Review: Anberlin @ The Tivoli (Brisbane)

Anberlin played The Tivoli (Brisbane) on 26 January, 2024 - image © Clea-marie Thorne
With an insatiable passion for live music and photography adventures, this mistress of gig chronicles loves the realms of metal and blues but wanders all musical frontiers and paints you vibrant landscapes through words and pics (@lilmissterror) that share the very essence of her sonic journeys with you.

The black-clad bodies, of all ages, lining the footpath to The Tivoli are some seriously super-keen fans wanting the best vantage spots to see emo alt-rock legends Anberlin.

Yes, it's Florida's Anberlin with fellow Americans Hawthorne Heights and The Word Alive that will be rocking it to these hard-core devotees (26 January).

What endears Anberlin to local fans here, aside from their music, is their openly confessed fondness of Australia and their Aussie fan base. They even wrote a song about Adelaide and have made it to double digits for the number of tours in our country. Tonight is extra special though as it's Stephen Christian's final tour with the band.

On time, hitting the stage hard are opening act The Word Alive. The lads take mere milliseconds to ignite the atmosphere in the room with their intense opener 'Strange Love'.

The heavy riffage, dynamic drumming from Zack Hansen (guitar), Jose DelRio (guitar), Daniel Nelson (drums), and the powerful vocals of Tyler 'Telle' Smith are all responsible for this glorious moment of instantaneous combustion.

The Word Alive
The Word Alive - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Smith, the most constant member in the band, is leaping and frantically pacing around the stage. His energy is infectious. I may have felt drained by the hot, humid weather outside, but this is the live music booster I needed to lift me up.

The whole venue has come to life. I'm left wondering where the next support and headliner can possibly take it from here! So much metalcore dynamism and charisma stoking the atmosphere. It's shaping up to be one cracker of a nigh already!

The melodious hooks of 'Nocturnal Future' and heavy instrumentation add more depth to the deep lyrics while the feels are coming at us full force. This is followed by the catchy 'Why Am I Like This?' from their 2018 album 'Violent Noise', and the blistering 'Trapped' from their 2016 album 'Dark Matter'.

Next is Smith's favourite song of the tour (so he claims), 'Hate Me', and the lyrics are just that. 'New Reality', also from 2023's 'Hard Reset', is crushing and the instrumentation keeps things in the heavy territory. Smith's emotive vocals remain a consistent force in our ears.

The Word Alive.2
The Word Alive - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Smith tells us they're filming tonight's performance and want our full participation. He gestures for the crowd to get down low and there's ample compliance from punters on the floor. When signalled, bodies jumped up from the floor and led into the crush of 'Misery'. So crazy was the rush, the mic dropped out for a line or two!

The crowd lapped it up before their aggressive yet melodic departure song, 'One Of Us'. Old and new fans went nuts for The Word Alive's set, including yours truly. It was simply brutally musically divine!

It's not long before the second support, Hawthorne Heights, are greeted by their fans in the crowd. From the high decibel of their welcoming roars, there are many.

Hawthorne Heights are quick to feed our hunger, dishing up an early classic anthemic song, 'This Is Who We Are' (2006) for tasty starters. This is backed by a well-known banger 'Saying Sorry', also from their second studio album, 'If Only You Were Lonely'.

Hawthorne Heights
Hawthorne Heights - image © Clea-marie Thorne

JT Woodruff is slaying us with intense and melodic vocals that careen over top of the band's powerful instrumentation. After a chat about the contrasting weather in their home town compared to Australia, and of course koalas get a mention, we are treated to 'Hard To Breathe'.

This is an oldie but a goodie for the brokenhearted and punters embrace it with their hearts while young fans in the mezzanine above move their lips as they pour forth the lyrics from their throats.

Next, a later track 'Constant Dread' before Woodruff takes more time out to wish us all a happy Australia Day and asking us to give it up for The Word Alive and headliners Anberlin.

'Pens And Needles', another track from way back in 2006 which personifies the early sound of intense guitars and switching of vocals, keeps the energy at an all-time high.

Hell yes, another vintage gem. One that placed Hawthorne Heights as a staple on the post-hardcore scene – 'Niki FM'. The crowd actually start this one off – a choir is erupting throughout the venue, the band grinning at us with delight; I'm not sure if there was another short glitch with the mic or if the crowd was just that loud!

Woodruff reminds us that back in 2006 we all had way worse hair and how pleased he is we are raising the next generation of emos. He seems chuffed the kids in the room could be anywhere tonight, but are here!

