EXCLUSIVE: DEA Agents Who Inspired ‘Narcos’ Detail Tell-all Book

Published on, Dec 2018

The rise and fall of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar was thrown into the spotlight via Netflix’s Narcos back in 2015, and now, 25 years after his death, the former DEA agents who inspired the hit series, Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, will tour Australia to tell the real story.

Today marks exactly 25 years since Colombian police shot and killed Escobar on a rooftop.

“It honestly doesn’t seem like it’s been 25 years,” Murphy told The Music.

“Neither one of us ever thought the popularity that has come from Narcos would have anything to do with us – we are shocked by the worldwide interest about this.”

The image of Murphy posing over Escobar’s dead body has become iconic, but as he tells, the show used some creative licence during that pivotal scene.

Narcos portrays that I was on the roof when Pablo was killed – that’s not true,” Murphy said.

“I was back at the police base, the Columbian National Police were the only ones out there and they took care of business.

“Back at the base, you’re thinking, ‘Could this really be over? Is this really true?’ And then when you get out there and see what’s taken place, you realise that it is.

“It was a great feeling of elation; the weight of the world had been lifted off your shoulders and you knew that thousands of people were safer now, simple because Pablo was gone.”

Unfortunately, Pena wasn’t nearby when Escobar was taken down.

“The Ambassador had ordered me to go talk to an informant who told the Embassy he knew where Pablo Escobar was and was only going to give that information to me,” Pena said.

“Luckily, Steve was there, had the only camera and took all the photos, which are now famous.

“I was very happy; it was personal, Pablo killed some of my friends, so this was a great, great victory for everybody – Columbians, Americans, the world. Basically, justice had finally been done.”

Part of the reason they signed on to work with Netflix was to ensure Escobar wasn’t “glamourised” in any way, and their A Conversation On Narcos tour, which hits Australia in July, dives deeper into the terror the billionaire cocaine lord unleashed.

And, as they exclusively detailed to The Music, they’re also penning a novel that goes into further detail.

“We haven’t told anybody else, but we’re writing a book, so it’ll come out probably November of next year,” Murphy revealed.

“It’ll be about our law enforcement careers and the story of Pablo.”

Check out theGuide for all A Conversation On Narcos tour dates.


Show Review: Shania Twain 30.11.18

Published on, Nov 2018

Pic by Georgia Head

Shania Twain

RAC Arena

Nov 30

The path to the Shania Now Tour is a remarkable one. After the singer retired from performing back in 2004, many fans accepted the fact they wouldn’t get the chance to see her again, or for the first time.

Undergoing intense vocal rehabilitation, the Canadian artist not only reemerged stronger than before, but reclaimed her creativity, with her fifth album, 2017’s Now, marking the first LP in which she wrote and co-produced every track.

The crowd impatiently stamped along to the beat of Queen’s We Will Rock You before a spotlight illuminated a platform near the mixing desk on the other side of the room from the stage.

Drummer Elijah Wood kept the beat going with a booming floor tom and tight snare, before Shania Twain appeared at the back of the room, dressed in a sparkling dress and rhinestone-studded black cowboy hat. She slowly made her way through the crowd to her place centrestage, almost although she was hosting an awards night. The winners? Everyone in attendance as soon as the curtain dropped to reveal a classy, retro-yet-modern stage setup.

“Are you ready, Perth?” she said to a lukewarm response. “I SAID… ARE YOU READY, PERTH?”

Kicking off proceedings with a new cut, Life’s About To Get Good, was a bold move, but it was a tune that allowed Twain and her four backing dancers to find their groove.

The song’s suffocating bass eased up for country-pop hit Come On Over, taking fans back to ’97, but its execution wasn’t as tight, with the vocals struggling to find their place amongst an overbearing honky-tonk accordion section.

There’s no way but up from here,” was an encouraging lyric to hear after an inconsistent start, as the singer slowly rose above the stage on one of five large cubes occupying the space, each side of which had a screen that changed to match the song at hand.

Her “drinking song”, Poor Me, was another insight into the rough path to Now, with the singer truly finding her groove when its chorus kicked in. Guitarist Joshua Ray Gooch introduced the single with a gentle twang before Twain took over and artistic production elements gave the show real, definable character.

Classic country-esque single Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) had punters boot scootin’ like it was going out of fashion, while Twain paraded in front of a semi-transparent curtain, her backing band behind it, dancing around and on top of the cubes that now resembled a swimming pool.

