Jeremy Neale and The John Steel Singers @ The Northcote Social Club – Friday 28th Feb.

It was hard to miss Jeremy Neale during The John Steel Singers’ set as he drifted around the crowd. It was neither overly packed nor awkwardly underpopulated on Friday night at the Northcote Social Club, as both acts played the final shows of their co-headline Boys Gone Wild tour. As Neale bobbed around chatting to just about anybody, he wore a freshly purchased, fluorescent orange, tie-died tour shirt of the band on stage. And alas, the shirt couldn’t have been more misleading.

The John Steel Singers’ performance was reminiscent of a cup of English Breakfast Tea; pleasant, easy to swallow, but in no way out of the ordinary. It became evident as their set progressed that they’ve been churning out indie rock for years with meager change along the way. So while the performance wasn’t necessarily bad, it couldn’t have been further from the bright orange tie-die that they’d chosen to represent them.

But the audience seemed pleased. Tracks such as Common Thread and State of Unrest led most of the patrons towards the front to dance. Their set finally ended following several rowdy confessions from their keyboardist that the rider had made him completely inebriated. This rather curiously led to some audience members leaving;  with the following set proving that this was in fact their loss.

Brisbane local and Velociraptor frontman Jeremy Neale opened his set with Winter Was the Time. The band room was underpopulated to the degree that one had plentiful space to dance wherever you stood. As a performer, Neale was highly engaging. The jangly pop rock that he and his four-piece band performed seemed more or less designed for parties; with fast-paced surf drums, organs, and bucket loads of power chords meshing together to create a frenzied wall of noise.

Neale’s stage banter was outlandish and hilarious. Things that came out of his mouth included “This song [Darling] is one of my favorite love songs ever” and “this is my second favorite song from the EP. While I play it you should all think about your second favorite things”. Around the middle of the set, he and his band even broke into Black Sabbath (yep – Iron Man) for the perfect amount of time; about thirty seconds. Neale’s warm, inclusive and relatively ego-free stage persona welcomed the audience to engage with both the music and Neale himself.

He began to scream vocals as the set progressed; which seemed appropriate as his songs leaned more and more towards surf rock. Previous singles including Swing Left and Darling evoked sing alongs from the audience – with many of Neale’s band mouthing the lyrics despite the absence of a microphone. For the final song, In Stranger Times, Neale invited most of the front rows (including yours truly) up for a dance. It’s needless to say that the set ended with copious amounts of sweat from all of those who were crammed up on stage.

The set ended, and Neale invited all of the audience to have a drink with him. A succession of strangers then exchanged hugs with the performer – which would have been absolutely bizarre at any other gig besides that of the infectiously joyful Jeremy Neale.