After a five year absence from the stage Cog, who have a devoted fan base, merely needed to show up in order to receive a rapturous applause. And that is what they received when they took the stage at The Metro Theatre in their home town, Sydney. During the evening the band went one better than just showing up; guitarist and vocalist, Flynn Gower, announced – well, not so much announced as teased – that Cog would try to head back to the studio to record a new record. Understandably the fans in the audience cheered and whooped, selectively not hearing the qualifier “try”.
Over the years I’ve managed to see Cog perform live a number of times, so I walked into The Metro feeling vaguely nervous about the quality of the performance I was about to see. Cog use to be a formidable force on a live stage back in the day, but how would they be after their recent hiatus? Unfortunately I arrived too late to catch opening support act, Switchkicker, but I managed to catch sleepmakeswaves’ set, and the Sydney post-rock act provided a satisfactory distraction to the niggling doubts I was feeling. sleepmakeswaves got into their set with an unabashed abandon that marks those who love what they are doing, and their un-self-conscious rocking out reminded me of Cog’s Luke Gower really getting into the groove at past Cog performances.
Despite sleepmakeswaves efforts they never really formed a strong bond with the audience – the curse of being the support act – a fact that wasn’t helped by the second half of their set veering a little too far toward the bland. Part of the issue may have been a mix/sound reinforcement that lacked the ‘oomph’ that really makes rock music work, and this was a shortcoming that persisted for the headlining act.
Opening their set with Doors (Now and Then My Life Feels Like It’s Going Nowhere) was an unexpected choice that took the crowd by surprise, but it seemed rather fitting for a band that has never been keen to stick to the conventional. Somewhat disappointingly, Flynn Gower’s vocals on this song were a little rough, but few acts adequately warm-up before the show to ensure that this early set flat-spot is avoided, so it’s both forgivable and expected. Drummer Lucius Borich has lost none of his prowess and precision even if he has lost some of his animation behind the kit.
As Cog launched into audience favourite, Resonate, there is plenty of singing-along and hands thrown in the air from the crowd, and Cog is now warmed up and hitting their stride. And it turns out that Luke Gower still gets into his groove onstage, though he no longer acts like the bassist that needs to be kept in dark corner so no-one can see his dorky dancing, enabling the audience to admire his beard, lifted straight from the Warren Ellis book of facial grooming. The energetic Open Up inspired some in the crowd to form a circle-pit, which seemed like an odd decision in a venue the size of The Metro, but only ended up lasting for the one song.
Of the band’s back catalogue, Moshiach was the only song drawn from the band’s Just Visiting EPs – which was a shame given the strength of the songs from that era – but the crowd showed due appreciation at the inclusion of a song from the start of the group’s studio work, and the energy was carried through to The Spine and My Enemy, with the audience going off at the end of the former and taking over full vocal duties for the latter’s first verse.
As the clock neared midnight, and it came time to wrap up the show, Cog gently lowered the energy with Bird of Feather and No Other Way, easing the audience down for the trip home. Clearly after a five years, and particularly after a five year hiatus, Cog isn’t going to be the same band they were before. Considering that the band members are entering middle-age, it is hardly surprising that they don’t attack a live show with the same vigor they once did, but that’s not really the important part is it? The important part is whether or not they are still a tight, cohesive unit.
In all honesty, I left feeling that Cog were clearly displaying rust, that they weren’t as solid and powerful as they were when I eagerly engaged with the music at the front of the crowd in the late 2000’s. Don’t mistake me, Cog were still tight during their performance, and the extended outros and slightly modified riffs demonstrate their continued musicality, but they were so tight in the past that they set their own benchmark impossibly high. Like my fellow Cog fans I hope the teased new studio material becomes a reality, but more importantly I hope that Cog continue to grace the live stage.
Doors (Now and Then My Life Feels Like It’s Going Nowhere)
Are You Interested?
Silence Is Violence
Bird of Feather
No Other Way
Special thanks to my good friend, Alyce, for taking me along to this show and indulging by looking after my spot as I ducked off to take photo’s and make notes.