Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but heavier still is the burden born by anyone who goes up in front of a royal audience to speak their piece. As Henry Rollins once said, referring in particular to Rollins Band’s experience opening for Iron Maiden: “The good part is that they’re only there to see one band. The bad part is you’re not in that band.” A support slot for bigger artists can often serve as a raw deal dressed up as a big opportunity – and yet, here we are, with Brisbane indie-pop outfit Cub Sport being treated as though they were the headlining act of the evening.
Exactly why this audience in particular is so overjoyed at the very thought of Tim Nelson and co. powering through an airtight half-hour of glistening, harmonious groove is anyone’s guess – heck, given the median age of attendance, this could well be the very first time they are ever hearing music being performed live. Whatever the case, Cub Sport play to their strengths – big vocal layering, guitar and synth tessellation and a degree of catchiness that is refined well beyond the point of even possibly careening into bubblegum disposability.
The set primarily lifts from this year’s solid debut LP, This is Our Vice, sharing key highlights such as I Can’t Save You and I Don’t Love My Baby. The surprise entry, however, is a cover of Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody). It’s a risky choice, given this is the type of crowd that would have no clue to the band’s history – perhaps Psycho Killer, at a stretch – and yet it blends into proceedings near-perfectly. It’s safe to say that Cub Sport have got the hang of this. Kids, meet your new favourite band.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. His second-greatest trick, however, comes in the form of leaving a blinding white light covering the stage in the half-hour leading up to The 1975‘s arrival in surroundings most over the age of 21 remember as the Boiler Room of the dearly-missed Big Day Out.
There is a low hum that persists, occasionally letting through a song over the P.A. before resuming its duty. The lights dim slightly… a scream! Nothing. They dim again… a scream! Nothing. This goes on until a complete fade indicates clearly that the time for games is over. The 1975 are here – and you’ll be damned if they’re not arriving in style, kicking straight into their INXS/Bowie homage Love Me to a deafening reception.
Although up to six people are on stage at any given time, it’s clear from the outset that this is Matthew Healy’s show. As he swaggers and staggers, nonchalantly crooning through choice cuts from the band’s discography, he channels the likes of Michael Hutchence and Jim Morrison by ways of fellow Splendour visitor Julian Casablancas. It’s a unique blend of inherently aloof and yet, simultaneously, fully committed to the moment – the Countdown-ready retro-pop of She’s American, for instance; or the spring-in-step youthful exuberance of Girls.
He also makes a point – as is apparently tradition – to call for a single song in which no phones are to be out. That ends up being the swoon-inducing Me from 2013’s Music for Cars – a relatively-deep cut that almost single-handedly transforms the performance from being a confident pop showcase to an all-encompassing audio-visual delight.
Tonight’s sign-off number, Sex, is packaged together with a promise to return in 2017.
We’re not in need of a second invitation.
Gallery: The 1975, Cub Sport – Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney 2016 / Photos By Annette Geneva