Hawthorne Heights.2
Hawthorne Heights - image © Clea-marie Thorne

'Dandelions', a new song introduced for the emo adults in the crowd, keeps the vibe alive in the room. That is, until Woodruff gees up the crowd even more by inviting us to say hello at the merch stand after the set before asking us to sing along loudly to the last song: "If you don't know the words, then where the f... have you been? Just yell!"

The intensity instantly increases as their most famous heartfelt banger 'Ohio Is For Lovers' is played and its memorable chorus is properly announced with a play on the title: "Australia is for lovers!" Punters obeyed the request Woodruff threw out to participate. What an ending to a wickedly emo, emotive set.

The stage turns dark, then blood red. The unmistakable silhouette of Christian McAlhaney (guitar) is the first I recognise striding to his spot onstage. The others quickly join him as the crowd erupts in ecstatic cries, cheers and yelps.

Anberlin kick off the night with 'The Resistance' – there is none to be felt in the room. It's all yes, yes, yes as the band bring us inside their intimate musical space to share their live recital of 'Never Take Friendship Personal'.

Their explosive anthemic hit, 'Paperthin Hymn' is played with a raw energy that is felt emanating from the stage, feeding the excitement of the collective crowd. Christian's vocals are soaring effortlessly, seeping into our ears in a sonic embrace.

Anberlin - image © Clea-marie Thorne

As the set list unfolds it ushers in 'Two Graves', fans enthusiastically join in the performance with their instruments of the flesh – what were you thinking? I'm talking, clapping and singing.

'Impossible' and 'A Day Late' came before the expected and well received melancholic track 'Adelaide' before taking the temp down further while still raising feels with 'The Unwinding Cable Car'. Bodies begin swaying as the crowd enjoys a breather.

'Inevitable' is followed by a pure pearler, 'Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen' that has the crowd enthralled. Now the swaying bodies are moving more rapidly and sweat can be seen flying through the air above punter's heads.

We next venture into my favourite Anberlin territory with 'Dismantle.Repair.' and 'Godspeed', which has the venue pulsating with a fresh surge of immense energy.

Contributing to the high-octane performance of 'Godspeed' are guitarist Joseph Milligan and bassist Deon Rexroat, who unleash blistering riffs reverberating through our bodies. The symbiotic dynamic between the band members is elevating the live experience to dizzying heights.

Anberlin - image © Clea-marie Thorne

Phew, another chance for those in the mosh to breathe, as Christian chats to us some more and points to some kids on the mezzanine, asking them how is it they're not asleep! I think those young ones enjoyed the interaction immensely. Big grins on their faces and Dad was even congratulated.

The climax for me tonight is 'Destroyer', which is up next. It has our undivided attention as does McAlhaney who is amped onstage rocking out with his axe and interacting with the fans in the front row, nearly as much as frontman Christian.

A personal favourite, their unmistakable big banger 'Feel Good Drag' gets roars of appreciation from the crowd who recognise the chords, who then take the reins on the vocals and part way through I am joining in belting out: "Was this over before, before, it ever began? Your kiss. Your calls. Your crutch. Your lips. Your lies. Your lust. Like the devil's in your hands."

Christian makes the memory even more poignant for some, as he enters the crowd to sing while holding hands and sharing the mic up close and person to those devotees in the mosh pit.

Honestly, we would have left satisfied after this, but we all know the game and obligingly, Anberlin left the stage creating the suspense for an encore. The crowd in return, called "play one more" in a double time beat.

Waiting until they sensed the apex of the chant, Anberlin return to conclude the night's performance. What better farewell from Christian to us than with the epic '(*Fin)' from the album 'Cities' (2007).

Anberlin - image © Clea-marie Thorne

The intricate arrangement of the song embellished with the impassioned vocals of Christian has us celebrating the nostalgic farewell to him as part of Anberlin. A slight shift in intensity can be felt in the room, but an increase in emotive ambiance.

It almost feels like we have formed a collective heartbeat, which is helping Rexroat and Nathan Young (drums), the mighty rhythm section, in keeping time to this fitting finale song, ‘(*Fin)’. I think there may be a few wet eyes in the crowd right now.

Maybe if I had a crystal ball I could foretell the future of Anberlin with Christian stepping down from touring and Matty Mullins of metalcore band Memphis May Fire taking the mic, but I don't. We will all have to wait and see.

Christian shouldn't be anything but proud of the energy poured forth from Brisbane punters in appreciation of his final live performance in our city. It may be a touring sayōnara for Christian, but for the rest of the band, tonight further cements the bond that has transcended generations of Aussies in love with Anberlin's music.

More photos from the concert.

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