Concert review: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, 18 February 2010, Melbourne

9 Mar

After performing a sell-out show at the East Brunswick Club on the 17th of February, The Pains played a second gig at the same venue on the 18th. In addition, they made an in-store appearance at Polyester Records the afternoon before the second show; although I did not go, there is a bootleg of the five song set you can download from here.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a bootleg of the 18/02 gig itself (why haven’t I bought recording gear yet?), so you’re going to have to take my word for how good this show was.

Like my previous Pains gig review, I must first say a few words about the openers, both of whom were local acts. The first opener was The Parking Lot Experiments, a band who I believe have been described as playing “freak pop”. Pop, maybe – there are some interesting hooks there. Freak, definitely. I felt like I was on drugs simply watching them. Perhaps the easiest way to describe their manic set is “WTF”. Besides the drummer, they rotated instruments routinely, played songs with abandon, yelled repetitive lyrics, and were in general rather entertaining. Not sure I would ever want to actually listen to an album of their music, or see them headline, but I’m not going to object if they open gigs I see in the future. Their longest banter between songs, incidentally, related to how one band member was receiving his unemployment benefit the next day. Why am I not surprised? Shame they didn’t cover The Chills’ Doledrums. That would have been … especially interesting.

The second support act were The Smallgoods, and I am mystified as to why I had not heard of them before. Up to that point, they were the best support act I had seen all year. Their songs were well-structured, nuanced with a good measure of atmosphere, and their performance was engaging. South Of The River was the highlight of their six-song set for me, which also included what I’ve established is apparently their most well known track, Driving Song (you’ll never guess what this song is like). Only the second track, a slower plodding number, really failed to spark; the other songs were quite memorable and they set the tone well for Pains to follow.

To my delight, the Pains varied up their setlist from the previous night. They opened with Doing All The Things That Wouldn’t Make Your Parents Proud from their 2007 self-titled EP, and I must say it is a superior opener to This Love Is Fucking Right!, albeit less well recognised by the audience. This Love worked more ideally as a second track; like the previous night, it was followed by 103 and Young Adult Friction. 103 may not be “all that” in studio but it’s a fantastic, electrifying live track. The next change was the addition of Falling Over from the Higher Than The Stars EP. Falling Over, although I enjoy it, is my least favourite on that EP, but I felt it gained in quality live. I can’t quite put my finger on any exact aspect that improved; I guess I just felt more involved, and there really is something to say for the energy of live music.

The band benefited from the previous concert and the Polyester Records appearance – they seemed like a tighter unit at this second gig. Or maybe it was just the lack of UDLs. Again, I think the weakest tracks were in fact my two favourites in the studio, Stay Alive and Higher Than The Stars. However, I think they sparked more than the previous night, especially Higher Than The Stars – this despite the fact that Peggy Wang-East’s keys and vocals were mixed too low for my liking. Twins and Come Saturday, it must be said, were exceptional; Come Saturday is undoubtedly helped by the wave of enthusiasm it generates in the audience.

Late in the set came the next change – the new song, Say No To Love, was substituted by Hey Paul. I think I would have preferred another preview of Say No To Love, but I’m not complaining at being able to hear another Pains song live, especially since the Pains sets I’ve been able to find online have indicated Hey Paul may not have been in their setlist since mid-2009 (but then sets seem a bit scarce, so who knows). I was hanging out to hear The Tenure Itch, but it wasn’t to be; it seems it has recently dropped out of the Pains’ live repertoire.

However, they did vary the encore from the first night. The new song they premiered, The Heart In The Heartbreak, was removed; instead, the first night’s closer, Everything With You, opened the encore. Again, it was an instant hit with the crowd, though I’m not sure it was such a hit with frontman Kip Berman. As the song began, his guitar strap fell off, and he had to play the song with the guitar precariously balanced on his knee while he strained to keep it steady while standing at a sufficient height to sing into the microphone. During the solo, he was able to crouch down to play, taking a pose that was unintentionally “rawkstar”. Amazingly, he barely missed a note all song, and it was a very professional performance.

Final song of the night was traditional Pains closer Gentle Sons, which was just as effective as I expected it would be, with its powerful, noisy conclusion. This time, unlike the first night, the band used up essentially all of their allocated time, and played the following setlist:

1. Doing All The Things That Wouldn’t Make Your Parents Proud
2. This Love Is Fucking Right!
3. 103
4. Young Adult Friction
5. Falling Over
6. Stay Alive
7. A Teenager In Love
8. Twins
9. Come Saturday
10. Higher Than The Stars
11. Hey Paul
12. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

13. Everything With You
14. Gentle Son

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