation Forever’
  12. ‘Jesus Stole My Girlfriend’
  13. ‘Like Soda’
  14. ‘Covered In Chrome’
  15. ‘Dope Calypso’
  16. ‘Muscle Junkie’
  17. ‘Pick It Up Again’ (exclusive to second show)
  18. ‘Tinderbox’ (exclusive to second show)
  19. ‘OK Cathedral’
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