Review: Arab Strap @ Forum Melbourne

Published in Music News  
Arab Strap played Rising Festival at Forum Melbourne on 3 June, 2022. Arab Strap played Rising Festival at Forum Melbourne on 3 June, 2022.

It's been 21 years since Arab Strap played to a sweaty, packed crowd at Fitzroy's Punters Club – a set that was released on the Scottish band's Bandcamp in 2020.

While that iconic venue couldn't stand the test of time, permanently closing its doors 11 months after that gig, the 2 mainstays of Arab Strap – frontman Aidan Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton – have certainly fared a little better.

Tonight (3 June), the pair were backed by a full band for their one and only Australian show at Forum Melbourne, as part of the massive Rising Festival's impressive music programme, and it wasn't just a celebration for fans of the sad-rock act, but of once again having not just a full, live arts festival but one peppered with internationals.

Not surprisingly, tonight's set was heavy on material from 2021's 'As Days Get Dark', their seventh album and first since the band reunited after their 2008 split.

They wasted no time getting into it, either, with huge first single 'The Turning Of Our Bones', before belting out some of their more upbeat tunes from their immense catalogue ('F...ing Little Bastards', 'Girls Of Summer').

When Moffat, adorned in a shirt and shorts despite Melbourne's cold snap, greeted the crowd, in which nearly all of the city's Scottish diaspora must have been present, he couldn't help himself: "So happy to be here to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee with you," which elicited all the boos you'd expect.

If there was any doubt that the often quiet, subdued Arab Strap with a frontman not known for grand moves would be able to put on a huge show fit for the huge Forum stage, the loud, crisp sound, upbeat set list and added players even shone new light on some old favourites like debut single, 1996's 'The First Big Weekend'.

We could even forgive Moffat for having to read the lyrics off a printed sheet of paper; given his early, almost spoken-word rapid-fire lyrical delivery, it's no surprise these tracks need a bit of a prompt.

Among the new album's highlights was refugee ode 'Fable Of The Urban Fox', which Moffat introduced as: "We call this 'F... The Tories' in the UK, but here we say 'refugees welcome'."

While there was a lot that didn't make the cut for the set, the songs chosen fit the occasion and location perfectly, and the band seemed pretty happy with how their night went, too.

"Man, 22 hours to sit and watch the telly, it was f...ing glorious!" Moffat said of flying down for this gig and a quick stop in New Zealand afterwards. "We'll come back anytime you want us back."

Given the lack of shows in other capitals, fans will be hoping that's soon.

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