Australian Jazz Legends The Necks Never Perform The Same Show Twice

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This year marks 30 years since The Necks – formed by pianist Chris Abrahams, percussionist and electric guitarist Tony Buck and bassist Lloyd Swanton – first began playing together.

And it seems the magic of their incredible on stage improvisation is showing no signs of losing its sparkle.

For those unacquainted, each Necks show opens with one of the three gents beginning to play a small tune and progresses with subtle micro-changes into a spectacular, musical masterpiece of up to an hour in length. With no two performances ever the same, audiences are guaranteed a different experience every time they see the trio play.

“It’s a paradox that nothing changes with The Necks, because the thing that never changes is that nothing is ever the same, if you can follow that,” bassist Lloyd Swanton explains. “Because it’s completely improvised, in a way we’re still doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the last 30 years. Although what happens within that framework is different every night.

“We like to surprise ourselves as much as we surprise the audience. The system works and allows us to keep reviving. We’ve never felt stale and we’re not feeling stale now.”

While it may be common for many groups to disband when bandmates disagree on direction or harbour creative differences that's certainly not the case with The Necks. After three decades of performing around the world together, the trio remain as close and as strong as when they first began.

“There's pretty much a rule in the band that there has to be unanimous agreement on everything; not just majority, which is easy enough to do with a trio. All three have to be on board or we don’t do it,” Lloyd says.

It goes without saying though, the fragility of a solely-improvised performance demands a certain level of respect and understanding between bandmates. “Our music is incredibly vulnerable in a way. If someone was a little more maliciously inclined, who was harbouring a grudge against another band member and decided to stuff things up, that would destroy our music.

“There is actually nothing holding the music together except trust. Most, other bands you can at least fall back on the set list or the song structure to some extent, but we don’t have any of that. The right personalities are crucial.”

Lloyd explains that for a band who 30 years ago had little to no ambition of playing on stage, it's quite humbling to discover people all over the country and the globe appreciating their work. “For a band that started out in a private rehearsal room with no intention of ever performing in public, when we get on a plane and our agent says: 'By the way, your shows have sold out' or 'there’s an article in the New York Times about you', it's incredibly gratifying,” Lloyd admits.

“It's amazing and we certainly allow ourselves a pat on the back, but the bottom line is: it’s always about the music.”

The Necks Tour Dates

Thu 1 Jun - QPAC (Brisbane)
Sun 4 Jun - VIVID Live @ Sydney Opera House
5-8 Jun - The Jazzlab @ Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Fri 9 Jun - Nexus Arts (Adelaide)
Sun 11 Jun - Rosemount Hotel (Perth)
Fri 16 Jun - Darwin Entertainment Centre
Sun 18 Jun - The Street Theatre (Canberra)


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