King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard give Vancouver a taste of Microtonal Banana

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard with The Orb @ Vogue Theatre 4/10/17

Photo by David Lacroix
Photo by David Lacroix

Rising psych rock titans King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have sold out every Vancouver show and have needed to upgrade to a larger venue each time. On their recent visit, King Gizzard performed with expected tenacity and fury at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre. The completely sold-out, 1100 person-strong crowd was brimming with Aussie inspired passion.

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, King Gizzard brought along a three piece, The Orb, who are also from Australia. With a heavy dose of Black Sabbath, and perhaps a few drops of Silverchair, the Orb have beefy bass, crashing symbols and a relentless steady bass drum. Playing their own mix of Aussie garage and desert rock, the Orb established a formidable rock and roll energy for the steadily growing crowd.

Touring in support of their newest album Flying Microtonal Banana, this King Gizzard performance was notable for its comparatively tame opening. The regular crowd explosion would happen a little late as the starting 40 minutes of their performance consisted of material from the group’s recent experimental foray with custom-made, monotone instruments. The idea could have been a smouldering wreck of an album, but with such strong-songwriting and alluring, buzzing melodies, Flying Microtonal Banana feels like a home run. New songs like “Billabong Valley” and “Rattlesnake” confidently asserted that the King Gizzard jug is still full of creative juice. In front of a shifting, unusually tasteful wall of slimy toned projections, King Gizzard further cemented their reputation with knock outs like the booming groove of “Anoxia,” which was introduced by guitarist/vocalist Joey Walker as being “about cricket.” Iconic frontman Stu Mackenzie stood centre stage, often leaning with contortionist like movements that did nothing but incite energy build up in the frothing audience.

At the conclusion of the Banana set, the background visuals shifted to the red and black patterns immediately familiar to fans of Nonagon Infinity, the group’s explosive 2016 record. The eerily infectious ticking drums persisted for a moment, as the band prepared itself for the bombastic instrumental dive. The dual percussionists Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore, along with the bass of Lucas Skinner are one of the most effective rhythm sections in rock. The rest of the set would be a general overview of the band’s more recent work and a few gems out of their very extensive catalogue. Highlights were favourites like the meandering, mellow jam prone “The River” and an extended and stripped down suite of songs from the group’s seminal Ill be Your Mind Fuzz. Reducing much of the fuzz and volume from many of the song’s studio counterparts, Mackenzie elegantly transformed the songs into quieter, but still inciting affairs; the band can work with pop music just as well as high-octane rock. After expending much of their energy crowd surfing on songs like “People Vultures,” the audience respectfully cooled a bit for the more dreamy numbers.

The evening’s most disturbing moment was when an excited fan managed to climb onto the right side of the stage, preceding to dance enthusiastically. The security were not amused, and after several hand gestures to vacate the stage were ignored, one of the guards threw the fan off the stage, over the photo pit. Landing halfway across the front railing, the fan folded into the crowd. Mackenzie instantly stopped the music, instructing the security to “chill out” and inquiring about the fan: “Is that guy okay? He isn’t hurt is he?” It is always reassuring to see that the band cares about their fans.

At the end of an hour and 45 minutes of high-grade rock and roll, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard rolled offstage. Suddenly, the lights kicked out and a bombastic promotional video announced the band’s upcoming record Murder of the Universe, narrated by an Aussie sounding sci-fi voice; “I am a blackhole spitting into the void” was one of many cringe-worthy poetic lines from a song that may have been called “Vomit Comet.” King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have no shortage of tricks and Vancouver just can’t get enough.