We continue a look back at some of our favourite gigs as lockdown persists, trying to hold on to that precious atmosphere of hearing live music until we can get back to it ourselves. This week, Matthew Wand takes us back to 8th March 1997 where Aussie rockers Silverchair blew the crowd away at Nottingham’s Rock City.
In 1997 Silverchair released the sophomore album Freakshow, the follow up to the critically and commercially successful debut Frogstomp. In March of that year, the Aussie three-piece embarked on their first full European tour. I was lucky enough to see my favourite band at their very teen-raging best.
At the age of 20, I was an outsider in my friend group, band wise. I was very much in love with alternative music. Whilst my peers were all into Glam and hard rock. Yet on a cold Friday night at the beginning of March ’97, I found myself standing in the crowd at Rock City, in our usual spot just left of the mixing desk surrounded by all my friends.
As the house lights dropped, the anticipation in the sold out 2,000 strong crowd swelled. The sounds of the circus blasted through the sound system. There was movement on stage, the drummer Ben Gillies took his seat having stood with my friends and I to watch the support act.
As the intro music died away the first distorted chords of Slave exploded from the guitar of Daniel Johns. The Trio ripped through the opening track of Freak Show like they were possessed. No sooner had Slave finished, than the intro riff of Freak hit the crowd like a tidal wave. The mass of bodies in attendance responded to the MTV hit single with a massive roar of approval.
With the closing of the song, singer Daniel Johns addresses the crowd for the first time, apologising for his near perfect vocals as he is suffering from the flu. If this is a bad day, I wonder what a good day would be?
Silverchair perfectly blended songs from their two albums to date. Smashing their way through the heavy tracks like Madman, Learn to Hate and Pure Massacre but bringing it down for the slower tracks such as Cemetery and Suicidal Dreams.
The three 18-year olds command the Rock City stage like they are veterans of the game, not a bunch of teenagers. Their chemistry is undeniable. They groove and head bang their way through the set, feeding off the energy from the crowd. Daniel even has the balls to tackle a heckler in the crowd, who was ribbing him about his ‘Nobody knows I’m a Lesbian’ tee shirt, by inviting him on stage to drop his draws and prove he’s a lesbian too.
The show closes with the leviathan of a track in Israel’s Son. The fuzzy bass intro makes your teeth clatter and bones shiver before the invariable overdriven guitar and pounding drums cut through the bass-soaked atmosphere. The heavy riff-filled spin drives the sea of people into a frenzy. The three young men put their all into this last track. At the end of the gig, the band and the crowd are all spent.I was fortunate to see the ‘Chair again two years later, in the same venue which was an amazing experience. They were older, wiser yet jaded (as we all were) with the release of their third outing, Neon Ballroom. But on this night the band were absolutely on fire with enthusiasm, drive and teen spirit.