Megahit That Don’t Impress Me Much didn’t need extreme production to back it up, with its classic, insanely catchy chorus doing the heavy lifting, while Twain and co offered up choreographed attitude to match.

A quick kiss cam interlude to a rock/jazz influenced jam from Wood and it was back into the thick of a country-pop tidal wave with Any Man Of MineWhose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under? and Honey, I’m Home; dual fiddles weaving an emotional tapestry of their own in the background.

“I never enjoyed being in the spotlight,” she revealed, explaining her unique entrance. Getting up-close and personal with fans, face-to-face, helps her connect more with her audience and feel more comfortable.

Another drastic change of pace, the band offered up huge rock riffs, ’80s-inspired synth and gut-wrenching backing vocals, all of which was a carefully orchestrated diversion for Twain, who quietly made her way to the back of the room to appear on the small platform Wood opened the show on.

“This is what I call my reunion song with you,” she said, getting nostalgic again. “Because tonight and forever, Perth, You’re Still The One.”

With an acoustic guitar in hand and thousands of phone lights pointed her way, Twain stripped things back for a set highlight.

She picked up a few audience members on her way back to the front, bringing them up on stage and introducing them while taking selfies. “This is my favourite part of the show,” she enthused.

The meet and greet transitioned into her “sexy number”, More Fun, with one of the gentlemen who followed her from the crowd helping her up onto a piano.

It was back to the nostalgia, this time via a medley of music videos on the big screen, and the trip down memory lane continued with From This Moment On, highlighting it was her pop ballads that translated best to an arena show – her upbeat country-pop hits were a close second.

My dreams came true because of you” echoed throughout the venue, reinforcing the sentiments she’d be offering up to longtime fans all night.

It’s hard to beat the emotional intensity of a ballad with a well-timed key change, but I’m Gonna Getcha Good!, with its accompanying neon/Tron aesthetics, came close.

Opening act Bastian Baker returned to the stage, taking on Billy Currington’s vocal parts for duet Party For Two, which injected a fresh energy into the set that carried over into Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed. It was the ultimate genre mash-up, borrowing from reggae, country and pop, which rendered the audience’s reaction splintered at best, some bobbing in time while others awkwardly threw their fists in the air.

(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here! pulled things into line but, as the song’s title promised, Twain was gearing up to make an exit.

The band were given their time in the spotlight once more, unleashing a Blue Storm that had guitars shredding and drums booming. It was an interesting but epic transition into the familiar intro riff of Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, a song that had everyone on their feet, screaming along, finishing the evening on a high note. We Chat To Aussie Legend Molly Meldrum Ahead Of Milestone Anniversary For Rod Laver Arena

Published on, Nov 2018

Justine McAllister & Molly Meldrum

“It’s very hard for me to believe it’s been 30 years, especially considering I was there from the very beginning,” begins entertainment industry legend Molly Meldrum on the anniversary of beloved Melbourne venue Rod Laver Arena opening.

Flashback to the ‘80s when Countdown was one of Australia’s biggest shows and pub-rock was at its finest and there as a void in the state’s venue landscape, something Meldrum noted more than most.

“We had nothing really,” he recalls. “So it was a dream come true that they were going to have something there and have entertainment there as well.

“[Rod Laver Arena] is not just part of Melbourne’s venue landscape, but the world’s, and it’s something that maybe we take for granted. It was something that I thought was an impossible dream.”

The first music event at Rod Laver Arena was AC/DC on February 4, 1988, which Meldrum describes as “a magical concert”, but his involvement with the venue far pre-dates that as he was on the board.

“They had the meetings around 7:30am – for a person like myself, that was hard,” he laughs.

The board meetings were often a professional affair, so Meldrum rocking up late and walking through a construction site with bare feet didn’t sit well with a few of the other members. “I went in there and apologised profusely,” he tells.

As a fan of not only music but also tennis, overseeing the venue’s development and construction was a mind-blowing experience for Meldrum.

“I had the privilege of meeting the man himself [Rod Laver], and he is one of the most modest humans you could meet. He deserves to have that top stadium named after him,” he says.

“Just watching this amazing arena being built, I had to pinch myself.”

Since its completion, it’s become one of the world’s most well-regarded venues, with Justin Timberlake currently holding the record for highest attendance at the venue, bringing 16,183 punters to the space in 2007, while Pink’s 2013 run, The Truth About Love Tour, holds the record for most shows by an artist in a single run.

