Pic: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes in Melbourne by Baron Bones
Bands who tend the merch desk post-show are always going to win new fans, and Cancer Bats are no different. While given the very difficult task of opening for a phenomenal headliner, they took to it with purpose, putting on a high-energy show that got the early crowd foaming for more. Had this event have been next door at Amplifier, Cancer Bats would have been facing a capacity crowd, but the extra space of Capitol didn't stop them from giving their Perth fans everything they'd hoped for. They played their hearts out, walked off stage victorious, and set the perfect tone for the night's main attraction.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are one of the best live acts on the planet – up there with bands like The Bronx in their ability to leave audiences stunned. They score the quintessential rock trifecta of great band, great songs and great singer. So let's start with the latter...
Frank Carter is already one of the great front-men. His presence would improve just about any band (especially Gallows 😛 ) but such is the power of The Rattlesnakes that they actually make him better. No matter what Carter is doing, the band is relentless. They have his back completely, like a colossal machine that never stops running – able to play super tight, making practically no mistakes. That's a powerful band. It would be easy for them to slack off with Carter being such a focal point, but they do the opposite and rise to the challenge of matching his energy level. Even when he’s in the crowd (as he is a lot) the stage is ablaze.
But this is not a band whose sole strength is performance. They have great material. Trouble, tonight's opener, is the perfect case in point. It comes out swinging with a brilliantly simple, catchy riff and one of the best opening lines anyone's written in ages. Add to that a soaring sing-along chorus and you have an impeccable rock tune, which served as the perfect ice-breaker for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes' Perth debut.
The setlist from that point on was what every fan wanted, essentially delivering a 'best of' playlist that pretty well covered both albums and the EP. An extended version of Juggernaut was delivered early and brought the house down, as did a perfect rendition of Vampires. Every time the band launched into a belter, the crowd went nuts... and there were belters galore. Devil Inside Me, Fangs and Paradise all made an appearance, showing just how great this band is at writing hooks.
Live and recorded, The Rattlesnakes sound way bigger than a single-guitar band. This is due in equal measure to guitarist Dean Richardson and the aptly nicknamed Tom 'Tank' Barclay – an incredible bass player with a commanding physical presence and effortlessly cool playing style. Like Barclay, Richardson is a natural on stage, and appears to be the architect of the band's solid riffery. Between the two, and drummer Gareth Grover (who shined in a brief-but-impressive solo) there is nothing lacking in the band's sound, which can switch from crushingly heavy to deliciously poppy in a heartbeat.
Carter himself shined the whole way through the set. His physical performance never got lethargic and his voice never struggled. His shout was hefty and his singing hit those big sweet notes with ease. Most impressively, when he was in the midst of a boiling circle pit and the inevitable happened (i.e. some drunk bozo hit him) the frontman didn't let the moment derail the show. He kept his temper, diffused the situation and got straight back on the job, exclaiming, ‘No one is getting kicked out of this show’. It was a classy move.
For all their musical brawn, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are equally cerebral. Later in the set, Wild Flowers was used as an invitation for all the girls in the audience to stage dive/crowd surf in a safe and respectful environment. It was a heartfelt moment that said a lot about the times we live in, and set the band up as legends with everyone in attendance.
Lullaby, tonight's penultimate song, was given its usual dedication to sleep-deprived new parents, and encapsulated everything that is musically brilliant about Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. Seeing the night out with a bit of sass, closing number I Hate You had the room singing in unison, with everyone indulging in the simple pleasure of high volume profanity. Nowt wrong with that.
It will be interesting to see where Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes go long-term. They are a band at the top echelon of venue/festival performance, but they also have the confidence, skill and nerve it would take to play stadiums. The songs where Carter is more singer than shouter are probably the ones that will earn him mainstream success, but it was clear from the reaction of this crowd that the heavier songs are the fan favourites... so who knows where the band will take their music.
From pretty much every perspective, this set was flawless. If they make the trip out to Australia once a year or so, it's entirely probable that Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will find themselves developing a big fanbase here, as so many other bands have before them. They seem to know this. They seem to be a 'big picture' band, spurred on by the organic success they are already generating. Because of this, and also fuelling it, is the very distinct reality that for Carter, Richardson, Barclay and Grover, this could be the band that defines their lives.