The Necks are incredible. I’ve just come out of one of their gigs for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, it’s currently five minutes past midnight, and I don’t see any need to beat around the bush. This is sensational musicianship. Their final show, tomorrow night, is already sold out, but see if you can steal a ticket from somewhere or climb in through a window.
These guys have been playing together for 30 years, and it shows, in a very good way. Here are three musicians at the height of their powers, and with the kind of nuanced connection to one another that can only come with time. Never have I been so enraptured by each sound made on stage. This is music in which every movement from every member of the band counts. What has always been remarkable about The Necks is their ability to sustain an idea, a sound, a vibration, and pass it back and forth amongst one another. Even their sense of rhythm feels stretched, with long pulses holding the music together. And the way each of them plays their instruments evinces a profound curiosity about what sounds are possible. I was seated right in front of percussionist Tony Buck, and half the joy of the gig became waiting to see what kind of modified mallet, shaker or other implement he would pull out of his bag of tricks to create not just a beat or a note, but the precise sound that the music wanted.
The result of all this close attention and curiosity with their instruments, is that The Necks create what so many other musicians and performing artists spend their lifetimes trying to manufacture – a truly live experience. There were plenty of people around me who were closing their eyes, which would have its own power, but I personally couldn’t take my eyes off the stage – I wanted to watch and try to connect every sound I was hearing to its source. It was an absorbing task, and in the first set, I was shocked to discover that an hour had passed in what felt like no longer than 15 minutes. I can’t even begin to put into words the specifics of what The Necks played in each of their sets tonight, and even if I did, that won’t be what you get tomorrow night – this is all improvised.
I’ve had plenty of exposure to The Necks’ music, but this was my first time seeing them live. I will rush back at any future opportunity - these guys know music, they know sound, and they know how to make a live experience unlike any other.
Chris Abrahams - piano
Tony Buck - drums
Lloyd Swanton - bass
The Jazzlab, Brunswick
5-8 June 2017
Melbourne International Jazz Festival
2-11 June 2017