“Justin, Pink and Acca Dacca all loved that venue and said it was one of the best in the world…the acoustics are perfect.”

It truly is the heart of the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct, a hotspot for music, arts, sport and more that, in Molly’s mind, is almost perfect.

“The only thing I would like to see change is with Margaret Court Arena – I wish they’d give a new name to that,” he says.

“I think the name should be the original name of that area and that part.”

He’s witnessed multiple highlights at the venue over the years, but nothing beats seeing local acts put on a good show, one of which caught his eye the other week and he says would be a “dream” to one day see headline a venue like Rod Laver Arena.

“I went to the Age Music Victoria Awards the other night, which was fantastic. The talent that night was just unbelievable and there’s a musician called Baker Boy, who was sensational; he is the next big thing,” he says.

“That would be a dream come true for me – if he could headline a concert a Rod Laver and fill the house out.”

Speaking of local and emerging acts, Meldrum’s a fan of new ABC music show The Set, stating, “we definitely needed it”.

And as far as a Countdown revival goes, he thinks “it will happen”.

“I think it’ll eventually happen and it has to be in that [original] Countdown timeslot with all young people hosting it, looking after it,” he tells.

“There’s so much young talent around this country and they should do a show like that. The old Countdown timeslot would be absolutely perfect for it.

“I think that’s what’s missing from the music scene at the moment – we don’t have a definitive show that can really focus on all this.”

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Rod Laver Arena has announced a Golden Ticket competition and series of murals around Melbourne by Justine McAllister, one of which features Meldrum.

The Golden Ticket will give its recipient a double pass to all events at Rod Laver Arena from February to December 2019, with those wanting to enter invited to share a photo of any one of murals or submit their favourite memories of Rod Laver Arena via social media using the hashtag #RLA30.

“That is a dream for anyone to win that one,” he enthuses, before adding, “I’ll give [the winner] one of my hats.”

You can find out more information here.

Check out theGuide for all upcoming gigs at Rod Laver Arena.

INTERVIEW: Download Festival

Published on, Nov 2018

The Past, Present & Future Of Download Festival Australia: ‘It’s A Revelation’

“I think people, at least from [the heavy music] world, hadn’t been treated that well at a single day event in a long time, if ever,” begins Download Australia programmer Nigel Melder of the festival’s inaugural run in Melbourne.

The festival made its Australian debut earlier this year with a massive bill that featured Korn, Prophets Of Rage, Limp Bizkit, Good Charlotte, NOFX and so many more, returning this year with an even bigger line-up, headlined by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Judas Priest, Sum 41 and more.

It was an event that restored a lot of faith with Australian heavy music fans, but Download’s origins go far deeper than its Melbourne debut back in March, and even further than its inaugural run in the UK 15 years ago.

Its inspiration traces back to heavy music festival Monsters Of Rock, which debuted in 1980 in England, and after its finale in ‘96, there was a huge gap in the market.

“The whole idea was to bring a proper rock festival back to the UK,” Download Festival founder Andy Copping says of the festival’s inception.

Copping recalls the first event in 2003, watching Iron Maiden headline the main stage; after all the effort put in, he describes the experience as “amazing”.

“That set us on the way,” he tells. The festival was unstoppable from that moment, growing every year without fail, expanding to Paris in 2016, Melbourne this year and Sydney in 2019.

“We were just wrapped up in getting that first one up off the ground and we never envisioned we’d get to where we are now,” he admits.

“I mean, back then we were two days, two stages, whereas now we’re up to four, five stages over three days with a week’s worth of camping. It’s become one of the biggest festivals in the world.”

It’s fitting that Judas Priest, who played the inaugural Monsters of Rock festival, have been confirmed as an Australian headliner in 2019.

The festival’s growth and recurring headliners speak volumes to the loyalty of heavy music fans.

“Everybody involved with the festival is a music lover,” Copping tells. “Right from the very beginning, from the outset of the festival, we included the fans and getting them to contribute and let us know what they want to see at the festival.”

Which is the same approach they used in booking Download Australia’s second run. They expanding the festival but didn’t increase the capacity.

“By adding Sydney, that’s our way of growing this year,” Melder says. “We know [what capacity] worked in Melbourne and we know what people enjoyed and we know a couple of little things we need to tweak and then we apply that to those two shows.”

