After a hot Melbourne week, Thursday evening’s weather seemed perfect as I headed to Royal Park for Melbourne Zoo Twilights. Tonight’s fixture is The Living End’s “Twangin’ at Twilight,” with the local rockers performing two sets with a few special guests. First up though is Gabriella Cohen.

The lawn in front of the stage is littered with people, soaking up the relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere of the zoo as Cohen and her band provide a cool soundtrack. Despite the obvious talent on stage, attention seemed optional as most of the crowd were distracted by their food, drinks or kids. For many it’s just, unfortunately, nice background music.

After a brief break, The Living End take the stage, accompanied by The String Sirens quartet, for their acoustic set. The strings are great, but I have no idea what they add to the song because it’s not one I know. I know the next one though, but it’s not theirs. “It’s called Twangin’ at Twilight, so we’re gonna twang,” says Chris Cheney as they wrap up a cover of Creedence’s ‘Lookin’ Out My Backdoor.’ The set follows this same format: a reworked original, followed by a cover. It’s not too bad, right up until they bust out a reggae version of ‘West End Riot’ that removes any of the edge the song once had and it’s then that I remember that it’s close to 20 years old now.

I recently read an article in which Muse was described as “a rare beast; the contemporary band who are conjunctly a legacy band, even though they never actually went away or broke up.” I feel like the same applies to my relationship with The Living End. Their last few albums (how many have they released since Modern Artillery?) have just flown past me, with very small percentage of their material committing to my memory – and I’m sure I’m not alone. So when they start the electric set with ‘Monkey’ from 2016’s Shift, I’m a bit lost. It’s not bad, but ‘Second Solution’ is better and ‘Roll On’ even more so. Early on I think that’ll be the set’s peak, but then they impress me with a deep cut from Modern Artillery, before bringing back the strings for a pretty impressive version of ‘How Do We Know?’ – which is the last single I really remember of theirs. Thinking it’d be a great closer (and completely underestimating the set length) I decide to head off, feeling very confused about why Dan Sultan was listed when he clearly wasn’t on stage.

Turns out Dan Sultan was only a few moments away and later on when I checked with my friend (a Living End superfan) she told me it was pretty brilliant. “They did 3 songs together. One of his, then he sang White Noise his own way, then they did a cover with some jazz musicians from a venue on Brunswick St they said they love.” I probably missed something that might have significantly changed this review.

But really, seeing The Living End at the zoo solidified my feelings about them and, in all honesty, it’s probably the last time I’ll go to one of their shows. Not because they were bad – they definitely weren’t – but because in reality it’s not nearly as appealing a prospect as it once was. And it hasn’t been for about 10 years, with the exception of their run of shows at The Corner a few years back, which is when I first realised that, for me at least, The Living End fall into that most dreaded category of nostalgia band.

Wes Fahey

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