TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Live Music Review: King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard at Rock City

1 October 19 words: Becky Timmins
photos: James Birtwhistle

Aussie psych lords King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard spread fun and sweat by the bucket-load as they kicked off their European tour at Rock City last night…

How do you conquer a miserable rainy Monday on the brink of autumn? By going to see Aussie seven-piece King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, the Beatles-meets-Black Sabbath hybrid nobody knew they needed until 2012, when they first embarked on their explosive voyage of relentless releases (15 studio albums and several more EPs, duck).

What may appear to some as a deluge of unfocused output is actually the externalised creative process of a group of bloody good songwriters. Without the punctuations of melody and collective prowess, King Gizz’s probing could be tiresome, for sure. Listening to their back catalogue is certainly a challenging pursuit if you’re a beginner, making the experience of seeing them live a vital component in boarding the King Gizz appreciation wagon.

And it just so happens that their delightfully melodic yet heavy psych unfolds immaculately on big stages, transforming Rock City into what feels like an oversized garage tonight for the band’s first show of their 2019 European tour. The tone is set solidly by support acts O. R. B and Stonefield; the latter comprising four sisters from rural Australia who serve up a mesmeric brand of vaudeville psych with all the sartorial style of HAIM.

King Gizzard finally invade the stage to Self-Immolate, a frantic track from their latest album Infest The Rats’ Nest – a thrash metal offering which follows 2019’s first release Fishing For Fishies, the band’s most accessible record to date. Frontman Stu Mackenzie is the frenetic focal point of the wider King Gizz live force; a mass of curly hair, insatiable guitar shredding and signature miry vocals. There’s a startling clarity to their sound tonight, epitomised on Crumbling Castle, the opener to 2017’s fourth release Polygondwanaland.

In the same way that each King Gizz album presents you with a different world to escape into ears first, there are multiple facets to their live performance which gets tonight’s audience sweaty and enraptured in equal measures. From the performative double drumming of Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore, to Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s crowd surfing - tracks tumble into each other with a wild cascading energy, all the while bathed in a polychromatic lightshow.

Roughly half-way through the set, a trio of tracks from Fishing For Fishies is unveiled - Cyboogie, Boogieman Sam and The Bird Song - to bountiful hip-shaking. This vibrant burst provides a moment of respite in a set that is more than a sensory overload, while distilling this band’s ability to potently weld genres together. With an approach to making music that could easily be received as disparate, King Gizz have remarkable live cohesion resembling something like a love child of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. And it’s absolutely phenomenal tonight.

It’s one of those shows that possesses the stamina to continue into the early hours, but alas, Rock City curfew is calling. King Gizz close on 2013’s Float Along – Fills Your Lungs – a kaleidoscopic track which could be mistaken for a curio recording from a forgotten 60s band, and one which they haven’t unveiled in years. It’s a euphoric way to close the show tonight, and as the crowds disperse, beaming and rubbing their imminently aching necks, the consensus is irrefutable; King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard aren’t slowing down any time soon.

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard played Rock City on Monday 30 September 2019

Rock City website

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