Review: The Temper Trap @ The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)

The Temper Trap played The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane) 8 December, 2019.
Solar-powered journalist with a love for live reviews and the challenge of describing sounds with words. Always: cooking, often: thrifting, sometimes: playing the piano, rarely: social, never: late. Living abroad in Japan.

My brother and I assigned each other very important roles the year The Temper Trap's debut record ‘Conditions’ was released. We were addicted to music television, and we were to summon each other when ‘Love Lost’ appeared on screen.

That was 10 years ago, crazy to think – he was 12, I was only 15. A decade on, and The Temper Trap are touring the album; I saw their final show of the tour at The Tivoli Theatre (9 December) in Brisbane.

Singer Dougy Mandagi offered a warm thank you to start, genuinely grateful to have drawn a crowd. “It’s all because of you we have made it this far,” he said – despite the band having done the hard yards.

They opened with ‘Love Lost’, as per the album order, richly nostalgic only seconds in. The introductory riff sounded less synth, more piano, and the switch made the song seem more real. Cheers erupted before the track gradually faded out, the band quietly taking in the response. “We’re going to play the album top to bottom, by the way,” – another booming round of applause followed.

‘Rest’, the soaring underdog, denied all standard pop song structure. The chorus-less epic gradually increased with intensity, a nod to their post-rock tendencies. The Temper Trap lingered on foreign melodies before leading into ‘Sweet Disposition’. The band had the crowd wrapped around their little finger, drawing out the song’s twinkling beginning.

Then the tune arrived, softly, slowly – ten years old and still spurring warm and fuzzies. The track that propelled them into the spotlight, refusing to stop having an emotional impact. “We wrote this next song about my little sister,” bass guitarist Jonathon Aherne chimed. “She was having a tough time, and she is again now. A tribute to anyone here feeling the same way.”

The context gave ‘Down River’ an all-new meaning, though now that meaning almost seems obvious. It makes sense for the song to be a gift to a sibling – it’s uplifting, perhaps the most of their discography.

“Jim Abbiss produced our album – he’s a very successful producer from London,” Dougy began. “He told us he was driving around the countryside, when he first came across our demo. He and his Mrs were listening together, and this next song was the first to play. Apparently, she looked at him instantly and said ‘You have to record this band’.”

While ‘Soldier On’ had previously fallen between the cracks for me, it was my unexpected favourite of the set. The build-up was beautiful, the depth of sound superb, and Dougy’s vocals were a standout here. Out of nowhere, The Temper Trap launched into ‘Fader’ – I’d forgotten the song even existed. An anthem, no less, not their most streamed track, but still one with extraordinary commercial success.

‘Fools’ floated by, lesser known – with similar-sounding hues as ‘Sweet Disposition’. ‘Resurrection’, too, its powerful beginnings almost reminding me of hymns in church. “How you going Brissie, you good?” Dougy asked, delving into the faster-paced ‘Science Of Fear’.

Without a word, The Temper Trap finished on ‘Drum Song’, an incredible, percussion-based ballad.

Picture the average album: two singles, one standout, the rest mostly filler, slowly forgotten. A band’s best often comes three records in, the first two experiments as the group finds their sound. ‘Conditions’ defies all songwriting logic, stamping out the rules that define a ‘debut’. It’s full of stand-alone hits, with variety and elements of surprise, all while tying together as a harmonious unity.

Somehow, their record has encapsulated hearts without grasping genre trends, or using tear-jerking lyrics. The music itself seems to immortalise a FEELING, songs taking an emotion, and translating it through sound. Ten years on, and I’d still summon my brother if The Temper Trap appeared on TV. One, whole decade since ‘Conditions’ was released, and yet the Love isn’t Lost, after all.

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