The feedback from the Melbourne show was largely positive from both punters and the industry, but there was one thing they slightly overlooked – heavy music fans’ passion for merch, with Melder saying they sold out a little quicker than expected and will be remedying that for the second effort.

From wedding cakes to tattoos and more, fans are loyal to the brand and genre, which means Download has become more of a community than purely an event. “It is a revelation,” Copping enthuses. “This is a lifestyle; the people are properly brought into the festival and feel ownership of it and so they’ll go to those lengths.”

Copping closely oversaw the festival’s Australian debut earlier this year. “When we decided to expand the Download brand, Australia was something that was really set in my sights,” he says.

“Since the demise of Soundwave, there’d been nothing; there was a big, black hole in Australia…it took us a couple of years to get it off the ground and be sure that we were doing the right thing, but the response from the Australian public was incredible. Once they got a sniff that Download was coming to their country, they were all over us.”

While there are a lot of parallels between Download UK and Australia, Melder, who attended the UK event this year, says they’re still “very different animals”.

“For me, it’s really about trying to build something that will appeal to everyone, while staying true to what people associate the name with,” he explains.

“It was funny, with Good Charlotte – and this is what I love about music as it’s so polarising – some metal heads were complaining that Good Charlotte were on the bill, but they’ll play UK Download and they had a huge set, they killed it.

“I really like people arguing about bands, because it just shows their passion and their drive for defending that what they listen to. I think that’s what’s so fun about music – we all care so much, we all give enough of a shit that we get wound up that a certain act isn’t playing or a certain act is playing. I would hate to be involved in a scene where no one really cares.”

In curating the Australian event, both Copping and Melder were adamant local talent played a part, with High Tension, Thy Art Is Murder, Luca Brasi and more confirmed for 2019. “I’ve always been connected to the scene and it’s always good to give those Australian acts an opportunity they don’t come by that often,” Melder says. “There aren’t a lot of platforms for them to get up in front of 5,000 people.”

Copping’s long championed Australian acts at Download UK, from Parkway Drive making their way from an opening band to headlining, and The Amity Affliction becoming a festival favourite. When asked his thoughts on the Australian heavy music scene, Copping didn’t hesitate in answering.

“Very simple – AC/DC. There’s nothing else to be said. Yes, Metallica are huge, Iron Maiden are huge, Black Sabbath are huge, but no one comes close to AC/DC. If you want to go back in [Australian] history, bands like The Angels, Cold Chisel, Rose Tattoo, Screaming Jets; you’ve had some amazing rock bands over the years. Everything just goes back to AC/DC; what a band.”

Copping describes their 2010 headline set as one of the “most seminal moments of the festival” and one of his biggest achievements.

Another highlight is Ozzy Osbourne and Slayer touring the event next year as part of their worldwide farewell runs. Which begs the question, what happens when all the classic rock acts retire?

“We can’t fuck about, we’ve got to bring them through, and this is everybody; festival promoters, concert promoters, the media, fans, everybody,” Copping urges.

“Don’t sit on your hands, get behind the [emerging] bands that are coming through. All of us have to get behind them, nature them, bring them through and not just sit back and go, ‘Well, back in the day.’ There’s some fucking great live bands out there that are on the edge of becoming festival headliners.

“I think back to the day I made Slipknot a headliner at Download in 2009. People wanted my head, like, ‘What are you doing?’ They don’t deserve to be a festival headliner.’ They’re now a bona fide festival headliners and that was because I put my head on the line because I believed that they were a band that were going to come through and now they’ve settled in that slot.

“I can pick 20 bands out there that I think are going to come through and be headliners of the future.”

Melbourne’s High Tension are an act that Melder thinks has the chops to work there way up the line-up, which is why they were invited back to play Download Australia in 2019 after a memorable set this year. “I want to try do that every year; bring an Australia artist back and bump them up the line-up,” Melder reveals.

Copping stresses: “You have to put the new bands on and let people see them. Someone might come to your festival because you’ve got Aerosmith or Rammstein playing, but the thing is, because they’re at a festival with 100 other bands, they’re suddenly exposed to other acts that they probably wouldn’t buy a ticket to go and see. They’re watching and going, ‘Oh my god, what an amazing band.’

“Bringing local acts through is really important and just giving people a real flavour of what the scene is all about, what the community is all about. It’s about finding new bands and getting excited about them as well as seeing the biggest, most established acts.”

