By NATHAN RIZZO // The Melbourne seven-piece deliver a solid set of far out psychedelic rock to a sold out crowd at Portland’s Revolution Hall.
A good show can appear when least expected. Still hovering somewhere near the apex of popular taste, the relative homogeneity of indie pop and its chokehold on Portland’s concert scene can be wearying. Yet, Tuesday night’s performance from Melbourne-based seven-piece King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard was a surprising counter-argument of sorts, providing 90 minutes of quirky psychedelic rock to a youthful and boisterous sellout crowd at Portland’s Revolution Hall.
Walking onstage to AC/DC’s “Jailbreak,” wholly unironically, King Gizzard kicked off a night that would come to be characterized by something of the rhythmic locomotion and tight arrangements of their countrymen - if embellished by the impressive synchronicity of drummers Eric Moore and Michael Cavanaugh. On “Opening Water,” “Billabong” and “Anoxia,” the introductory trio led by frontman Stu Mackenzie, the group channeled vestiges of this direct, straight-time hallmark, setting the crowd to swaying and sketching the architecture of what would later become a rewarding performance that pleasantly defied expectations.
The initial electricity would wane with “Sleep Drifter” and “Nuclear Fusion,” both cuts from Microtonal Flying Banana, King Gizzard’s upcoming release. Otherwise quality songs, the pair were nevertheless an awkward fit for the first third of a band’s set, which typically powers the remainder of a performance. Such a quality is arguably more important in the Pacific Northwest, where learned, mellow audiences typically require an extra dosage of concerted energy.
However, King Gizzard rounded into form upon launching into “Rattlesnake,” the angular and cleverly hypnotic Krautrock-inspired single from Microtonal Flying Banana. Perhaps cognizant of a lull, the group noticeably dialed up the intensity with “Altered Beast” and “Robot Stop,” before dipping into a surprisingly expansive bag of compositional devices beyond the grasp of many contemporary rock acts. Already using microtonal instruments on the new record, whose title thus becomes immeasurably less abstract, “The River” featured an introductory figure in 5/4, immediately redolent of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” An ensuing selection showcased Santana’s signature II-V vamp, while “Lord of Lightning” was an ample vehicle for further exploration of odd-time signatures.
Most remarkably, King Gizzard - namely Moore and Cavanaugh, who, laudably, did not appear to be playing to a click track - stayed in fine sync, applying its ample skillset to engaging effect. As peculiar as the band can seem, at no time did the audience seem lost or otherwise inattentive. On the contrary, crowd surfers, once a given at shows of all kinds, made a welcome reappearance. Given the decades of conditioning to heavier security at liability-shy concert venues - and to pop’s inhumanely metronomic beats - the Revolution Hall audience deserves credit for its open ears.
By the time King Gizzard departed the stage upon the conclusion of “Am I In Heaven?,” the evening’s raucous closer, it had delivered a performance worthy of its recent Coachella slot and upcoming live TV debut on Conan. No doubt, the group has room to grow - namely in the realm of melody. And, like all bands, it will have to, lest it be typecast in the manner of AC/DC. However, the group has a genuine creative breadth and imagination that rises well beyond the reverb-drenched gimmicks of other modern rock acts, and easily deserves a rousing welcome whenever they return - hopefully sooner than later.