Words: Joseph Dipisa-Fiorenza
Photos: Jose Sanchez
My night started a little bit differently than expected as I sat around in the bar of Howler in Melbourne waiting for doors to open. Will, the tour promoter, was kind enough to let me sit in on the guitar masterclass being run by Caligula’s Horse lead guitarist Sam Vallen and James Norbert Ivanyi. Needless to say that the small group of us guitar nerds were sufficiently more excited for the show after witnessing these two explaining their craft up close.
At around 7pm doors opened and eventually the first support act Opus of a Machine took to the stage. An interesting way to kick off the night as lead guitarist Zachary Greensill was a founding member of Caligula’s Horse. Here he showed us how much he’s enjoying his new band as they blast through a short set of both new and old material. Having just put out a new album two weeks prior, it was especially awesome to see so many fans singing along to the newer material.
Next up was instrumental 3-piece Ivanyi. Obviously, the focus here was James Ivanyi himself and his virtuosic guitar playing. However, extraordinary credit must be given to Liam Horgen’s bass playing and Liam Weedall’s drumming. The interplay between all 3 musicians was the glue that gave the set it’s strong form and the masterful shredding across all three instruments was the gravy on top. Being a very experimental songwriter as he is, it’ll be good to see James branch out even more as he keeps trying new things.
After changing over was complete it was finally time for Caligula’s Horse to come flying onto stage. The audience lost their collective minds as the gentle intro track began and the lights faded. Most people that were in attendance were aware that this concert would be all of their latest album In Contact from beginning to end, plus a little set of older songs at the end.
As such, opener ‘Dream The Dead’ began to the cheers of everyone. The level of control and blend between Adrian Goleby’s guitar playing with Sam’s was immediately noticeable and off the charts. A theme that would continue throughout the night and would even have them smile happily at each other every now and then when they articulate a harmony perfectly together.
After a brief greeting from vocalist Jim Grey, ‘Will’s Song (Let The Colours Run)’ blitzes through the room. This is a song that showcases just how much control Jim has over his voice. He takes in one breath before the final line of the pre-chorus and delivers it in a such a powerful fashion that it would leave most vocalists gasping for air. From here we get a proper greeting and move onto ‘The Hands Are The Hardest.’
Being a more mid-tempo and dynamic song, it gives the band a chance to showcase how in tune with each other they are. This is due to less sound actually entering our ears compared to the previous two songs. Each instrument has extra clarity and definition here.
The tour’s namesake ‘Love Conquers All’ comes and goes in a matter of minutes and provides a sonically fantastic moment or respite from the madness to come. Before the band launch into ‘Songs For No One’ Jim explains that this chapter of the concept album, chapter two, is his favourite as it refers to a musician. Sam Vallen then gives us our starting notes on the guitar and Jim insists we practise it a couple time. After a count in from drummer Josh Griffin, we as an audience get to begin the song.
‘Capulet’ and ‘Fill My Heart’ go by with the latter especially bringing focus to how locked in Dave Couper’s bass playing is with Josh’s super solid drumming.Together, these songs last some time and feel like one big long crescendo until eventually we are left with no instruments but rather a spoken word piece.
Jim jokes that because we’re all “Prog Dorks” he’s aware that some of us will know all the words to his epic poem. He encourages us to join in as he begins reciting ‘Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall.’ It became almost like a round-robin effect as different people knew different parts of the poem and would pipe up on different words around the room. But of course for the final line the microphone is held over our heads as we all scream “So spit in the canon’s mouth and tell ‘em ink sent ya!”
Without missing a fraction of a beat, the band blast into ‘The Canon’s Mouth’. It’s by the end of this song that we as audience begin to realize just how many anthemic hooks are in these songs. Beyond this we are treated to the album closer ‘Graves.’ The surprise highlight here is the vocal centric mid-section which sees Dave harmonising with Jim and the tracks. The whole section just blends magically and has a certain quality live that overshadows the recording.
To round out the setlist the crowd ‘vote by cheer’ for ‘Dragonfly’ instead of ‘Water’s Edge’ and the band finish with fan favourite ‘Turntail’ which gets the mosh going the hardest it had gone all night, every word being screamed back at the band.
They leave the stage before being cheered back on, Jim goes to the microphone and jeers, ‘We don’t do bullshit encores so thank you, goodnight.” But then the band launches into ‘Marigold’ anyway to conclude one of the greatest all Australian shows of recently memory.
Dream the Dead
Will’s Song (Let the Colours Run)
The Hands Are The Hardest
Love Conquers All
Songs For No One
Fill My Heart
Inertia and the Weapon of The Wall
The Canon’s Mouth