beasts metro white and red


The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Friday 5 April 2 2024

Was a time when Australia was seemingly the envy of the underground music world. A wave of Oz bands had grown up in relative splendid isolation, in an environment with a currency based on paying your dues via live work.

The bands absorbed many external influences but parsed them through local filters and delivered something unique.There were few barriers between the players and the punters (in some cases they were interchangeable) and their existences revolved around extended weekends and pushing things to the max.

That’s why gigs like tonight need to be cherished. They come along only once in a while. They recall a different time, and give hope that some kids will pick up on what’s being dished up and want to go and do the same. You call it nostalgia; I call it therapeutic.

beasts metro front

There’s a good-sized crowd in tonight without pushing The Metro to capacity. That’s great considering Sydney is enduring a meteorologic clusterfuck of torrential rain and the usual buckling of public transport. For a global city, we collectively drop our bundle when it’s wet. 

No doubt that the presence of much-loved James Baker in the belly of The Beasts line-up has a lot to do with the turn-out. James has terminal cancer and is determined to go out rocking. This is his second round of shows in eight months with The Beasts and he also has a solo EP in the racks. Can’t forget that burst of gigs he did with The Victims, too. The man has resilience and a spirit that would put most of us to shame.

Sole support JP Shilo is largely unknown in Sydney. He’s from Melbourne and an integral part of the Rowland S Howard and Jeffrey Lee Pierce fan clubs, and various tribute shows and albums to both. That gives him a modest global profile. He has currency in Europe but I bet he couldn’t get himself arrested walking down George Street. Sydney is like that.

Tonight, he’s playing with a backing band and churning out moody, angst-ridden, swampy, electrified blues. Without diving too deep into the underlying Sydney-versus-Melbourne rivalry, I need to be in a certain mind-frame to embrace the archetype “junkie rock”. Which is just a lazy musical tag that isn’t s a reflection on anyone’s personal habits or lack thereof. So I spend most of the set in the bar and miss Kim Salmon’s guest spot.

 beasts metro tex james

No such misgivings for the main event, most of which is viewed three or four rows back from the front at stage right. Charlie Owen and Kim take up their appointed places. James is on his throne and Boris Sudjovic has unassumedly settled in on bass.

A near fully bearded Tex Perkins leans in on the mic and we’re off to the races with the swaying “The Low Road”. It’s smoking. 

Was a time in the ‘90s when The Beasts of Bourbon seemed to have abandoned their country swamp beginnings and become Cock Rock. Tonight is not like that. In fact, as Tex reminds us early io the set, The Beasts are not The Beasts of Bourbon, they’re the world’s only tribute band to them. With so many members in the after-world, it’s hard to argue.

beasts metro charlie tex

The singer, James and Kim are the only originals, and the founding spirit is intact, if the levels of aslcohol consumption are not. The Beasts of Bourbon might have had the world (or at least a toehold into America) at their feet at one stage, but you had the feeling that their irreverence, trash sensibility and sheer love of rock and roll always stayed intact. And so it goes with The Beasts.

beasts metro boris kim

You would have been hard to please if tonight’s setlist didn’t tick most of your boxes (although a comrade with me in the trenches lamented the obvious absence of “Chase The Dragon”):

The Low Road 
I Don't Care About Nothing Anymore
Love and Death
Watch Your Step
Evil Ruby
Graveyard Train
Drunk on a Train
Drop Out
Ride On
Hard Work Drivin' Man
Hard for You
I Need Somebody
Execution Day
Cocksucker Blues

Ten Wheels for Jesus  

beasts metro tex white

A few observations:

It was ragged in parts. But that was, and is, part of the charm. When it cooked – and it did, often ("Psycho", "Drop Out", "Evil Ruby", "I Don't Care About Nothing Anymore" – it was monstrously good. 

The set gave time to every chapter of the Beasts of Bourbon’s long story. 

The guitar interplay was special although Kim Salmon dominated on lead which probably reflects his foundation membership. He also added some mean harmonica.

Tex was at his engaging best and looking as fit as all fuck. He might be at the front of this pack but it’s never just all about him.  

James was James. There was a bit of him in every note. Cancer, you’re fucked. Let the man keep going.

The Metro’s sound is often criticised but the front-of-house operators for both acts delivered tonight. It sounded as well-rounded in the middle of the room as at the back on the elevated levels. 

It might have been “Saturated” outside but tonight The Beasts rain on nobody’s parade. Is it the last hurrah? That's up to them and The Reaper. Let's live in hope that it's not. 

beasts metro wide band shot