L7 + Purple Zain – The Tivoli Brisbane [Live Review]

Review and gallery: Justin Gittins

There is a scene in the 90’s movie “Tank Girl” that cements the awesomeness of L7.  (in my brain at least) It is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and we find the two female protagonists on the run from the big evil corporation.

Tank Girl (Lori Petty) : “We’re free!”

Jet Girl (Naomi Watts) : “We better go before they come back for us!  You take the TANK!”

The guitar intro from “Shove” (from “Smell the Magic”) kicks in and with a cheeky quip of “Are you sure?” Tank Girl and her (soon to be rad) tank meet for the first time.

“Get out of my way or I might shove, Get out of my way or I’m gonna shove“

This brings us to The Tivoli on a Saturday night in December.  L7 are an all-female rock band formed in 1985 and have been associated with the grunge movement and even riot grrrl but are unique in their own right and influential to music and artists that would follow.
L7 were visiting Brisbane as part of their tour with the promise of playing “Bricks are Heavy” for the first time ever in full.  The album was produced by Butch Vig and released in 1992 as their third studio album.

At the end of the 90’s Rolling Stone Magazine would put “Bricks are Heavy” on a list of “The Essential Recordings of the 1990’s”.
The eleven tracks of this legendary album are just under forty minutes of music. What other L7 gold would we be treated to? Would “Shove” make it into the playlist?

I arrive at The Tivoli just before 8pm and there is a line up waiting for the doors to open.  I still had no idea of the support band or what other L7 “magic” the night would deliver.

Once inside the security guard informs me that the support is “Purple Zain”.  Their Facebook Page describes Zain as a “Gold Coast Musician who likes to record concept albums and perform K-Pop covers.”  It certainly was going to be an interesting night.
Purple Zain Group took the stage at 8.30pm and warmed up the audience for the international guests.  Zain was joined by Jodie Maloney, Mat Crespo, Samuel Diklich & Kurt Winter.

There were short denim shorts, flannelette and bucketful’s of enthusiasm as they took the stage.  A couple of keyboards, guitars, drums and a lot of frantic energy kept the crowd entertained as they brought their unique style of music to The Tivoli.  I am not sure I heard any of the above mentioned K-Pop covers but did groove along to the twelve minute “Rock Opera” that rounded up the set with various members taking the mic to tell a fictitious story I will never quite understand.

The lights dimmed, the smoke machine was pumped up and the glowing green skeletal hands L7 logo glowed at the back of the stage to herald the arrival of our international guests.
With an explosion of colour, L7 took the stage with the awesome line-up of Donita Sparks (lead vocals / guitar), Suzi Gardner (guitar), Jennifer Finch (Bass guitar) and Demetra Plakas on the drums.

The unmistakable guitar explosion of an intro to “Wargasm” started our journey through the pure gold that was “Bricks are Heavy”.  A tribute to an old friend “Scrap” then brings us to crowd favourite “Pretend We’re Dead”.
I had a camera in hand so excuse my paraphrasing as Sparks proclaims, “We usually leave our big hits until the end of the show, hang around after this one!” and then mused if the staff could lock the doors.  It was such a surreal experience to get to hear this (now thirty year old) song that has burned a place into my brain along with the other ten tracks on this timeless album.

Honestly the next couple of tracks buzzed by too quickly as we tore through the album with “Diet Pill” and broke out the big guns with “Everglade”.  The lyrical genius just kept coming as we were told “Yeah, I’ve been letting it slide, you’ve been along for the ride.” and “It’s one more thing and I’m going to break”.

The Tivoli is packed to capacity.  The crowd is a sea of black and fluro green with hair colour and shirts paying tribute to the iconic black and green logo.
“Don’t preach to me, Mr Integrity” and “You bring out the Monster in me” had the crowd roaring back and pulsating.

There is a humming buzz just before the drums and guitars kick in that have the fans pumping their hands in the air as “Shit List” kicks in.  I have always wanted to see it played live and it did not disappoint as the crowd joined in to proclaim to the certain person in their life “You made my Shit List”.
“This Ain’t Pleasure” wrapped up the first part of the show which ironically was pure pleasure for the forty or so minutes of hearing this iconic album played live.

The banner at the back of the stage dropped to reveal the iconic logo with L7 in a large circle.   This signalled the second part of the show which would take up on a journey through various L7 albums spanning decades.
The fans were instantly treated to 1994’s “Hungry for Stink” with “Andre” and “Fuel My Fire” then a two decade jump to “Stadium West” from 2019’s “Scatter the Rats”.

The chilled rendition of “Non-existent Patricia” was a change of pace as Sparks announced “That one was for the wall flowers.  This one’s for the scum bags!” before launching into “Fighting the Crave”.
“Human” from 1999’s “Slap-happy” and “Bad Things” from 1997’s “Beauty Process” brought us to the part of the night I had been hoping for.

The unmistakable intro to “Shove” starts and hands start pumping in the air.  The crowd enthusiasm kicks up a notch as we all yell “Get out of my way or I might shove, Get out of my way or I’m gonna shove“.
I would be happy for the show to end on this note but L7 just keep delivering awesomeness.  Apparently, they wrote a song about some Trump guy called “Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago” which I will definitely give another listen.

The show wrapped up with more “Smell the Magic” guitar and drum fuelled punk rock, grunge infused explosion with “American Society” and “Fast and Frightening”.

It was an awesome night at The Tivoli and such a privilege to see this legendary band perform songs from their inspiring career that spans decades.

L7 December 2023 Australian and NZ Tour Dates

Tuesday Dec 12th – Adelaide, The Gov

Wednesday Dec 13th – Perth, Rosemount Hotel

Friday Dec 15th – Melbourne, Croxton Bandroom


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