Andrew Stockdale's presence on stage is neurotic, tireless, burgeoning with mysterious creativity - and effortless energy -- a persona that was that on display Saturday night when the skinny jean-clad frontman led his Aussie counterparts on a trip down Amplified Highway.
What followed was a lesson in business management for the ages: keep the namesake, scrounge up grungy dudes who can learn fast - oh yeah, and put out one of the best psychedelic, stoner rock albums of the year with Cosmic Egg, a reference to a fetal-like yoga position and their sometimes otherworldly lyrics.
On Saturday, it was more of a lesson in how the fusion of old and new would blow our brains all over the nearly 90-year-old venue's bronze infrastructure. In all of his lanky glory, Stockdale burst onto the stage with "Dimension," backed by the rhythic guitar of Aidan Nemeth, the shugga-shugga of drummer Dave Atkins and spacey, adroit antics of bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres, a funny scrub of a man resembling a dancing Zach de la Rocha.
Stockdale's masterful duo of haunting wails and spitfire power chords rippled through the sea of middle-aged fans, who made it a regular point to hoist their Heineken tall-boys devoutly. Other moments caught him jigging or rolling around on the ground with his guitar like a Playboy Bunny at a photo shoot. Still other segues had him pouring wine out for the front row or skipping with his guitar like Chuck Berry and Hendrix.
The night really came to life with a scatter of new tunes, featuring brooding fuzz ("10,000 Feet"), abstract jams ("In The Castle") and violating distortion ("Back Round," which apparently was "the last chance to let your hair down" a la Stockdale). But they didn't forget about cuts like "Vagabond," the frenetic crowd-pleasing "Apple Tree" and my personal favorite, the mammoth "Colossal."
But it was the very stuff that gained them international acclaim that were the highlights of the night. Leading the pack was, in fact, their Grammy-winner, if only because its grueling, spastic bridge just never seemed to end. Then it was the jingly "White Unicorn," punctuated by its ambient oddities reminiscient of Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd.
But it was undoubtedly the calculated explosion of "Joker & the Thief" that launched the theater - not to mention Stockdale - off the deep end. With all the anarchistic fashion he could muster, the bushy-haired leader jostled the three-piece keyboard stand violently, in off-balance tandem with Peres, who only moments ago mounted the thing like a horny jockey's last ride. Granted, the venue has no real standing room, but if there was, the place would've been a jailhouse riot.
The rockers coolly turned the righteous into rabid like nothing, and then, on the coattails of enigmatic prowess, disappeared as thunderously as they arrived.