On 21st and 22nd of August, Northlane will present their Live At The Roundhouse show to the world. Presented over eight different online streams, this allows for fans in many different time zones to see them in action at the Sydney show. As well as being there at the show when it happened [review here], we’ve had the pleasure of having an early look at the Live At The Roundhouse show and share our impressions below. To reserve your own place to see this show (that may we add is stunningly shot with 14 different cameras, and has audio mixed and mastered by Alien engineer Chris Blancato), head to Northlane’s website and grab your ticket courtesy of Netgigs.
I’m not sure if it was the cheering of the anticipating crowd or the blackened screen showing the title text, but goosebumps sprung up easily for me as Live At The Roundhouse began. The pulses of “Talking Heads” then scattered out into the waiting crowd, with the empty stage having the band gradually slink onto it in the darkness. Vocalist Marcus Bridge then shared a brief greeting to the Sydney crowd before the show officially kicked off.
A rush of coloured lights and rapid video cuts added to the buzz that the active crowd was already generating for “Talking Heads”. When it arrives, it’s as if we were all waiting for the bellow of “I don’t fit into my SKIN!”, and the fittingly explosive rush that then washes over the stage and the crowd.
Fog and strobes combined form a disorientation that only seemed to find pause for thought at the song’s bridge. There’s a lot to take in, with guitar melodies and churning bass riffs seeming satisfyingly more noticeable than the recorded version I’ve played so many times. Marcus’ soaring voice was juxtaposed by the movement on stage by bassist Brendon Padjasek and drummer Nic Pettersen’s punishment of his drumkit.
With all eyes virtually to the stage, I’d already lost grip upon my idea that streamed/recorded shows couldn’t come close to offering as good of an emotional response as being present at a gig. It’s easy to feel this as though I’m present, especially when sharp and high guitar oozes ache alongside Marcus’ desperation of voice.
A momentary breather gave room for appreciative crowdmember whoops and smiles toward the stage, before eerie instrumentation and Marcus’ peaking emotion formed the explosive ending – the entire bandroom alive and movement. Feeling satisfying and triumphant merely one song in, Marcus’ cry of “Fuck yes!” is exactly how I’d put it.
Feedback squeals made way for “Intuition” with voices determined to join in with the pared back vocal intro of the song, and I get it, because I wanted to do the same sitting at my computer. “QUESTION EVERYTHING!” drowned everything else out before launching into haunting instrumental intricacy and a bouncing crowd landscape.
Given the song sounds virtually designed for circle pitting, Marcus urged the crowd to participate in one while the pulse-quickening beats rage on. The surrender into the ethereal chorus (“Wander, question, find your obsession”) took on the feeling of being spoils earned for enduring the pressuresome effort before it in the verse. I took this in and needed it louder and more all-surrounding than my headphones could provide (my god, I miss gigs so badly), but it was palpable nonetheless. Watching crowd surfers tumble over the barrier, and “Fuck the system!” being bellowed out by the crowd as a whole, it’s clear the thirst for full-immersion was felt by more than me. Vocal peaks struck invisible ceilings in the red-hued fog, and the screamed emphasis couldn’t be more clear in its attempt for each person who heard it to find their ‘thing’ and pursue it, irrespective of any rigid paths laid out before them.
The revving intro of “Details Matter” immediately put a smile on my face, and as the song unfolded, it was as if every instrumental element had been enhanced and highlighted. Riffs from Jon Deiley in particular seemed hellbent on penetrating skulls, while the strobing blasts of light married up with Marcus’ commands to “MOVE!”.
Northlane’s vocals combined were unwavering in expressing their triumph (albeit weathered and raw), and the wholehearted cries of “I’M STILL HERE” would resonate on a cellular level with anyone who has endured something that might have broken them, yet did not. I was again riddled with goosebumps as the rush of CO2 from the stage added emphasis to Marcus’ sentiment, along with all the tumbling bodies atop the oceanous crowd.
Diving straight into “Jinn” couldn’t have made me happier. The electric and oppressive song and its juxtapositions of intense verses and angelic choruses was brilliantly presented in the flesh, and the lighting choices were a cherry on top. “I escape with what I choose to breathe” lifted its way to the top of the Roundhouse, before trepidation was built by drums, ahead of landing in a forward lurching pool of eeriness.
Visible sweat and a tight performance from all on stage, I found myself moving along with the beat too, and if not for my husband working from home at the time, I would have belted out this chorus too. (Ah the joy of anonymity of voice amongst the noise and crowd at a gig!) Punched/tapped rhythms in the bustling spray of blue light leaned into the song’s haunting outro.
More sedate then, the haunting atmosphere of “Rot” poured outward from the stage, with the crowd invited to join in. And join in they did, with practically every word sung, and threw their bodies and voices into the experience. As much about the crowd as the band, the song was easy to get lost in and chase the thread of its unfolding story along with Marcus. Chaotically ending with CO2 blasts and emphatic emphasis from the crowd, the favourite from Node saw the band give their complete all.
The unmistakable riff of “Citizen” continued the Northlane train. Synth tones rained down along with the instrumental storm conjured by Smith and Pettersen, and of course the raw “SAVE US!” from Marcus. It then was almost eerily pared back, with Marcus’ voice the focal point in the relative quiet. It felt like a moment for watching and taking it all in, with the persisting and pervading riff tying the turbulent track together.
