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LIVE REVIEW - The Middle East @ The Forum Melbourne

Photography: Prudence Upton

At the turn of the 2010's we saw a band rise from the dusty ends of Northern Queensland and swept the music scene (locally and internationally) into a world of eerie folk wonder. The enigma that is The Middle East came racing out the stables with an EP and a record that stole the hearts of many, before disappearing into the ether seemingly overnight.

After an almost decade long silence, the sextet of indie rockers rise like a phoenix to deliver an evening of an incomparable melancholy, layered with seven part harmonies of life, love, death and everything in between.

Launching into his trademark soaring falsetto, Jordan Ireland swept us away in Black Death 1349 the audience was immediately immersed in the aura of The Middle East. With ebbs and flows, both sonically and emotionally, the group took the audience on a journey through the band’s repertoire. From The Darkest Side, to Jesus Came to My Birthday Party all the way to Deep Water, the Townsville troupe took us on an emotional rollercoaster of this is ‘I Want That You Are Happy’ and ‘The Recordings of The Middle East’. With only having recorded one EP and one LP, the ensemble were able to delve through most of their catalogue in the hour, which is possibly the only silver lining in The Middle East story.

Set to the backdrop of homemade backyard movies on film, there is no wavering in their ability to create an atmosphere. Disjointed, almost surreal projections played out behind the ensemble, lending quite elegantly into the band’s mystère. A genuine feeling of somehow being at home, yet simultaneously lost; it’s an eerie ambiance that lies at the heart of The Middle East.

Blood crept up on the crowd like a grim reaper. A rendition that took the pace down a notch, but turned the feelings up. The haunting rendition of their most recognisable track held the audience by their throats. Floating between intense lyrics like 'since your grandma passed away / he waited for forever and a day just to die', by turning the mood down a notch they were able to sharpen a knife that pierced our emotional sides. Death hasn’t sounded this gorgeous since sirens called seamen to their demise.

With a troupe of 13 on stage, all armed with various instruments, there was rarely a quiet moment through the set. Whether it’s flute interludes, or cascading percussion, the dulcet transitions between songs skilfully, and beautifully blended tracks into wave of bliss. Rather than simply play song after song, it felt as though the ensemble were moving through a symphony of folk in several movements, creating a palpable atmosphere of eerie beauty.

An evening like this can only be described as special. Even after nine years, The Middle East are still able to capture an audience by heart, and despite a hiatus, the juggernaut of gloomy folk continue to charge full steam ahead. After surfacing at the end of the naughties and then resurfacing ten years later, whilst it feels like a band like this only pops up once every decade, they somehow are able to be that band of both decades. Though this is the final of a string of one-off performances, it would be criminal for this phoenix to go to rest. The Middle East have lost absolutely nothing, they continue to soar and take every one of us with them under their wing.



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