Modest Mouse + Hot Hot Heat @ Big Top, Luna Park
The Big Top at Luna Park isn't a venue. It's a big hall which occasionally plays host to big music presentations. It's characterless and even when it's full it fails to contain any atmosphere that adds to the performance.
Hot Hot Heat struggled in the large arena. Aided by a tightly packed ineuthastic front section they made their way through their extensive back catalogue of songs. Being a band that is primarily fueled by unusual up-and-down vocals it was never going to easy for them to fill the hall with their sound. Even during the early stages of their set it was clear that anybody further than a quarter of the way back were not going to get their cock anywhere near the desired destination of 'rocked'.
Frontman Steve Bays seemed to be struggling to fit into the stadium rock spotlight that the occasion demanded and as much as he tried to add a sense of bravado rock-ness to their songs - it was something that was never really going to work.
Being a fan of Hot Hot Heat ever since I picked up their Knock Knock Knock EP about six or so years ago I was highly disappointed to see them not rise to the occasion. I even had to leave during their rendition of Five Times Out Of A Hundred as the song just sounded as though it had just been kicked in the stomach by a large group of leather clad biker bitches.
Modest Mouse have a lovely, indescribable jangly pop sound. Much like 'The Heat' they don't have the kind of grandness to their sound to fill a venue that is approximately the size of Tasmania. They took a different approach to their Canadian supports and instead of trying to rev up the crowd through banter and rock moves they chose to add some heavy sounds to their lovely, often delicate, minimal numbers. This worked a treat. Not only did it help keep their set interesting but also added a lot of weight to their sound.
The crowd was obviously primarily interested in their newer material and any song from the last two records got a comforting rejoice. This wasn't a bad thing and Black Cadillacs, The View, Dashboard and Float On sounded tremendous in their slightly re-invented format. Johnny Marr brings, besides his obvious talent, a charismatic and engaging element to the band. He often led the interaction with the crowd and helped the show travel along nicely with his occasional between-song acknowledgment of those in attendance.
In a perfect world Modest Mouse would have played a couple more songs off The Moon & Antartica, but hats off to them for realising the occasion. They played just enough older songs to tie over the die hards and easily enough of the successful songs to keep everyone else happy. The band, especially in contrast to Hot Hot Heat's set, showed their experience via the well thought out method in which they presented their material and, despite the lack of character provided by their surrounds, were able to put on a highly enjoyable show.