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Concert Review by Mark Bayross

The ULU – 16 Nov 2000

The sadly departed comedian Bill Hicks once infamously ranted about how News Kids On The Block were poised to drain music of all its integrity. “Play from the fucking heart!” he screamed, prophetically unaware of the landslide of mediocre shite they were to unleash in their wake.

Well, had he been at the ULU tonight, he would have been proud.

Both VAST and support band My Vitriol not only play from the heart, they play to the heart of everyone in the room. My Vitriol seem to have raised their game even higher to meet their tour-mates. They were good a couple of weeks ago supporting Mansun, but here they are even tighter and more dynamic.

Veering between My Bloody Valentine-like walls of guitar and God Machine-style rhythmic pounding, My Vitriol tempo-change their way through their set, and finish as usual, with an epic juggernaut of feedback, drums and singer Som Wardner screaming his lungs out.

Everyone knows that VAST are going to deliver a quality show – both albums, while markedly different, are masterpieces of musical invention and power – but I doubt anyone was ready for the performance they put on tonight.

Emerging onstage to LADY OF DREAMS, the band waste no time launching into a seriously beefed up MY TV AND YOU, fast, furious and unbelievably tight. As feedback from the guitars fades and the beats of “Here” seep through the mix, someone behind me in the audience exclaims “Oh my God…” in sheer gobsmacked awe.

Jon Crosby’s voice is on top form, melodic and strong, and the frontman relishes every second, taking command of the audience from the word go, covering every inch of the stage and climbing onto the monitors at the side. “We are VAST from California”, he announces, possibly to the affront of the Australian half of the band. THE GATES OF ROCK N’ ROLL follows, all lurching swagger, before the stunning PRETTY WHEN YOU CRY sends shivers down everyone’s spine.

One of the antipodeans, shaven-headed guitarist Justin Cotta, performs the role of sidekick to Jon’s show-man, throwing himself around the stage, pulling faces at the crowd and making almost unintelligible Aussie quips between songs. Justin, himself a singer, not only provides backing vocals, but sings some of the main parts himself, while he and Jon swap guitars like wives at a seventies swinger party.

The psychedelic BLUE takes things down a notch, before a looped Gregorian chant rolls through the speakers and I’M DYING explodes out of them. The U2-ish ballad I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING sounds as lush and perfect as it does on record, but then they surpass themselves with the incredible closing triptych of TOUCHED, THE LAST ONE ALIVE and FREE.

The band encore with WHAT ELSE DO I NEED, followed by the complex slave-chant blues of DIRTY HOLE and finishing with a slamming, feedback-drenched TEMPTATION, a fittingly chaotic end to a thrilling hour.

Without doubt, this was one of the most awe-inspiring performances I have seen from a band in a long time. Never mind the fact that Jon Crosby is only 23 years old, yet has written two albums of incredible maturity and depth, now he can add the fact that he and has band are jaw-droppingly good live.