live music review: thirsty merc
If this were an album review, I’d be giving Thirsty Merc’s latest musical offspring “Mousetrap Heart” a crucifying evaluation. I’d simply label it a non-ground breaking, disappointingly compliant and regretfully catchy follow-up to their second studio album and close the books right there. But being a live gig review, Rai Thistlethwayte and Co’s surprisingly engaging performance and rousing crowd reception at Sydney’s Metro Theatre saves them from such an adverse fate.
I’m still uncertain whether the venue was simply swarming with diehard Thirsty Merc fans or if a late 10:30pm slot meant the gig goers had previously had plenty of time to inebriate themselves, but nevertheless the band were welcomed on stage by an overpowering roar. This sense of enthusiasm didn’t leave the room until the band was unplugged. Opening with “Build A Bridge”, the Sydney-based soft rockers delivered a string of crowd-pleasing hits such as; “The Hard Way”, “Someday Someday” and “In The Summertime”. As you would expect, a selection of new songs from the latest record were also weaved through the hour-long set. These included; “Betty Page”, ‘All My Life” and “Tommy And Krista”, all of which were well received and easy on the ear.
But nothing surmounted the ecstatic response that Rai’s trademark breakup song “20 Good Reasons” generated. Even he himself appeared taken aback and touched by the thunderous cheers and the mass sing-along session it incited. It’s undeniable: Thistlethwayte is a natural front man. Whether he has a microphone, a piano or a guitar in his hand, he knows how to kindle his crowd and sings his lyrics – however generic and lackluster they may be – with honesty and vocal precision.
As for the remaining members of Thirsty Merc, they too have ameliorated in the art of crowd stimulation. Guitar solos, mid-song jamming sessions and Hendrix-inspired teeth plucking attempts (keyword: attempts) were regular features of the gig. The audience witnessed some great energy and instrumental chemistry onstage and the laudable sound quality at the Metro only served to amplify this.
The monotony of Thirsty Merc’s typically ‘nice guy’ rock sound was broken by the use of different musical arrangements on their stock-standard songs. When the encore rolled around, Rai caught everyone’s attention with a rare scat-fuelled intro to the song “DNA”, which fuses a funk pop trait highly reminiscent of The Jackson 5 with standard rock. The band closed their set and their very last gig on the 24-date nationwide tour with “My Emancipation”.
Thirsty Merc are certainly no Pixies, Beatles or Sex Pistols. They’re not breaking any rules or boundaries in the revolutionary world of rock music. In fact they are perfectly happy and capable of playing within the parameters of radio friendly and commercially safe pop rock. But one thing is for sure; they go the extra mile in giving a charmingly refined and hearty live performance and that in itself should be commended.
Check out Thirsty Merc performing “In the Summertime” here.