King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard played at Big Top Sydney on Thursday, 30th March. David James Young reviews.
“Who saw us at Goodgod?” In between songs, Stu Mackenzie and Ambrose Kenny-Smith, one third of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, are reminiscing about the different venues they’ve played in Sydney over the years. “Who was at the Oxford Art Factory?”
The Melbourne band used to pack onto tiny stages around the city, whereas nowadays, the audience packs into massive rooms like this, the roughly 3000-capacity Big Top. The tide has shifted in the decade since the band first started playing up here, and the world has dramatically changed around them. What hasn’t changed from those gigs to now, however, is King Gizzard’s unrivalled blend of frenetic momentum and kinetic energy.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – ‘The Fourth Colour’
In full flight, it’s hard to find a band who plays with as much precision as King Gizzard – even when it seems like they’re jamming with no particular place to go, the King Gizz hive mind is zeroed in on a final destination. The entire middle suite of tonight’s 90-minute set comprises widescreen, director’s cut versions of some of their more epic compositions, such as the 15-minute ‘Hypertension’, the nine-minute ‘Iron Lung’ and the ten-minute ‘Ice V’.
The sextet expands its musical vision and offers myriad inventive passageways, ranging from little-bit-softer-now descents to brain-bending wig-outs. Even during songs that are normally more tightly-constructed, the band spreads its wings. The radiant ‘Shanghai’ is one example, taking flight with a resplendent infusion of synthesisers and falsetto vocals. Everything within the band’s exhaustive and ever-expanding catalogue is fair game for reincarnation.
When they’re not reinventing, King Gizzard are reaffirming. They begin tonight smash-cutting into the tail-end of their infinitely-looping Nonagon Infinity LP, sizzling through the jazzy build of ‘Wah Wah’ before allowing the rollicking ‘Road Train’ to completely boil over. Kenny-Smith turns in a surprisingly decent rapping effort on ‘The Grim Reaper’, which feels like the band’s tribute to Ill Communication-era Beastie Boys, right down to Mackenzie’s flute playing and the boom-thwack groove of drummer Michael Cavanagh. Both kaleidoscopic and chameleonic by nature, these snapshots from across the King Gizz canon make for a remarkable mosaic when you stand back and take in the bigger picture.
Rather than ending on a well-known track, the Gizz opt for ‘Gila Monster’ – a song so new, it was played live for the first time earlier this month. Closing the show on a song that no one other than r/KGATLW diehards would recognise could be alienating, but it proves to be highly rewarding. A mosh-friendly stomper, ‘Gila Monster’ is the heaviest track the band have unleashed since their 2019 thrash metal excursion Infest the Rats’ Nest. Galloping rhythms and pummelling riffs lay the foundation for a guttural Mackenzie vocal delivery.
It’s a long way from Goodgod Small Club to the Hollywood Bowl; from Oxford Art Factory to Red Rocks Amphitheatre; and from BIGSOUND to Coachella. But on nights like these, you gain a fuller appreciation for the full spectre of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s journey – a journey that’s far from over.