Updated: May 18, 2021
In March of this year, we all received one of the greatest gifts of all… the highly-anticipated sophomore album from beloved indie-rock trio Middle Kids. Receiving raving reviews for it’s quintessential Middle Kids mix of bubbling indie-rock, evocative piano ballads and rallying pop anthems, Today We’re The Greatest showcases Hannah Joy, Tim Fitz and Harry Day at their, well, greatest: making meaningful music that can have you holding your breath in awe one moment, and quickly losing your voice the next.
Which is why the announcement of their Today We’re The Greatest Tour was met with some extremely eager fans. Performing unforgettable nights at three of Australia’s most stunning seated concert spaces: Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney’s City Recital Hall, this tour was a different experience for Middle Kids and their supporters, who are accustomed to the trusty and beloved mosh pit.
The wow-factor and elegance that Brisbane’s QPAC brought to the experience was undeniable however, and Middle Kids seemed right at home amongst the velvet curtains and high ceilings, emanating with their own grace and professionalism. With the auditorium at full capacity on both levels, it was clear that the audience didn’t mind this venue either. Although, you can’t completely take the mosh out of the band, with Hannah saying in awe: “This place is better than all of us.”
But first, before Middle Kids skipped onto the stage, the crowd was captivated by the piercing vocals of Australia’s indie-pop songstress Tia Gostelow. As the sole opening act for Middle Kids, Tia did not disappoint, going back to her indie-folk roots and delivering a stripped-back selection of her songs, joined by fellow bandmate Jordan Bain.
“I’m more nervous than usual, it’s weird just the two of us. Usually I have a band to hide behind.”
Tia Gostelow gave us an appetising range of tracks, including mesmerising acoustic renditions of 'TWO LOVERS', 'WONDER' and 'BLINK' from her 2020 album CHRYSALIS. We were also treated to Thick Skin favourites 'Giants' and 'Strangers', her rising voice reaching the ceiling as the audience remained gripped by the talent, storytelling and infectious lyrical hooks that make Tia Gostelow music so enticing.
“Thank you all for being so attentive and lovely, it was so exciting to be here.”
A thirty minute intermission takes audience anticipation to the next level until the lights finally go down, and Middle Kids walk through smoke onto the stage, taking their place beneath multiple hanging light bulbs.
Hannah stands proudly in centre-stage, flanked by bassist (and husband) Tim and honorary Middle Kids lead guitarist addition Miles. Harry is of course happily seated at his drums at the back, dressed up especially for the occasion in a business shirt he borrowed from his dad.
The subtle strumming of the electric guitar announces the beginning of 'Cellophane (Brain)', Hannah’s swagger and vocal prowess instantaneously enthralling as she stands in the spotlight, the hanging bulbs the only other lights in the room. Then, with the rising chorus comes a sneak peak of the dizzying light show that we can expect throughout the rest of the set.
“Thank you all so much for being here. It doesn’t feel real but we’re so glad that it is.”
Middle Kids offered us a huge bite out of their repertoire, playing an impressive collection of nineteen songs from Today We’re The Greatest, 2018 Triple J Album of the Year winner Lost Friends and 2019 EP New Songs For Old Problems.
“It’s a novel experience having to cut songs out of the setlist. As a younger band we’d have to try to fill up an hour and we didn’t have enough songs to play. Now we have too many!”
Describing it as a “deep cut”, Hannah launches into the energetic, riff-filled 'Real Thing', followed by the beautifully melancholic 'Some People Stay In Our Hearts Forever'.
A guitar swap signals a change in pace as Hannah talks about the joy (and exhaustion) that comes from being a new mum.
“Last time we were in Brisbane I was 8 months pregnant… We have a baby now and that’s pretty sick.”
'Never Start' lifts the energy in the room to another level as the whole band rock-out, their joy at playing live again clearly visible on their faces as they jump around the stage, the force of Tim’s playing actually de-tuning his guitar.
“Turns out, there’s a cost to rocking!”
After 'Stacking Chairs', Hannah moves to the piano for 'Needle', allowing us to focus more on the rest of the band as Miles, Tim and Harry jam with each other, having the time of their lives alongside the audience. At the song’s conclusion, they leave Hannah at the piano where she delivers a breathtaking rendition of 'Salt Eyes' which requires nothing but her soaring voice over subtle piano.
“I’m playing a sad version of Salt Eyes. Well a sadder version, it’s already pretty sad. It’s about how I don’t like parties and am scared of them... and that’s pretty sad.”
Next, it’s Harry's time to shine as he introduces 'Summer Hill', the song named after a suburb in Sydney where he and Miles lived during lockdown. Despite some teasing from his bandmates, Harry shares the song's meaning with us before absolutely killing it during the song’s rolling drum sequence in the chorus.
“This song is about meeting with your people and it is very special to be in this space with all of you.”
A triple shot of Middle Kids espresso came next with explosive favourites 'Edge of Town', 'R U 4 Me?' and 'Questions', delivering Middle Kids and their fans back to their moshing roots as everyone jumped to their feet, movin' & shakin' amongst flashing lights and an electrifying band, which included the addition of two horn players for the Today We’re The Greatest lead singles.
“Brisbane turning it up!”
Radiating with uplifting, contagious energy, Middle Kids moved seamlessly through their songs, effortless transitioning from the heartfelt, folk-like spirit of 'Lost in Los Angeles' and 'Bad Neighbours' to distinctive indie-rock classics like 'Bought It' and 'Mistake', with their irresistible lyrical hooks and huge instrumental bridges that demand a little head-banging.
“This is the first time we’re playing about half of these songs so thank you for making it so wonderful for us.”
Title-track 'Today We’re The Greatest' sees Hannah back on the piano for the stirring song that delivers an important message of trying to live well everyday, despite life being gory and boring sometimes.
A standing ovation during brings Hannah back for the encore, surrounded by shining golden lights as she begins to play 'Golden Star'.
“The greatest gift to us is sharing our music with people.”
Tim, Miles and Harry return, standing with Hannah around a single microphone for the final song: 'Don’t Be Hiding'. The grinning foursome harmonise together with the entire audience as the room is filled with a universal call, the last word of the song echoing through the venue, long after Middle Kids had left the stage.
So don't be hiding /
I am not that bothered by this stuff you're fighting /
For no other reason that it makes it more exciting /
You don't have to sell it, I am sold /
So give me all your garbage and your gold
From start to finish, Middle Kids delivered a performance that was heartfelt, meaningful and incredibly special. The band invited the audience into their world, sharing pieces of themselves through their music as well as personal stories and anecdotes. The simple but effective use of the stage and lighting, plus clever setlist construction complimented the stunning venue as Middle Kids presented an unforgettable show. The love and respect that the band have for one another reflected in the audience as they left QPAC in a flurry of awe and adrenaline, eager to recommence listening to the complete Middle Kids repertoire as soon as possible.