HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMP CD LAUNCH - Amplifier Bar - Friday, May 5, 2006

Having just returned from an eye-opening tour of Melbourne, Calerway looked very jazzed to being playing in front of a large home crowd, complete with vocally proud supporters front-and-centre. A heavy gigging and rehearsing schedule has made Calerway a very well-oiled machine - perhaps to the point of losing a little bit of feeling - and the band ploughed through their set with ease. With a couple of newer songs reminiscent of the almost-new wave sound Gyroscope recently mastered, Calerway appear to be branching out from the post-pop punk sound they've sported thus far, and the variety is a welcome and needed addition. Fitting into the mix extremely well is the band's new bassist, who looks right at home on stage. Thus looking and sounding very much like they know what they are doing, Calerway warmed a few of the heavier music fans of the night, whilst still giving their own fans exactly what they wanted.

Themata, the acoustic version of Karnivool, didn't need to win over anyone… everyone at Amps already appeared to love them to death. The band's shift from nu metal to Nickelback-style rock has certainly made room for an acoustic avenue such as Themata, which essentially strips the songs back to basics, rather than converting them into full blown acoustic numbers. As a result, the skeleton of the song becomes the focus, allowing (among other things) the world-class voice of Ian Kenny to fill the air unchallenged. With the room at capacity, many punters had to listen to Themata through the PA in the beer garden, rather than watch them on stage, and at times you almost had to slap yourself out of thinking you were listening to a CD… the band were that smooth. Not to detract from the band's main drive - Drew Goddard - but Themata showed beyond question that Karnivool's greatest asset is its singer, whose range and control could be described as nothing less than inspiring.

Though this may sound somewhat exaggerated, Heavy Weight Champ did the impossible and took both the tightness of Calerway and the soar of Themata and bettered them tenfold. They simply blew everyone out of the water. Hilariously, after a long-winded and dramatic introduction the band false-started their very first song, which could have turned the gig sour in an instant. The crowd, to their credit, cheered at the bungle and egged the band on. With a disbelieving smile at their bad luck, Heavy Weight Champ then commenced to work through a set that was as close to flawless as is possible in live music. They hit each and every mark. Mixing up the old and the new, Heavy Weight Champ's precision belied the fact they're a band who have played very little over the past few years, and instead gave off an air of the band being very seasoned. Singer Grant McCulloch certainly had a high bar to hit after Calerway's JP and Themata's Ian had lifted it successionally throughout the night, but the towering frontman performed in a class of his own. With its massive power, warm tones, and freakishly perfect control, McCulloch's voice was jaw-dropping. Even with his guitar slung super high and dwarfed by his lumberjack frame, McCulloch looked physically comfortable, and both he and bassist Luke maintained an energetic front for the entirety of the band's set. Changing pace between faster and slower numbers (and heavier and softer ones) Heavy Weight Champ showed off the range of dynamics they employ as a band, and even when Karnivool's Drew took to the stage for an acoustic duo with McCulloch, the power levels were unremitting. Gratifying fans with their old school finale, Heavy Weight Champ left the stage triumphant, giving rise to a few valid questions from punters. The band just played the show of their career, have finally released their overdue record, and look poised to reclaim their throne… so what are they going to do now? As long as the answer is anything other than 'take a four year break' the results will certainly be interesting. Fingers crossed.