WORDS AND IMAGES BY ANDREW BRASSINGTON
Fans of the iconic 80’s indie heroes: The Smiths were in for a treat last Saturday night. Sydney’s Factory Theatre fell under a haze of jangly guitars, wistful melodies and funky basslines as the world’s most renowned Smiths cover band, aptly named The Smyths, paid homage to the greats.
The show’s audience at the Factory Theatre was a mixed bag of generations, meeting somewhere between an older crowd looking to relive their youth, and the young ones with their cuffed jeans and scraggly home haircuts.
Morrissey (lead singer – The Smiths) stand-in and lookalike Graham Sampson gracefully fluttered straight onto the stage, taking to the spotlight as they jumped headfirst into ‘Hand In Glove’. The note-perfect set dove through the entirety of the album ‘Hatful Of Hollow’; a collection of B sides and live sessions released in 1984. So much energy was poured into their interpretations of these classic Smiths hits, turning tracks like ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ from depressing ballads into dancefloor rockers.
Lucky members of the crowd managed to catch the flowers Sampson tossed out recklessly; holding them tight to their chests. Mimicking Morrissey’s stage presence, with hand movements and erratic dancing, Sampson could even gives Peter Garrett (Midnight Oil) a run for his money!
Some of the quieter songs seemed to hinder the audience, with ‘Back To The Old House’ almost drowned out by their conversations.
Soon after, Sampson proclaimed “the quickest way to lose an audience is take your shirt off” (spoiler alert: he didn’t).
Trading his dark blazer for a loose button-up covered in Black and White polka dots, the second set of The Smyths began. Playing more of a ‘greatest hits’ selection this time, the second hour of their performance took tracks from across The Smiths other albums. Particular highlights were ‘Ask’, which got everybody moving, and the more somber tone of ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ – dedicating the classic to those who had lost their lives in the ongoing bushfire crisis.
At times it did feel like it was the ‘Morrissey Show’ featuring a backing band, but the other members of the tribute act still managed to show off their chops when they got the chance.
There’s something odd about seeing such a packed room for a mere tribute band, but The Smyths were well deserving of the accolades.
If you closed your eyes and listened in, it was almost 1985 all over again. Where sometimes The Smiths were bogged down by stale 80’s production values, tribute act The Smyths were able to faithfully bring their songs into the modern era, giving them the performance they deserved.