Show Review: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends 07.11.18

Published on, Nov 2018

Pic by Dana Weeks

Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends

Riverside Drive

Nov 7

“A spirited evening of music and literature.” That’s the tagline on the poster for Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends’ Australian tour, with many immediately drawn to a certain name and his image before taking a step back to figure out exactly what was on offer.

Many film icons of Murray’s calibre and vintage set out on “An Evening With” tours, but when you think about it, a show that features the Ghostbusters star reciting classic poetry and great American literature and singing classic songs, backed by a captivating chamber orchestra, is probably the best representation of Bill Murray on stage you could expect.

The evening began with a comical message from Murray about ensuring mobile phones were switched off and shortly after his arrival on stage it was clear why.

Walking out with renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, Murray stood tall and imposing and began reciting classic American literature to a deadly silent crowd. The audience was hanging off every word, and at its finish, German cellist and Murray’s creative partner, Jan Volver, joined the party, with the band embarking on a classical journey that captured the essence of the powerful words that had just been delivered.

The show continued to play out in a similar fashion, with Murray delivering works from Twain, Hemingway, Whitman and more and the band offering up music from the likes of Ravel, Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Bach in support.

“The worst is over,” Murray joked after the band had settled in. “But if you want to leave now, we’d totally understand.”

It was his largely-than-life personality that kept the show alive, and there was plenty of humour on offer; from renaming Rottnest Island’s Quokkas to “Quokkos” (“They couldn’t have been sweeter… or more delicious.”), to pulling Perez’s local paper turner to centre stage for a dance, Murray was on fire.

His infectious energy was truly on show during classic songs The Piano Has Been Drinking by Tom Waits, in which he ended up sitting on the piano after downing a healthy amount of whisky, and It Ain’t Necessarily So, which had the entire audience singing along.

Murray may not have the greatest singing voice (as evident in My Girl), but that’s what adds to the show’s charm; Murray comes across as a relatable and fun guy who is easy to connect with.

While it was during these collective singalongs that the room was filled with the most energy, it was when Murray was reading works like The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, playing four different characters, that the night truly found its stride, with many audience members transported to another place.

That’s not to say the band didn’t have their time in the spotlight, with Murray vacating the stage (or more appropriately, hiding behind the piano from time to time), to let the mind-blowingly talented musicians on stage unleash.

Given the show’s unique structure and it’s accompanying parts, it’s hard to know who will get the most out of it, but that’s what makes it so great; it brings together people who wouldn’t normally find themselves in the same room. It’s a bold celebration of art, life and friendship.

INTERVIEW: Bill Murray and Jan Vogler

Published on, Nov 2018

Bill Murray & Jan Vogler Will Pull The Rug Out From Under You With ‘New Worlds’

It’s midday in Vienna and Bill Murray is nursing a headache on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Perth, the first stop on his Australian tour with his musical partner, German cellist Jan Vogler.

It’s Vogler, or as Murray later enthuses, the “punctual” one, who instigates the call. “I’ve never been on time for much of anything,” Murray tells.

“I find it uplifting and educational to learn that there are people that actually show up when they’re supposed to, or when they’re expected; it’s opened up a whole new world for me.”

Joined by Vogler’s wife, renowned Chinese-American violinist Mira Wang and Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez, the musical force spent the previous night opening an exhibition of art and antiques cured by Murray’s good friend Wes Anderson at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Thus explains the headache he’s now nursing.

“We had an excellent dance party in my hotel room last night,” Murray says. “We had about fifty people dancing until about three-thirty, four. Considering we started at about 10pm, it was a pretty impressive dance party.”

That’s when Vogler fittingly pulls things back to their New Worlds Australian tour and collaborative LP of the same name. “Now, we are all into Australia, and all about doing our show, and the joy we hope to bring with this show to you guys,” Vogler says.

“There is something for people who love classical music, but it’s also so much beyond that.”

New Worlds blends classical masterpieces from the likes of Ravel, Schubert, Saint-Saëns and Bach with iconic spoken word excerpts from American writers such as Twain, Hemingway and Whitman and classics from the American songbook, including Gershwin, Bernstein and Foster.

It’s an interesting prospect for those who know Murray as the man behind Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Stripes and myriad of other titles, and while the aforementioned description of New Worlds might turn some away, Murray is certain their live show will be worth the time invested. “It looks like a stuffy, dry show, and then we pull the rug out from under them, and just hit them over the head with great music and great playing,” he tells.

