The Rubens @ The Tivoli, 11th June
It’s been five years since The Rubens rose to fame on Triple J with their debut single, Lay It Down. Since then, the indie rock band have been doing extraordinarily well for themselves. The 2016 Hottest 100 winners have been touring overseas to Europe in recent months, and tonight have returned home for the second show of their Hold Me Back tour.
As I arrive at The Tivoli, I notice a thin crowd has showed up for Melbourne’s own, Slum Sociable. The hip hop production is distinctively fresh and excitingly psychedelic. There’s a minimalistic, washed out feel to the set, which works quite well in most of their songs such as crowd favourite, Always. Over time, it does get somewhat repetitive and colourless. All and all though, Slum Sociable start my night off with high spirits.
As the room steadily fills up, Sydney electronic outfit, Mansionair take to the stage in an aura of smoke. Beginning their set with Mirror Me, I’m instantly hooked by Jack Froggatt’s deep, melodic vocals. The minimal electronic backing brings a big focus on his voice, and boy does he deliver. The band bring a sophisticated and darkly intricate sound, reminiscent of London Grammar or Daughter. Throughout the set, they show off their new songs as well older ones like Speak Easy, Pick Me Up and their cover of Future Islands’, Seasons. Finishing with Hold Me Down, I’m left in a coat of goosebumps.
Surprisingly, tonight’s crowd is fairly tame, which is odd for a sold out gig, especially considering The Rubens fan base. The female lead crowd erupts in a roar of excitement as the five piece take to the stage. Front man, Sam Margin is wearing an orange silk shirt, half buttoned up. Beginning with Stampy, the band showcase an edgy, refined sound. They follow up with a few more tracks from their second album before delving into some of their older repertoire including Best We Got, Elvis and Be Gone.
In their cover of Adele’s Hello, I start to feel a bit uneasy about the performance. As Sam lights a cigarette on stage, I can’t help but thinking he’s forcing it. I admire charisma and rock-star aesthetic just as much as the next person, but I can’t help but noticing that it looks a little unnatural. Regardless of this, The Rubens know how to put on a good show. Before playing The Fool, Sam leans into the audience and yells, “now we’re gonna do our best to melt your fucking faces off!”
My face doesn’t exactly melt off, but I do start to feel more interested in the set. Instrumentally, the sound is vibrant and compact. William Zeglis gives us a healthy serve of thick, heavy bass, Elliott Margin soothes the sound with his organ/piano and Scott Baldwins drums deliver just the right amount of punch and authority.
In Cut Me Loose, Sam dives into the audience and makes his way to the top balcony before jumping off the railing onto an inflatable pool bed held up by fans. He gets lost in the audience for a few minutes before returning to the stage to sink a bottle of champagne. All the while, the rest of the band perform The Waitresses’, I Know What Boys Like lead by Elliot.
Coming back on stage for an encore of Never Be The Same, Sam sits at the piano and transitions the mood of the room from ‘off chops’ to completely spellbound. Finishing the show with an elongated, booze filled Hallelujah, The Rubens show us that they sure know how to pull off a good party. As I attempt to leave the venue (which is always a struggle at The Tivoli), I notice the red puffy faces of their adoring fans. A girl sits in the corner, wiping tears away from her face.
“I love them so much,” she slurs to her friend in a drunken voice.
Whatever The Rubens are doing, they’re doing it well.