Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard ‘Live In Paris ‘19’
Words by Cole Costello
Graphic by Jason Galea
Live In Paris ’19 starts with the crowd cheering previous song ‘Mr. Beat’ as the band’s dual drumkits begin to pulse in unison for the next. A bass soon joins, then a noodling guitar. Finally, a flute becomes audible, making it clear to everyone in the audience what they are about to hear. Arriving at the realization the song is ‘Hot Water’ the crowd erupts.
As the flute breaks into the song’s opening melody (with an “eeeYYuuPP” thrown in from Stu Mackenzie for good measure) the band’s audience vocalizes along to it note-for-note. The sound of a thousand people chanting a song can be a chilling experience. Here it provides all the context necessary to understand the experience of a King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard live.
Last week Gizzard’s fans were granted not one, but three surprise releases. Live In Paris and it’s companions Live In Adelaide and Live In Brussels came as a treat to those who had been demanding a live album for several years. Amongst aficionados, the intensity, and energy of a King Gizzard concert require no explanation. Gizzard’s performances are an experience, something, as it turns out, translates exceptionally well onto these two recordings.
Before diving into Live In Paris though, the reasons for these two album’s release must be noted. There are tragic circumstances under which they came. Australia is burning, the devastation being caused by nationwide bushfires is unheard of in scale. While the level of the fire’s’ destruction is unfathomable, the need to assist the victims – both human and animal – is not. Every donation to the cause is important and recognizing this King Gizzard will be donating all proceeds from these albums to support the cause, with funds from Live In Adelaide going towards Animals Australia, those from Live in Paris to Wildlife Victoria and Live In Brussels’ to Wires Wildlife Rescue.
Live in Paris ’19 features a setlist even a veteran will Gizzhead savor. Rare inclusions ‘Anoxia’ and ‘Am I In Heaven?’ sit beside fan favorites ‘Billabong Valley,’ ‘Crumbling Castle,’ and many more. The set’s first track, a non-album original called ‘Evil Star’ (backward for “Rats Live”), sets the tone of the performance before the band drones into Infest The Rats’ Nest’s ‘Venusian 2.’ Despite these heavy vibrations the set, in contrast to most of the previous year’s performances, does not draw extensively from Infest the Rats Nest. Yes ‘Venusian II’ segues into a spirited version of ‘Perihelion’, but before too long the band have switched to a suite from Polygondwanaland.
Rats’ Nest does resurface, however, ‘Mars For The Rich’ is the album’s penultimate song, but overall the setlist is light on the band’s most recent work. This could be a positive or a negative depending on who is asked, but for a band with no shortage of material, there is certainly an opportunity to delight in the variety on offer.
Despite their scarcity, Paris offers some incredible versions of Infest The Rats’ Nest songs. In the studio, the album was largely recorded by Stu, Joey Walker, and Michael Cavanagh, with others making only modest contributions if at all. In essence, Infest reflects the personalities of just three of Gizzard’s seven members but live listeners can definitely feel the full presence of the band within these songs. The keyboards especially are more prominent, and the vocals more melodic and fluid than the album cuts, particularly with ‘Mars For The Rich.’ The bass, provided by Lucas Skinner, jumps on ‘Venusian II’ and there’s a particularly thundering solo on ‘Mars.’
When the Polygondwanaland suite kicks in listeners are treated to an abridged version of the entirety of Gizzard’s 12th, and most prolifically bootlegged album. An animated version of opener ‘Crumbling Castle’ bleeds into closer ‘The Fourth Colour’ before melding into swift reworkings of the record’s few middle tracks. ‘Crumbling Castle’ is a definite highlight, with jabbing guitars, distorted wahs, and cymbal crashes flying at the listener from all angles. ‘Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet,’ follows the jubilant ‘Fourth Colour,’ all in the space of less than two minutes. Rapidly plunging into the meat of the song, the band chugs in true stoner rock fashion, the crowd singing behind them all the while. The song itself doesn’t differ stylistically too much from its album counterpart, but the power with which it is performed pushes it to another level. The heavy riffing continues before fading away into the circling guitars and gentle harmonica of ‘The Castle In The Air’.
Gizzard’s recent foray into heavier territory seems to be bleeding into their older tracks and the results are very satisfying. Thanks to Gizzard’s skill for the chameleonic blendings of musical style, a sudden shift from sounds more akin to Slayer to music which has more in common with Yes doesn’t feel at all that out of place. This is something seen throughout Live In Paris. Vastly differing sounds and melodies link together in ways even a fanatical Gizz fan might not expect. If anything, the entire concert feels less like a collection of songs than a mega-suite divided by a few brief pauses. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard do this brilliantly. It’s what makes their live shows so mesmerizing.
The rest of the set continues with an assortment of songs from across the King Gizzard discography, going as far back as 2014’s I’m In Your Mind Fuzz and bringing the listener all the way up to the present with songs from 2019 releases Infest Rats’ Nest and Fishing For Fishies. It is hard to not list all of the album’s remaining moments as highlights, though one that must bear mention is Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s stepping up to the mic to deliver the most Australian sounding “Merci Beaucoup!” ever uttered before launching into am inspired rendition of ‘Billabong Valley’. The song starts with Ambrose introducing it as “about a terrible alcoholic,” he then stops midway through for while the band welcomes a young child on the stage to accompany them.
The next song, ‘Nuclear Fusion’, begins with an extended intro, with Joey clearing his throat for some 20 seconds before growling the title for another 30. The listener can almost picture his face contorting to keep it coming. With the band firing off at all cylinders, ‘Nuclear Fusion’ along with ‘Billabong Valley’ as well as the aforementioned ‘Hot Water’ and ‘This Thing’ represent the concert’s frenzied peak.
A low point never really comes. Gizzard’s momentum is maintained throughout. The closer is a magnificent twelve-and-a-half-minute medley of ‘Am I In Heaven?’, ‘Head On/Pill,’ ‘Boogieman Sam’ and parts of The Tale of the Altered Beast. The inclusion of ‘Am I Heaven?,’ both at the time of the show and when the releases were made available, is definitely something to be cherished, and the crowd’s excitement really comes across as the medley twists and turns through their discography and back again. Playing longtime fan favorites as often as they do, and the frequency with which their setlists morph to include surprises and exciting throwbacks goes a long way towards demonstrating how dedicated King Gizzard is to put on a show.
Throughout this album, listeners can hear a prominent component of the King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard experience that has been all too absent from recorded releases: the fans. Gizzheads are passionate, dedicated, and grateful too. Fans vocal sing along with the flute on ‘Hot Water’ is only one example. ‘Muddy Water’ shows this the degree of crowd interaction as well, with the Parisian audience chanting back the chorus in unison. Given the band’s vast discography, any song can turn up at a Gizzard concert. But what’s more surprising is that the fans anticipate them and, without fail, are ready to sing them back.
With releases like Paris, King Gizzard’s reputation for putting the best to of themselves into their live performances continues to cement itself. Live in Paris ’19 is one of the best documents of the King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard so far. Stitching together from all corners of their 15 studio albums, the band sounds like they are having almost as much fun as the crowd.