Jet, The Vines Play Songs In Key Of ’75 At Tour Kickoff

Aussie Invasion Tour spotlights funky fuzz, punky buzz.

HOUSTON — Geographically, Jet and the Vines had to
travel halfway around the world for the Aussie Invasion Tour, which
kicked off Thursday at the Engine Room. In every other respect, the
bands appeared to have flown in from the year 1975.

With a Pete Townshendesque windmill swing, Jet lead singer/guitarist
Nic Cester initiated the first attack volley of the night with an
opening amplifier crunch that led into “Cold Hard Bitch” from the
group’s breakthrough, Get Born. His corrugated falsetto bayed
into the microphone with misplaced passion while guitarist Cameron
Muncey, bassist Mark Wilson and Nic’s brother Chris, the drummer,
kicked out a dirty buzz of nostalgia. Ghosts of their influences
— AC/DC, the Rolling Stones, even the White Stripes — lived
in their fingers and throats, lashing out as if from archival concert
footage.

“Get What You Need” galloped to a two-tone beat seared with Nic’s nicotine-choked declaration, “Now I’m in a rockin’ band/ No
one has to hold my hand.” The buzzing bass of “Rollover DJ” was an
obvious come-on, but effective when followed by the songs mixing funky
fuzz and bluesy swing. Cester undulated in front of it all like Mick
Jagger on training wheels. Whether it was the Sgt. Pepper pop
charm of “Look What You’ve Done” or the zig-zagging arena rock gestalt
of “Get Me Outta Here,” Jet succeeded by capitalizing on the familiar
and revered.

Jet were a tough act to follow, but the promise of previewing new songs
from the Vines’ second album, Winning Days (due March 23), was
more than enough to keep the crowd around for the band’s midnight
start. Much like Jet now, the Vines’ punk-pop bleating was all the rage
two summers ago; the Aussie Invasion Tour is the group’s opportunity to
show its staying power. They came out swinging.

Opening with “Evil Town” and “Ride,” two blasts of sonic savagery from
Winning Days, lead singer Craig Nicholls found his lyrical
comfort zone in the key of wail. The rest of the band — guitarist
Ryan Griffiths, bassist Patrick Matthews and drummer Hamish Rosser
— have further perfected the art of raggedly harmonizing with a
faux-apathy once associated with the Ramones.

It was five songs in before “Autumn Shade,” from the band’s first
album, Highly Evolved, made an appearance. Strumming an acoustic
guitar, Nicholls cleared his throat to reveal a caramel-coated tenor.
The bass-loop psychedelia of “Mary Jane” further smoothed out the
notes, but it was a momentary high. With a crack of feedback, Nicholls
screamed “I wanna get free!” and the room exploded into the hit “Get
Free,” which was followed closely by the scorching apathy of a new
song, “F— the World,” before a final blast of snot-pop on
“Outtathaway!”

Over four hours of sonic assault later (including an opening set by
Warped Tour veterans the Living End), the Aussie Invasion declared its
mission accomplished.

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.