Stop-start: Daniel Stricker, Andrew Szekeres and Vince Vendetta of Midnight Juggernauts. Photo: Martin Boulton
Friday, August 16
It could be the cock-eyed Friday night air, the all-ages buzz or the bar's brisk trade in Red Bull and vodka, but the crowd at Midnight Juggernauts' Metro Theatre show wants to dance. And dance it does, despite a rock'n'roll format that showcases the band's lesser charms while sidelining their strengths.
The show is in support of Uncanny Valley, Midnight Juggernauts' third record of “glittery kosmische”. But it's a show that pulls uncomfortably between the spirit of a fleet-footed nightclub set – with strobe lights blaring through coloured smoke – and the sound and spectacle of a flat-footed rock gig, with its sequence of four-minute songs creating a stop-start dynamic that sees dance moves struggle to find a groove.
Not that it seems to matter to this party-pumped crowd which is happy to ignore any soft spots in favour of seizing the hard beats. Girls in crop tops and guys in tight tees dance to the hit from 2007 record Dystopia, Into the Galaxy, even though the loud, live 4/4 drums overwhelm the stepladder of sci-fi synth that makes it a magical song.
And they cheer when the band swaps costumes – from diaphanous floor-length capes to (Russian?) police uniforms – despite the fact that singer and keyboardist Vince Vendetta says the gag makes him feel like Lady Gaga.
It's not that Vendetta, Daniel Stricker (drums) and Andy Szekeres (bass) fail to bring personality, organic warmth and spectacle to the show: they do. It's that these things neuter many of the idiosyncrasies Midnight Juggernauts have cultivated so successfully on record: personality domesticates their otherworldliness; warmth melts their synthetic ice; and the spectacle – especially the live drumming at the centre of the stage and at the forefront of the mix – is interchangeable with that of any rock show.
However, just as a smart rock band would jam out a few tracks to differentiate the live experience, Midnight Juggernauts segue from one song (Road to Recovery) to another (Ending of an Era), creating, finally, an uninterrupted space where we can surrender to the momentum. But they do it only once.
The highlight is in the encore, when Stricker reverts to an electronic kit for Uncanny Valley's opening track, HCL, and the cool, sterile precision of the beats – unheated by cymbal crashes and un-upstaged by drum rolls – allows space for the song's dub-glazed echoes to reverberate and for Vendetta's falsetto to soar. Afterwards, however, Stricker returns to his kit for the closing track, 45 and Rising, and the band returns to "rocking out".
While there are many practical reasons why Midnight Juggernauts couldn't have launched this album deep in the bowels of a Sydney nightclub, where it could have been more about the sound than the sightlines, I leave wishing they had.