Silverchair Freak Show album launch

Moore Park Sydney

For iZine, 20 January 1997

The event had already been described weeks earlier as “the must-have ticket in Australia today”; the venue: a peculiar tent and paddock arena where the Circus Oz gymnasts set each other alight each night; the cost of it all: the gross national product of several African states.

The media launch of silverchair’s “Freak Show” was receiving the full attention of the world’s ruck makers — MTV, Spin, right down to the local community radio stations. Flown in from all over the cosmos for a peek at the follow-up to the unit-shifting “frogstomp” — double platinum in the US (2 million), Canada (200,000) and Australia (210,000) — the media contingent spoke quietly and rumour-natingly of eating disorders, leprosy and their own writing competitors’ cocaine habits… a braying swoop of asses punctuated by the tight little butts of the record store girls and their goateed store managers. The expectation was electric, the magazine front cover pics already shot months ago, the still-embargoed album (it comes out February 3rd) talked about lovingly by the Sony crew. The beer was chilled and free.

Shuffling into the circus bigtop one could not ignore the rocketship surrounds, a la launch grande. The record heads and taunt bodies wiggled on their tiered seats as a sword swallower jammed some mighty big weapons down his gullet. Then the arrival: Newcastle’s wunderkinds smashing loudly and perfectly into an opener which was to orientate the evening, unabated and for an hour. The lighting shadowed their every motion, the small talk from Daniel Johns belying, with great natural insight, everyone’s place in the universe for this event and its consequences. His eyebrows were dyed black, Gillies and Joannou looked a little heavy. But this was still going to be huge today, tomorrow and at the end of several financial years.

They were as a unit, one: silverchair held together with the enormously lengthy and luscious hair of Ben Gillies sweeping his drum kit, Chris Joannou prowling the side-of-stage with unerring rhythmic basslines, our lad Johns, the gifted, golden and grotty-mopped superstar kicking in the hateful skulls of his distaste of being the chosen one. For as the Freak Show-case unravelled the topics were scary, borne by an already-hardened 17 years old whose cadetship in economics and entertainment has been the fastest, wildest ride in many observers’ living memory. As “Abuse Me” and “Roses” surged brutally from the mouth of Johns, everyone’s suspicions of his supernatural insight came true again – “Tomorrow” and “Pure Massacre” were now truly relegated to the pubescent noodlings that they were born from. And the darkness seemed to be aimed straight at his gathered guests and their uncertain tasks which involve his future — a lyrical and incantated mania which seemed to personify a view on his own and others’ feelings on him. How do we know this guy? He certainly knows our deeds.

A climax, the end of the show. Sony’s ubermanager Denis Handlin announces a No. 1 chart placing by another act and a continuing fight to stop censorship — the crowd assumes the silverchair album may be in a little danger. Can we still assume that those stickers “help” sell units? A grey area, not good economic rationale in the inevitable statistical assumptions. It’s tough to not think of Johns’ head, the game is about to get a lot crazier.