King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Alexandra Palace
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are a band of almost preternatural prolificacy: since their 2010 formation in Melbourne, they have released no fewer than 23 albums. Last year alone they shot out five albums of unrelenting quality. Somehow it is easier to understand this when you see them live: they just love to play. The set lasts two hours with little to no pauses between tracks, and renditions stretching out fifteen minutes and beyond.
Before they come on stage, there is a loving note on the backdrop reminding their “Weirdo Swarm” to mosh safely while manifesting with their bodies the unreal sounds going on. The crowd were as you might expect: young alternatives with sweet manners, many with big hair and retro moustaches. “Just a load of drunk, sweaty hippies,” noted one young guy, himself a drunk, sweaty hippie.
The six of them arrive on stage promptly (they need to with all the stretched-out playing they have planned) and lead singer Stu Mackenzie calls out an invocation to “get f**king lit”. And lit they do get. Opener Gaia is on the harder rock side of their oeuvre and includes a drum solo where Michael Cavanagh shows off the sophistication of his talent. The music is wide-ranging and complex and his polyrhythmic drumming underpins it all. Gila Monster and Robot Stop continue with the harder sound. Hot Water treats the crowd to the much-underused rock-flute solo. On every single song, the shredding from Joey Walker and Cook Craig is spectacular, we’re talking Free Bird levels.
Glorious psychedelic visuals enhance the songs, with colourful shapes melting and re-forming. After a long stint of rock and psychedelia, Mackenzie says, “Alright, let’s get sexy”, with a deadpan resignation to this inevitability that is hilarious. Work this Time is on the slinkier side, followed by Shanghai, an idiosyncratic beauty with a falsetto vocal that gets under the skin. Ever versatile, Mackenzie indulges the crowd with some Mongolian throat singing on one or two of the latter numbers. Mackenzie is listed as playing 14 different instruments on Wikipedia, including sitar, clarinet and zuma. He’s just a human explosion of musicianship, along with the rest of the band.
They finish with an epic, charged version of The Dripping Tap, with teases of Mycelium, Head On/Pill and Am I In Heaven? mixed in, all delivered with cheerful virtuosity that exhilarates the soul. The Lizard Wizard is hands down the best band playing live today. Life can be tough and sometimes you just need to vibe off spectacular musicianship and the stranger who feels the music so much he’s variously dancing wildly, run-dancing (whilst cleaning up a few dropped cups in the process) and lying on the floor playing air drums to remind you it’s also beautiful.
Photos: Mike Garnell
For further information and future events visit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Astroturf here: