Live Review: Plini @ The Gov, Adelaide – February 4th 2023

Adelaide based fans of boundary pushing musicianship were treated this Saturday to what may well be the virtuoso prog rock/metal tour of 2023 on it’s penultimate stop. Sydney based instrumentalist Plini, with friends I Built The Sky and Protest The Hero in tow paid a visit to The Gov in Hindmarsh, Adelaide – South Australia, a charming open-plan auditorium with a tropical flare. As well as hosting these three pioneers of the genre, a warm welcome was extended to a strong base of the musically minded in town for a thrilling live audio exploration of guitar-led experimentation and technical wizardry. 

I Built The Sky, lead by Rohan Stevenson performed a set akin to a cosmic vortex of hurried riffing and jaw dropping keyboard solos (carried out by Rohan Sharma). The proverbial prog metal bingo card can be filled out in the course of one of I Built The Sky’s songs, as Stevenson’s complex compositions featured polyrhythmic drumming, breakdowns and some incredible intricate lead passages with guitar solos traded off between players. 

Rohan Stevenson of I Built The Sky performing at The Gov – February 4th 2023

Performed with razor sharp focus and precision, humour was playfully added to the act’s live presentation, with the band remaining mute if only for an AI generated robotic voice handling between-song speeches, betraying a subtle anti-humanity message. Along with this was the band’s charismatic inclusion of tributes to TV theme songs, concluding a song with a few bars of the Simpson’s theme tune.

Protest The Hero performing at The Gov – February 4th 2023

Visiting Australia for the first time in 5 years was Ontario Canada’s Protest The Hero, who in some respects drew a slim majority of the audience, evident by the enthusiastic vocal support during the entirety of the band’s set. With a relatively vast back catalog to choose from, vocalist Rody Walker and co’s allotted time onstage was in short supply so little was wasted getting straight into proceedings. With focus given to just 3 albums; Palimpsest, Volition and bonafide classic Fortress, tracks ‘Clarity’, ‘Limb from Limb’ and ‘Bloodmeat’ stirred up frenzy and fun amongst the front rows; treated firsthand to an intimate view of Walker’s barefoot performance, even more so during his glorious stage dives.

Rody Walker of Protest The Hero performing at The Gov – February 4th 2023

The night’s headliner, making a hotly anticipated return to touring after some 3+ years off the road took to the stage backed by a hilariously unsatisfying edit of The Police’s ‘Roxanne’ over the PA, no doubt conjured by Plini himself. Indeed his unique self-deprecating humour carries through the show, all the while adding to the cool calm confidence exuded during the performance. 

This is owed likely in part to the incomparable ability of his backing band, comprised of Simon Grove on bass, Jake Howsam-Lowe on guitar (both boundary pushing music production extraordinaires themselves) Dave Mackay on keys and drummer Chris Allison who carried each and every note played (of which there were very, very many) with effortless precision and feeling.

Plini performing at The Gov – February 4th 2023

The visual presentation of Plini’s music in a live setting is sleek, modern and dazzlingly bright, with a custom lighting rig comprised of LED bars behind the band, only serving to further outline the aesthetically futuristic instruments being played, very much like the collection one would imagine an architectural student might accumulate. In this regard, the tiny stage of the Gov appeared to be playing host to a band of arena proportions, accompanied by a sound equal to it.

Played with exotic virtuosity, musical styles leapfrog around in tracks ‘Perfume’ and ‘Impulse Voices’, particular joy is found in the tight syncopation of the instruments, shared by band and audience alike. As Plini’s back catalogue is further adventured into later in the set, it’s clear the artist transcends categorization, even at times conjuring a level of sonic and stylistic experimentation reminiscent of Paul Simon on Graceland, nonemoreso than on ‘Cascade’ and ‘Ona / 1154’, the former resulting in a magnificent musical climax.

Plini performing at The Gov – February 4th 2023

The true extent of Plini and his band’s talent was exhibited with flying colours during encore song ‘Electric Sunrise’, showcasing an extended improv solo, starting with keys, morphing into Jake and Plini taking centre stage to take turns trading licks incorporating a Jeff Beck-like legato, unusual for the genre, before another massive crescendo.

Review & photography by Michael Lockheart © 2023

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