Hungry Kids of Hungary + The Chemist + Andy Bull – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne (04/05/2011)

Andy Bull has got the kind of charisma and self assurance that communicates well on stage. Relaxed, often laughing and seemingly enjoying himself as he sat onstage at the Hi-Fi Bar, perched behind a keyboard, the Sydney songwriter managed to endear himself to the audience whilst commanding that ever-elusive factor known as stage presence. His light-hearted demeanor was also reflected musically;, as, backed by a guitarist and drummer, Bull delivered a set of tight, melodic indie-pop songs; often up-beat and unselfconsciously camp, at times reminiscent of Mark Ronson and Elton John. His fragile falsetto skipped along over his own synth basslines, and where occasionally the songs seemed to lack energy he made up for it with showmanship, having the crowd eating out of his hand by the time he was done.

The Chemist must be one of the hardest working bands in the country at the moment as they seem to be constantly on tour; whether playing with other Australian bands, such as on this occasion, or supporting internationals, such as Tim Finn or I Am Kloot, they must certainly be collecting some frequent flyer points. This busy schedule is also reflected in the ambitious nature of their music, which at times leans towards stadium pop, perhaps recalling Crowded House and Supergrass. However, although the material is strong, at this point they don’t have the songs to entirely justify those comparisons, coupled with the fact that frontman Ben Witt has not yet managed to shake off his awkward on stage hesitancy. Despite this, Witt has both an incredible voice and a tight, talented band behind him and, based on this performance, their next recordings will surely lead to bigger things for The Chemist.

The Hungry Kids of Hungary had the crowd of mostly young girls and self-conscious young men with pointy shoes and mustaches swooning before they even played a note. Having toured their debut album, Escapades, heavily since its release last October, and having enjoyed love from Triple J since being unearthed in 2008, The Hungry Kids of Hungary are now an established band with a growing but dedicated fanbase. Having experienced sellout national shows on the previous tour, this current leg is entitled ‘The Final Escapade’, and by this stage the band are sounding every bit the slick touring band, in fact there was not a detectable note out of place. From start to finish the show consisted of layered harmonies, slow building mid-tempo songs with big pop choruses , usually bopping along at a mid-tempo pace and clearly not afraid of a bit of cheese , sort of like an indie-Eagles. Vocal duties were divided between the two songwriters, Dean McGrath and Kane Mazlin, and unlike many bands with two songwriting frontmen, there was perceptibly no major shift between their two styles, which is commendable especially considering one plays keys and the other guitar.

While all of these points are positive, this reviewer personally found the show a tad overly slick and rehearsed, to the point where the songs seemed too often to lack energy and emotion. The Hungry Kids of Hungary are clearly and unashamedly another band with big ambitions and who know what they want, which is to make light, easy boppy music, and, based on the fact that they had the Hi-Fi Bar clapping, singing and dancing along, they clearly have a big future ahead of them.

Originally published on ToneDeaf 4/5/2011:

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