(Photo - Kristy Smolcic)
The Rubens have gone from strength-to-strength this year, and the fact they sold out two shows at Melbourne’s iconic Forum Theatre, is a sure sign that they’re onto bigger and better things. Their sophomore album Hoops saw them draw on a variety of diverse influences (including hip-hop), and they admitted that they took into consideration the live element to their music. Wednesday night was an opportunity for them to transform the material from their new album - as well as some old favourites - and create some magic. They certainly didn’t disappoint.
Opening up for The Rubens were locals Saskwatch - though they were certainly impressive, it was lead singer Nkechi Anele who stole the show, strutting around the stage and embracing her inner diva (Beyonce would be proud). Everybody inside the venue would be able to agree that Nkechi and her fellow band mates were exhilarating and brought the energy levels in the room up a whole another level. I hope to catch them live again in the very near future, and if you happen to see that they’re playing shows in a town near you, they’re a must see for all lovers of local music.
When The Rubens walked out onto the stage, their intro contained snippets of ‘Ain’t That Easy’ by the legendary D’Angelo (a clear influence referenced on their second album) as well as some hardcore hip-hop - I almost forgot I was about to see a rock band.
I’m going to be openly honest, originally when I was sitting there, I felt like their opening tracks felt slow - maybe because I felt so revved up from the hip-hop intro that I expected more power from their opening tracks. Reflecting back on the night, I still think they could of opened with something else, BUT, I also liked that they didn’t start off with a bang, as it was a much more wiser decision to start off slow, as opposed to starting massive and then burning out. Their opener consisted of ‘The Best We Got’ from their first album. They then played a slow burner that then picks up some steam with ‘Be Gone’ - also from their debut.
Finally, it was time for something new and they did this with the ever so sexy ‘The Night Is On My Side’ - just like the first time I heard it when I listened to it during my first listening of the album, it’s still as alluring, and even more so live.
I’m the ultimate pessimist (anybody who knows me can vouch for that), so if a song can get me to think positively, it must be pretty happy - and yes, I’m talking about ‘Things About to Change’. The track makes me feel so happy that I don’t even know how it does it - it’s probably one of the most positive songs released this year. The crowd clearly loved this one too and they all felt all positive vibes the lads were sharing from the stage circulating around the venue. I still smile thinking about that song - damn you The Rubens.
The second half of their setlist featured some of their big hits including the much loved and their breakthrough hit ‘My Gun’, which always receives a roaring reception, as well brand new single ‘Hoops’, which has been receiving lots of radio play recently. At the end of ‘Hoops’, they left the stage and returned for encores of ‘Lay It Down’ as well as ‘Hallelujah’.
The thing that was most obvious from their show is that their on-stage confidence has become even stronger recently - maybe it has something to do with the fact that they have much more experience now (especially after playing a major set on the big stage at Splendour in July). They also presented a set that showed hits from both albums without relying too heavily on one or the other. If they’ve come this far after a few years, I look forward to seeing what they do in years to come.
Written by Amy Smolcic