I WAS THERE | HEALTH @ HOWLER, MELBOURNE. 11.2.16
Touring their 2015 release Death Magic, HEALTH hit Melbourne for an intimate sideshow alongside playing St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. Taking to the stage at Howler alongside them was James Crooks and Null.
James Crooks opened the night with a satisfactory set, slipping comfortably between a number of remixes and his own productions. It was a safe opener, but lacked any of the energy or curiosity value that either of the others held. It simply boiled down to being an hour that was easy enough to have a beer and chat to your mates over, but not one to set you into the mood for the night.
It didn’t take Null long to up the ante for the night though. Balancing a range of electronic styles throughout his set it was easy to become engrossed in the mix, and the crowed grooved along nicely from the sidelines. Whilst the set was mostly industrial in its sound style, there were throw backs to nineties pop and teasings of big room house thrown in there which broke it up nicely. It was clear to see the potential in Null’s performance, and that it is quite likely that we will be seeing him hit stages again soon.
By the time HEALTH took to there was a solid crowd building up around the front of the stage. Throughout the night you could hear people discussing how long they had been waiting to finally see the band, and at least one hand drawn fan t-shirt could be spotted. From the get go, the audience was in love. The intense, jarring nature of HEALTH’s material transitioned brilliantly to a live performance. The three piece were a non-stop blur for the set burning through material off each of their albums. The pace of the show was hard to match, but perfectly suited the band’s style and it was clear that it was exactly what the enthused audience were after. Whilst Howler may come across as a tame venue, it turned into a haunting party on this night with the wooden walls being lit by the barrage of strobes, broken up by bodies being carried across the room by the crowd.
HEALTH had minimal interaction with the audience, pausing between a few songs to quickly thank the audience; it was mostly back to back tracks. This was excellent in the sense that we got to hear the most that the band had to offer, but came with the unfortunate downside of many of the tracks blending together. This isn’t so much a fault of the band’s performance, as a harsh reality of what happens when you turn a run of albums that rely heavily on small technicalities to find the high points into a high energy set. For those who have been waiting to see HEALTH for years, it was difficult to deny the brilliance of the performance. The band performed with a stage presence that perfectly suited the material, and presented the music in both an accurately and appealing manner. Due to the niche appeal of the band it is unlikely that we are to see them on a stage again soon, but this show made it clear that on their return they are well worth checking out.
By Ayden Measham-Pywell