REVIEW: The Rubens, Queen's Wharf Hotel, November 25

CHARISMATIC: The Rubens' frontman Sam Margin. Picture: Mark Metcalfe

CHARISMATIC: The Rubens' frontman Sam Margin. Picture: Mark Metcalfe

FREE shows are a double-edged sword. Of course any entertainment that doesn’t bruise the hip pocket is an attractive proposition, but what’s the catch?

Following The Rubens’ gig at the Queen’s Wharf Hotel, many of the band’s hardcore fans would have been wishing they paid to see Menangle’s favourite sons in one of Newcastle’s more-recognised music venues. 

That’s not to say the reigning Triple J Hottest 100 winners played poorly. Far from it. They are an electrifying live act, and their sometimes bland studio material embodies far more energy on stage. Singer-guitarist Sam Margin is one of the most charismatic frontmen in Australian music and his new beard appeared popular among the ladies in the audience.

The problem was the venue and the fact the show was free due to Corona’s sponsorship of the tour. This understandably led to overcrowding and the show became more about flogging Mexican lager, rather than music appreciation.

The low outdoor stage, combined with the marquee roof, made it almost impossible to see the band beyond the front five to 10 rows. Those committed enough to arrive early and claim prime real estate, probably witnessed a terrific show.

Sound was also an issue. From the back half of the crowd it was difficult to decipher which song was being played over boisterous crowd conversation. Another unfortunate by-product of free shows.

Regardless, the audience were energetic. Following My Gun, Margin said, “you’re the loudest crowd out of the 10 shows.”

The track was one of the rare offerings from The Rubens’ self-titled debut as they focused primarily on their second album Hoops. Cut Me Loose and Hold Me Back were popular, but the biggest response came for their Triple J Hottest 100-winning single Hoops and the closer Hallelujah.

Overwhelmingly the gig gave the appearance of a social event, a chance for friends to enjoy cold Coronas on a balmy late spring evening, rather than an opportunity to watch one of Australia’s hottest bands. It would have been ideal if the show had achieved both.

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