Returning from a three year hiatus to launch their first ever live DVD, ‘A Thousand Mistakes,’ The Drones stopped into Sydney’s Metro Theatre for the last show of their national tour.
It was hinted at by Gareth Liddiard before the tour, but the Drones are beginning to settle down. Weighting their set at Sydney’s Metro Theatre on the more downcast entries in their discography, the Victorian-based five-piece were less the raucous punks from second album ‘Wait Long By the River…’, and more the dark chin-scratchers of their later releases. But that’s not to say they were void of energy. Mike Noga’s drum stick splinters partway through The Minotaur, a shard dangling tentatively from the Theatre’s back curtain while Liddiard drips with sweat little more than three songs into the night. They lull into the tormented blues of Cold and Sober, languishing in this territory for most of the night, occasionally pulling out of it to stilt a track’s rhythm or timing. You get the feeling that they’re toying with people as they take a matured perspective on their catalogue. In saying that, most of the favourites are still there, the gun-shot chords of Jezebel pounding through the near-sold out theatre as Liddiard moans his horrified comments on the state of play.
The Drones own the night, their cover of Kev Carmody’s River of Tears as much their own now that it has become a live staple. It’s the obligatory set-ending surge into I Don’t Ever Want to Change that’s one of the clear victories of the night though, the optimistic romp seeing them off-stage to unparalleled audience adoration.
Leaving on a high, they return for the stripped back pioneer ballad Sixteen Straws, Mike Noga’s accompanying harmonica almost desperately tragic while Liddiard outlines the prisoner’s plight. It’s this ten minute folk lull that leads into the big finish; an all-in cover of Bob Dylan’s Oh Sister featuring Magic Dirt’s Adalita on backing vocals and her accompanist, JP Shilo on violin. Liddiard’s own broken voice is surprisingly apt for the Dylan cover, while Adalita’s Emmylou Harris fill-in is everything you’d want it to be, the soaring duet an unexpected surprise to finish out a night of gloriously measured rock n roll.