Violent Soho live at The Lansdowne, Sydney: Utter pub-rock anarchy

The Lansdowne Hotel, February 14, 2020

“We’re The Buoys”, vocalist/guitarist Zoe Catterall announced to the punters rapidly filling the Lansdowne for headliners Violent Soho.

She paused, considered her introduction, and clarified. “Not ‘the boys’”, she added. “They’ll be on in about 10 songs’ time”.

Playing support to a largely-unfamiliar audience, Catterall and co. knew they’re ostensibly working to leave a first impression. For all intents and purposes, they certifiably nailed the brief  – even if you walked in not knowing the band from a bar of soap, you left wanting plenty more where that came from.

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Violent Soho Sydney Lansdowne review
Credit: Sam Brumby

And really, with a live show like The Buoys offered, why wouldn’t you? Their energy was infectious, their onstage chemistry was undeniable and the songs themselves – ranging from ’90s-tinged power-pop to riot-grrrl punk – burst from the speakers as if to grab you by the collar. This is a band that had been asserting themselves as one of Sydney’s great indie-rock hopes, and tonight felt like both a confirmation and validation of that.

Even before Violent Soho took to the stage, it was clear that this was an audience that came ready for battle. Mosh-pits were breaking out to the music playing over the PA. The chanting was getting louder and louder. We’re on the cusp of a new era for one of Australia’s most beloved working bands, and the full room was eager to get to work.

Violent Soho Sydney Lansdowne review
Credit: Sam Brumby

Violent Soho announced their imminent return on the sly, pushing out physical flyers detailing small-scale shows on the East Coast with hard-copy tickets that eager fans lined up from the crack of dawn to secure. With the secret well and truly out, however, it was time to see if the band could shake the foundations of the very pubs and rooms that they first cut their teeth in way back when.

You could probably hazard a guess as to what ensued: Bodies went flying, manes of hair thrashed in time with Mikey Richards’ pounding drums and the singing got so loud that frontman Luke Boerdam could have dropped off-mic at any time and allowed the pub choir to take the reins.

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Violent Soho Sydney Lansdowne review
Credit: Sam Brumby

‘In The Aisle’ is pandemonium, its urgency becoming even more palpable when contained within such a small space. ‘Covered In Chrome’ hit a fever pitch, its double-expletive hook delivered with utter gusto. Hell, even ‘Lying On The Floor’ – which, at the time of performance, was maybe 48 hours old – got the kind of reception that would lead you to believe Soho have been playing it for a decade.

Violent Soho Sydney Lansdowne review
Credit: Sam Brumby

Although guitarist James Tidswell teased that the show was “band practice” rather than an actual gig, the truth was it barely felt as though Violent Soho had been gone. They have so confidently asserted themselves here, bringing the rowdiness of their dive-bar heyday along with the all-encompassing resonance of their mid-2010s boom period.

As they tore into deep-cut ‘Scrape It’ to conclude proceedings, with stage-dives coming from all angles and Boerdam playing so hard his strings snapped, the return of Mansfield’s finest felt complete.

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