“It’s absolutely true,” Vogler adds. “I think it’s highbrow, lowbrow, and everything. It’s something that I have never really seen.

“With this show, I feel the energy just building, and building, and building, and at the end, everybody has an incredible amount of energy.”

The energy conveyed throughout the album and translated to the stage might have something to do with the spontaneity of how the pair met back in 2013 at a Berlin airport.

They were both going through airport security to catch a flight to New York – Murray taking a break from filming Monuments Men and Vogler returning home after a long tour. Murray asked Vogler how he planned on fitting his cello in the overhead. From there, they sparked up a conversation on the plane, consequently sitting next to one-another and Vogler watching Stripes, which just happened to be on the in-flight entertainment list. They traded contact details, stayed in touch and invited each other to a few events before their creative partnership was born.

The whole thing reads a little like a love story.

“We’re all laughing now; you got the whole band laughing at that one,” Murray laughs. “Yeah, it is a love story. We love each other, and we really love playing this show. When we turn on the switch and go, we’re just filled with love. It’s a fantastic feeling… When we walk out on the stage, everybody just goes someplace else.”

The pair had no prior knowledge of each other’s work when they met. “Bill and I met, but then for two years we didn’t work at all together,” Vogler explains. “We would just hang out together, and let a friendship build. It was something I didn’t have very much of in my life.”

While Murray can’t decide whether or not no prior knowledge was a benefit to New Worlds, he does say it made the process “a real joy”.

“We come from very different worlds; we come from different continents. But we have so much in common in the centre,” he tells. “There’s like a jelly doughnut centre to each of us,” he adds, continuing on to deliver some trademark Murray commentary.

“Even though we look like barnacles on the outside, we have jelly doughnut centres.

“When you have a jelly doughnut centre, it kind of shakes when things go well. When life goes well, and music plays, the jelly kind of vibrates a little bit. It’s like some sort of an alien being inside, that shakes. We each have it – Vanessa has it, Mira has it, too. We’re just a bunch of doughnuts that are coming to your country and we’re very excited. We’re really excited. It’s a really stuffed pastry, coming your way.”

It’ll be Vogler’s first time in Australia, while Murray has only visited the East Coast in the past.

“If you’re in Perth, will you put an ad in the paper for me?” Murray asks. “I hope that this fellow that I met in Bali thirty years ago is still hanging around. I’m not very good on names, but we rode around on motorcycles in Bali, up in the mountains, I think it might have been Kintamani, and we ended up in Lake Batur, and had a lot of fun over there.

“He had a Lonely Planet book called South East Asia On A Shoestring, and it changed the way I travel; I became a traveller, as opposed to a tourist. So, I hope he’s still there. And I hope he comes and finds us at the show. Tell him not to buy a ticket; I’ve got a couple of tickets for him.”

Vogler adds: “That would be wonderful if you could convey his message. I know you [cover] music, but still, this is about friendship, and music happens through friendship.”

Show Review: Taylor Swift 19.10.18

Published on, Oct 2018

Pic by Ted Dana

Taylor Swift, Charli XCX, Broods

Optus Stadium

Oct 19

Security was thorough as thousands of Taylor Swift fans unloaded from buses and trains around Perth Stadium, with one thing, in particular, standing out on the “Prohibited Items” list – “Ex-boyfriend/Ex-lovers”, with a series of the headline act’s greatest hits pictured beside it.

Each punter entering scored “a gift from Taylor”, a wristband that we were instructed to activate during the main event, adding to the excitement around the corner.

After loosening up with a tightly executed version Hold The Line, New Zealand sibling duo Broods were right at home at Perth’s largest music venue for their biggest gig to date.

Songs like Heartlines and Free, with their slow-building verses and soaring choruses from vocalist Georgia Nott, rendered them perfect for a stadium, as the space in the verses allowed the vocals to bounce around the open-air venue, while their chorus hooks filled every inch of the space with an infectious energy.

The atmosphere was drastically different when Charli XCX‘s name lit up on the big screen, with thick and moody synth adding a sense of urgency to the air and snare hits so piercing they could have been mistaken for gunshot as Boom Clap fought to overpower the screaming crowd. Her Icona Pop collab, I Love It, was up next, transforming the gig into an aerobic workout for many.

