Review and photos by Ben Hosking – www.hoskingindustries.com.au – for Life Music Media
Even before Animals as Leaders take to the Metro stage, the venue is rapidly filling with excited, guitar-crazy punters. There are scores of Periphery shirts circulating and it’s almost impossible to find more than one of the same design – a testament to the band’s proactive approach to merchandise and self promotion.
Despite this, it’s clear that just as many of the assembled throng are here to see Tosin Abasi and co. perform their unique brand of instrumental, 8-string rock fusion. For what is really an odd instrumental line-up (both Abasi and fellow guitarist Javier Reyes playing 8-string Ibanez guitars and drummer Matt Garstka), the mix rings true and clear and the band do an excellent job of recreating tracks from their first two albums – announcing to the eager crowd that they’ve just finished work on album number three. Watching Abasi and Reyes navigate their large fret boards with such ease and confidence definitely makes you feel insignificant – Reyes’ incredible, simultaneous bass line and melody counterpoint work was particularly breathtaking.
It’s an impressive sight to see the Metro virtually full before AAL leave the stage, with an ecstatic bunch of guitar nerds in their wake. When was the last time you saw an instrumental act do that, besides the likes of Steve Vai or Joe Satriani? You certainly never see one work the crowd into a mosh, either!
Very much a DIY band from the get-go, with founder member and guitarist Misha Mansoor starting the group as a one-man studio project at home, the story of Periphery almost seems like a fairytale. This is at least the third time the band has been to our shores in four short years – first supporting Dillinger Escape Plan at this same venue in 2010, and then headlining their own show with UK proggers TesseracT in 2011 – yet there’s still no sign of pretence or rock star attitude. Indeed, while the crew is setting up for Periphery’s set, drummer Matt Halpern is casually warming up on the kit while guitarist Jake Bowen quietly gives his new Ibanez Titan signature model a wipe down in front of the sold-out Metro.
If ever you needed proof that sincere and honest accessibility in a rock band doesn’t hurt sales or attendance, this is it. When we saw them at the Annandale in 2011, singer Spencer Sotelo was working the merch stand before their set. Tonight, around a dozen eager fans line the side of the stage having bought VIP concert packages which see them spend some time with the group pre-show, get photos and autographs and generally hang out. Despite this ‘common man’-type vibe, they’ve filled the venue and the merch stand is left bare before the final notes of their hour-long set ring out.
And what a set it is, packed with tracks from their first two releases, the full house goes suitably batshit for the duration. The mosh consumes the entire dance floor over and over again, as bodies spill over the barrier and the floor literally shakes from the weight. It’s a truly exceptional performance and one that shows a band who has continued to mature and grow as a cohesive unit. Make no mistake, Periphery is fish-arse tight… and that’s an impressive feat with three guitarists in one outfit.
A Periphery show is about enjoying modern, technical metal and having some fun at the same time. It’s clear that the band is living that same ideal with plenty of lively interplay both between one another and the crowd (at one point, guitarist Mark Holcombe playing rock, paper, scissors with the audience at the same time as chugging out an open-string riff). While it’s not an overly long set, the crowd leave satisfied having witnessed an evening unparalleled virtuosity, creativity and dogged initiative. Both bands are young and have largely reached these heights on their own. If you haven’t heard either band before, you owe it to yourself to check them out.
Bands: Periphery – www.facebook.com/PeripheryBand
Venue: Metro Theatre, Sydney
Date: February 1, 2014