Through the tiny window of opportunity that ‘grunge’ opened for simple youth bitterness, Newcastle’s silverchair (mind the non title case punctuation, they like it that way) was Australia’s gift from the great Kurt Cobain in the sky. Recorded while the members were just fifteen years of age, frogstomp, silverchair’s debut album, went on to platinum sales in the US, Australia and New Zealand. With album number two, Freak Show, already following the former’s trajectory, their motives and talent became blazingly clear during their sermon to 6,000 kids in Perth last week.
There is no doubt that silverchair – Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou – do it for the kids and themselves. After seeing two performances in two months, including February’s massive media hoop-jump for their Freak Show launch – where young Daniel Johns gazed cynically over the hands that feed him – their teen mania was again substantiated by the sheer power exerted both on, and in front of, the stage.
Five little girls standing next to me, all obviously less than ten years old, screamed their little pipsqueak shrills throughout the whole opening barrage of Slave, Roses and Abuse Me. Entranced by the solid guitar work and the head-flaying presence of Johns, whose voice shifted effortlessly from wizened song to a pubescent proto-grunge growl without missing a note, it was impossible not to submit to loud hollering myself.
Singles such as Freak saw the crowd explode into the air, with Cemetery alternately inviting a little lighter waving. “We’re just going to play a few more slower songs for the generation above these first 20 rows, the old people,” chided Johns, completely in step with his peers’ view of post-teenage invalidity.
Not to forget the past though, an 80s knees-up jam soon welcomed back the oldies. The Southern US power strum of The Door further tempting harsh critics to write great things about silverchair’s developing musical ear.
Leaving frogstomp’s breakthrough single Tomorrow out of the encore, by the crowd’s request, signalled the changing attitude of this very young band. With the kids themselves wanting new music and a band with attitude, silverchair can now avoid succumbing to easy crowd pleasers.
As their mid-paced grunge anthems slowly dissolve through frequent changes of pace and rhythm, silverchair surprisingly figure to be a creative force for the future, something the knockers would not have picked two years ago on the strength of some obviously borrowed influences and the cash of a super corporation.