Break The Rules proved popular with the younger audience members, something that resulted in primary school kids singing along passionately about “Getting high and getting wrecked“.

Despite not mentioning the song’s Perth connection, Troye Sivan collab 1999 proved a set highlight. It would have been nice to see Sivan on stage with her like their joint performance of the song in New York the week previous, but the Bloom hitmaker appearing over the PA and on the big screen was a nice touch.

Taylor Swift doesn’t shy away from her critics, her intro consisting of a series of news snippets calling her reputation into question before the singer raised her middle finger to the haters with an intro so bold it immediately had everyone on side.

The massive screens centre stage parted to reveal the superstar on the stage by herself, dressed in a sparkling black playsuit and asking punters if they were …Ready For It?.

Backing dancers joined halfway through to add a dark, theatrical flair into the mix, before the air intensified with blood red lighting in anthem I Did Something Bad.

I can feel the flames on my skin,” she sang, before flames and fireworks burst from the stage, while everyone’s gifted wristband pulsated red in time.

“Good evening, Perth,” Swift politely said, immediately thanking everyone in attendance and the support acts before pointing out it was the first time a female artist had headlined the new stadium. It proved a nice transition into new tune Gorgeous.

The single, like many on Reputation, is a slight departure for the singer, with more calculated and simplistic production than some of her previous efforts, but it translated well to the stage.

The production, choreography and outfits were dripping Style, something Swift’s mastered over the years through a number of different creative direction changes.

It was the juxtaposition between classic tune Love Story and more recent electronic pop hit Look What You Made Me Do that really illustrated the eclectic nature of her catalogue.

With a giant inflatable cobra, gold throne, dizzying dance moves and headline act that commanded undivided attention, it was easy to forget she was accompanied by a solid live band, especially given the fact, when they weren’t concealed behind the big screens, they were perched between them, often left in a flurry of lights. But their presence and talent definitely added to the experience, with booming drums laying a platform for hits like King Of My Heart, while electric guitar gave the show a rock’n’roll edge and other acoustic instruments throughout grounded the electronic onslaught.

A candid speech about taking time off after 1989 to find herself gave fans an insight into the inception of her latest album, resulting in a powerful message about love and friendship.

“Is that rain?” Swift asked. “Well, I’m not going anywhere, no matter what,” she added, as our wristbands illuminated purple and Delicate drops of rain fell onto the crowd.

Swift climbed aboard a carriage lit by rope lights and gently floated around the stadium, a sea of screams radiating from below.

“Will you dance in the rain with me?” she asked over the quirky pop intro of Shake It Off, now positioned on a stage in the middle of the stadium where more giant inflatable snakes and a sea of flickering, rainbow coloured wristbands set the scene for a set highlight that included more fireworks and confetti.

It might be the singer’s first all-stadium tour, but she hasn’t forgotten her roots, standing solo on the same platform with just an acoustic guitar for a stripped-back rendition of Dancing With Our Hands Tied.

Keeping things intimate and revisiting a song she hadn’t “played in a minute”, a reimagined I Knew You Were Trouble had the crowd screaming every word and proved she didn’t need all the bells and whistles to have an impact. It was also a reminder of just how powerful her voice is.

Venturing from one side of the stadium to another, a few lucky fans got high fives and handshakes, before she re-emerged on another platform, dressed in a classy, sparkling red playsuit.

It was back to the pop hits as Blank Space re-enlisted booming drums and epic chorus hooks, something continued by megahit Bad Blood as its eerie intro that transitioned into thundering bass.

The 2014 hit, mashed with Should’ve Said No, saw dancers flying around the stage while Swift ducked and weaved through its various platforms, spitting its lyrics with an intensity that gave punters another dose of adrenaline that not only saw them bouncing for the remaining songs but probably buzzing in the days that followed.

A mash-up of Long Live and New Year’s Day was a religious experience for many; some avid fans in tears watching their idol perched behind the piano for the ballads.

A video interlude, Why She Disappeared, bridged the gap before the encore, with the audience sitting in silence as they listened to its poetic message. It didn’t last long, as Getaway Car saw the venue erupt.

Swift wasn’t done yet, though, with confetti once again showering the audience as she danced alongside brightly dressed backing dancers on a stage that looked like something out of Vegas.

All the evening’s best musical and production elements culminated for a massive finale in We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. Taylor Swift’s latest production delivers everything you could want from a stadium tour.