In a glowing and atmospheric moment, the crowd collided, reflecting the tension of the song’s oppressive theme. For me at that point, I couldn’t help but sit back more and take in this band and the individual skill of its members, drenched in sweat and delivering these songs at something of a turning point for them.
“4D” was the injection of energy needed to shake me out of a haze of observation, and feel more drawn to involvement. I was easily mesmerised by Jon’s synth work and Brendon’s traipsing around the stage. But it was the sobering lyrics and Marcus’s soaring vocals that gave laser focus to the experience and added ache to the mystique of it all.
Pettersen thundered and the crowd was easily amped up into frenzy, and though I’m not any kind of gear-head when it comes to music, I found myself thinking that I would love a ‘Deiley cam’ to see his fluid switches from guitar to Ableton and back again. This is a crew of professionals and tentative or not at the time (which seems almost bled out by Brendon roaring “I’m still trying”) they have something undeniably special.
Pulsing in the darkness before it kicked in, “Freefall” swirled and floated in its purple fog before peaking at its chorus. It delivers a heart-racing second verse as Marcus continued his story, with an entire crowd alongside him and lending their voices and presence. With the camera close by him, it was unclear if he was troubled by sweat or was emotionally overcome. Exploring these songs relating to his upbringing wouldn’t be an easy task, not to mention in front of an audience. And yet he and the band forged onward with force and authority, with beams of light shining out into the crowd as the song faded away and the room darkened.
With a brief moment of thanks to the Sydney crowd, “Obelisk” followed, with strobe-laden and CO2 drenched en masse bouncing. Sharpened guitar rhythms featured before the song opened into something more troubled and conflicted – with the crowd continually at the ready to join in. The dark song offered a considerably different vibe to their most recent songs, but it was a world where Northlane were eagerly met by the audience nonetheless.
Bridging the gap to their newer sound then was “Vultures” courtesy of an industrial introduction. Grinding, thick, and punishing, the track rained down in heaviness with its infectious rhythms and cries of “Where do I go?”. The hefty song felt incredible with the crowd joining in on “It’s me against the world”. Its rhythms and entire soundscape coupled with erratic lighting painted a delectably disorienting picture.
Levelling out the disorientation then was the grinding “Eclipse”, whose bursts of confetti and green lighting hues felt decidedly celebratory in the aftermath of “Vultures”. Bounce and groove coupled with Brendon’s addictive roars that are well-suited in tandem with Marcus’ own.
The angular backing lights beaming down and highlighting remnants of floaty confetti combined with “I’m not afraid” made for something special. But it proves to be a fleeting moment, as more guttural and surfacing from a deep internal place is the stucatto’ed “I will never let myself be like you” which slowed the ‘machine’ of the song, fitting to end the metaphorical familial cycle.
Calling for the crowd to join, “Bloodline” began without fanfare and a simple “Let’s go” from Marcus. Despite what I imagined was a room full of voices joining in, I felt completely fine to just have Marcus’ singing fill my ears along with the zorbing tones and building riffage. It was at the full-bodied chorus that the audience presence was felt most, with the eerie melody that followed seeming haunting in its clarity.
As the song builds, I was swept into the emotion of it, and Brendon was demonstrably the same as he stalked the stage side-to-side, and swung his bass wildly. I feel like I keep saying the word, but ‘triumphant’ is again how I’d describe the final chorus of “Bloodline” and all who were present joined in with Northlane’s ride, coasting on top of what they’d created.
A chant of “Northlane! Northlane!” broke out with the band members standing side stage. It’s an unseen moment, even for people who were present at the show. Stunningly decked out in a hooded sequin covered jacket, it seems like a beautiful modern suit of armour, equipped while singing this devastating song; “Sleepless”.
Dance-esque with its racing EDM nature and meandering vocals, the performance has been confirmed as the first and last time that the song has been/will be performed. There’s an element of this knowledge that makes it seem like something too personal to watch. Just like a diary entry that’s not wanting to be shared, I wonder “Why read it?”. But I took it in anyway, and expectedly the song soared, with each beat and riff tearing at the heart along with Marcus’ sky high vocals.
Stellar and special, the sequins sparkled in the fog, with grinding riffage darkening the ethereal quality of it all. There was no element of this song’s performance that is anything but professional, and suddenly Josh recognising Marcus’ bravery and strength in the “Negative Energy” documentary makes perfect sense.
Gracious and grateful, Northlane returned to the stage on what Marcus describes as a special night, and ended the show with an old favourite; “Quantum Flux”. This saw them receive a raucous farewell from a very active crowd, clearly giving every last scrap of energy they had.
Bolstered by blasts of CO2, the crowd make themselves heard during this last chance of a song. The vibe seemed free and open, and the confetti raining down was beautifully matched to the song (“Feeling all the love I swear that it’s in the air / Leaving me, floating forever into infinity”).
Special indeed, the hometown gig not only kicked off the Alien world tour, but was also a celebration of 10 years of Northlane. Onward to the next 10, hey? I personally loved this moment of live music, having it fill a definite void, living in a gig-less city.
To grab tickets for the stream, head to Northlane’s website.
[Image courtesy of Neal Walters]