Tracer Live at The Talking Heads
Most of the time I head out to gigs, I’ve a reasonable idea what I’m going to get – it stands to reason that you check out the stuff that would ordinarily fall under the radar. Occasionally however, it’s nice to take a punt on something a bit different. Tonight, I’m seeing Australian three-piece Tracer, a band previously unknown to me and if I’m honest, I’m primarily here because of the support, Federal Charm. Federal Charm are a band I’ve followed for a while and an interview we conducted will be on these pages in the coming days.
But I digress. A little research on the headline and a listen to their latest release, Water For Thirsty Dogs, indicates Tracer as a band very comfortable in their sound – and that sound is a heavy rock/grunge crossover that puts them in a ballpark only a few blocks away from the Foo Fighters. In fact, whilst the devout Tracer fan base in evidence tonight at The Talking Heads Southampton would probably flame me for saying it, what you’ve got here in very crude terms is the Foo Fighters, minus a pair of guitars, Grohl at the helm and the other 89,500 people. If ever you needed an example to prove that rock ‘n’ roll isn’t fair, this is it.
The fan base is loyal though. There’s a wide demographic in here and the place is packed. I’m not wearing a Tracer tee, and am kind of wishing I were. The band emerged brandishing beaming smiles at around 9.30 to wildly enthusiastic applause – the audience having been brilliantly livened up by German support Everyday Circus and thereafter by Federal Charm.
Figurehead Michael Brown, sporting a mildly pornographic garment atop an iconic Gibson Flying V, tinkled the opening notes of Us Against The World, one of the cuts from the new record. A few seconds later, the rhythm section arrived with the subtlety of a fully loaded nuclear bomber conducting a terminally heavy landing, and the scene was set for the next 90 minutes of rocking out.
Brown doesn’t quite have the vocal range of Grohl (apologies, that was the last comparison), but he certainly has the growl that indicates a warm up routine involving mouthwash, razor blades and sandpaper – and the roar is entirely appropriate to the music.
There is a brief interlude in the middle section of the opening song. “We Won’t Go Quietly” is the lyric that gets repeated with increased levels of angst and rage each time. They’re not kidding. One song down, statement made. Tracer are a band that really know how to kick ass.
The set list, whilst obviously favouring the latest recording, drew from all three of the band’s LP’s released to date. There is some obviously great stuff in here. I particularly liked Too Much, hewn from the 2011 debut album, Spaces In Between. This was a fantastic driving song with a slightly more commercial sound and a riff that despite coming second in the list, managed to occupy the space between my ears during the drive home.
Other highlights were Lazy and title track of the new record Water For Thirsty Dogs, two songs that display the quiet…quiet… very, very, very loud policy displayed by Grohl’s two previous full-time bands (oops, sorry, another comparison. That was the last one, honest).
This was the last night of the tour. I don’t know if Brown and his colleagues, Jett Heyson-Hicks on bass and Andre Wise on drums were de-mob happy or whether they always enjoy themselves this much, but they certainly were having a blast and the energy levels displayed were off the scale.
Both Wise and Heyson-Hicks got opportunities for extended instrumental breaks and the bass player in particular, with his frequent trips across the stage, appeared on the edge of mania at times.
The set finished with Astronaut Juggernaut, a bombastic, well, juggernaut of a song that brought out the vocal chords of the crowd as well as the band. Tracer might not have the worldwide fame or airplay of more established rivals in the field, but there’s no doubt that they know how to write a tune and they know how to deliver it live.
At the close, the devoted massed ranks of the crowd headed not for the door but to the merch stand, armed with beaming smiles and £20 notes. It seems if you’re a fan, you can’t own enough tee-shirts of this band.
Live Review & Concert Photography by Simon Reed. See more of Simon’s photography on his personal website: www.musicalpictures.co.uk