The last time that Kingswood performed live, the world was a different place. In fact, while gigs were still happening, their future was in doubt, and as frontman Fergus Linacre took to the stage at Richmond’s Corner Hotel on Friday, March 13th, he was even joking about how the mood in the room was like the apocalypse was coming. Eight months later, these remarks seem as prescient as ever.
In the time since the band last performed a public show, a lot has happened, and both fan and artist have become connected by the absence of music – something we undoubtedly took for granted before it was taken away. While fans have found ways to pass the time, whether it be by livestreams or discovering new music, artists too have explored the former, while Kingswood have been one of the many artists to deliver the latter.
Almost coincidentally, Kingswood’s last performance was indeed on the same Friday the 13th that brought with it mass COVID-related closures, with restrictions on gatherings effectively putting a halt to any semblance of a normal year. Unfortunately for Kingswood, this day also happened to be the day that they released their latest album, Juveniles.
Not content to sit on their hands and wait for the world to open back up, the Melbourne outfit were as active as ever in 2020, with two new albums emerging from lockdown. The most recent of these, a holiday album dubbed A Kingswood Christmas, saw its official release on Friday, November 27th, while the previous record, Reveries, saw the band reimagine Juveniles in an eclectically stripped back, immersive manner.
With Reveries out in the world, and restrictions in Victoria coming to a cautious end, Kingswood too cautiously announced their live return. Initially a three-night residency, with two shows each evening, the run of shows soon expanded to five nights, with the band returning to pick up where they left off at Richmond’s Corner Hotel.
One of the first shows of their kind in the south-eastern state, a live performance in the COVID era is undoubtedly a strange one. No longer do the communal gatherings take place by the bar, and no more do we see sweaty bodies massed together across the dancefloor. Instead, everything is cautious. An air of uncertainty lingers, and the understandably strict rules in place make it seem like a school excursion to somewhere you’ve not been for a very long time. But you know the destination will be worth it.
For Kingswood, they lean into the state of the industry. With the venue limited to just 50 people, an album such as Reveries lends itself to the intimate nature of a small gathering, and with candles lighting the carefully-spaced tables, the evening is less of a cautious return of the live scene, but rather a rare experience to relive what feels like a black-tie event.
The entertainment at this event, Kingswood, waste no time in getting back to what it is they do best. While the band – expanded to a sextet this evening – are as grateful as the small crowd to be back on stage, they choose not to dwell on the time that has passed. Rather, they’re here to make up for what they’ve missed.
As the opening notes of “You Make It So Easy” (renamed “Heart Carousel” thanks to the Reveries treatment) ring out, there’s an undeniable feeling of nostalgia and wistfulness at play at the mere fact of seeing live music again. But what’s more is that the feeling of nostalgia is soon washed away by the fact that these songs aren’t just an example of what we’ve been missing, but an exceptional showcase of a band who has emerged from a year of difficulty sounding better than ever.
Of course, the evening too is complemented by the stripped-back nature of the performance, with the reworked version of “Bittersweet” (that is, “If There’s a Love”, if you’re looking at Reveries) serving as an undeniable highlight. The slick rock sheen of the original is replaced by an almost gentle rendition, as atmospheric guitars sap the energy seen in the regular version, leaving an almost desperately passionate vocal to stand alone. While a slide guitar permeates the slowly-building reimagining, and brushed drums offer a tender percussion, it culminates in a perfect example of what it is that audiences have been missing.
Linacre and fellow guitarist and vocalist Alex Laska share their friendly banter at every chance, with the intimate nature not only making it feel like a meeting of close friends, but even allowing far more audience participation than usual. Of course, while a reduced capacity dampens the usual fun of a singalong, a sense of humour is apparent above all. Hell, even the rare mistakes are laughed off at times, with everyone in attendance just happy to be witnessing what they’ve waited so long to see.
Add in earlier songs such as “Big City” and “Golden”, throw in a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”, and wrap up the set with an encore cover of First Aid Kit’s “Wolf” (with Stephanie Greenwood on lead vocals), and the result is the first evening of a majestic residency from the mighty Kingswood.
It’s easy to be blinded by the return of live music to simply sum up their performance as a phenomenal comeback following months of musical uncertainty, but to describe it as anything less would do this resilient group of musicians a disservice. If you’re lucky enough to hold a ticket for this almost-sold-out run of performances, revel in the fact you’re about to witness one of the finest evenings ever performed by this great band.
Kingswood @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne 27/11/20 Setlist
“You Make It So Easy”/”Heart Carousel”
“Ready Steady”/”Out of Colour”
“Bittersweet”/”If There’s a Love”
“Say You Remember”
“‘Cigarettes In Bed”/”Infinite Tenderness”
“If Only”/”Two Hearts”
“Harvest Moon” (Neil Young cover)
“Snakepit”/”Tell Me You Love Me”
“Wolf” (First Aid Kit cover)
Kingswood – The Reveries Tour 2020
Saturday, November 28th (Sold Out)
Early Show Saturday, November 28th (Sold Out)
Late Show Sunday, November 29th (Sold Out)
Early Show Sunday, November 29th (Sold Out)
Monday, November 30th
Monday, November 30th
Tuesday, December 1st
Tuesday, December 1st
Friday, November 27th – Tuesday, December 1st
The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Tickets: The Corner Hotel