Published on January 5th, 2016 | by The Nazzarene


Shellac, The Metro Theatre, Sydney

The Metro, Sydney. December 8th, 2015

Photos: Jono Price

A stormy Tuesday night in December, and Shellac are back in Sydney. A friend and I meet at the Metro with one ticket between us, and we cop some significant mull beams as a dude in the line tells us there is a lady outside giving away a spare ticket of his. We go out to claim it, but when we get back the dude has gone before we can thank him.

We go in to find the stage and lighting set up as it was a few years ago when they played this same venue. One difference is that the drums are set up right at the front rather than the back. Looks good to me. No colour, no flashing, no gimmicks.

The finest of guitar sounds has Albini, low on distortion, yet so punishingly metallic and clean.

There looks to be about 200 in the house, 98% of which are male. The trio take their sweet time once they get on stage, buggerizing for around for five minutes before playing an intro to a song I don’t recognize, but after a little while Albini hammers out the pugnacious intro riff to My Black Ass and the crowd is well pleased.

The finest of guitar sounds has Albini, low on distortion, yet so punishingly metallic and clean. The drums and bass department are also sounding extremely good this evening, and the mix is right.

As the show goes on there are the usual quirky theatrics, such as Albini and Weston smashing Trainer’s cymbals for a few minutes, which everyone laps up. The first half of the set contains plenty of their faster and oddly timed songs, and it is steady as she goes on the headbanging. During the stop-and-start song Canada, I look up to see punters banging their heads completely out of sync with each other, and many confused about how to move. Always a hallmark of a Shellac gig.


The band sings about a wide variety of strange themes, many of them about the dark side of humanity. Question time comes around and I put my hand up, wanting to ask Bob Weston if Steve had a difficult childhood, to help explain his cynical view of so many things, but I am denied.

One guy asks why the audience is such pussies, but I forget the witty response by Weston.

Wingwalker starts up with the trademark rumbling tectonic bass that is so crucial to the Shellac sound

Wingwalker starts up with the trademark rumbling tectonic bass that is so crucial to the Shellac sound, and the crowd is very happy. Sometime towards the end of the song, Albini starts talking about a man who has constructed a plane in the basement of his house, only to realize when it is finished that he can’t get it out. This seems to be yet another in a string of short and amusing Albini anecdotes this evening, but he continues the story for a good deal longer.

The plane man decides to destroy his house, as well as either leave his wife and children, or perhaps blow them up along with the house, so he can get the plane out and fly it away. This he does, and as he flies across the city, he ponders on the idea of having a button that would raze the entire landscape. Although he feels for the people below, he is compelled to press the button.

At about this point a woman in the audience yells, “You’re being sexist!” Albini is mildly fazed, and responds with a very longwinded, erudite, sometimes sarcastic but amusing retort that starts with, “I am finding it hard to comprehend that accusation…”

We get to hear Crow, another old classic, but no Dude, Incredible, which I think is the easiest listener on the new album. To end off we are subjected to an obscenely long version of The End of Radio. I can’t say I am much of a fan of this song, particularly live. It is just too self-indulgent after about the 40th repetition of the bass riff, and as I look around the crowd I see a lot of pained and/or bored faces that seem to share my displeasure, waiting for the end of The End of Radio. But the radio doesn’t want to die for it seems to last at least another 15 minutes.

Perhaps Shellac is reminding us that they strictly play material for themselves at all times, and not for their audience, and wanted to press the point that they will never try to please anyone, ever. Despite this painful reminder, I leave the show pretty satisfied and look forward to their return.

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