LIVE REVIEW: Sticky Fingers at The Forum, Melbourne

Friday night of yet another long weekend and Melbourne’s Forum Theatre is buzzing, shrouded in a collective cloud of smoke. Sydney band Sticky Fingers have sold out this third-last date of their national tour. As the night quickly proves, perhaps no venue other than this, the one known for its strangely comforting mix of opulence and grunge and the nude statues that flank the stage, would have been as fitting.

Taking to a purple-lit stage after a few technical difficulties, Sti Fi are quick to prove that nothing is going to slow them down. Frontman Dylan Frost descends from the shoulders he was carried in on and the set starts with Land of Pleasure, sending the audience into a frenzy from the drop of the first note. Having made it just in time for the start of the set, we find ourselves a lot further back than we’d expected, but from here the pulsating sea of a crowd looks nothing short of a sweaty, rowdy, gorgeous mess. This is something Frost points out a couple of times throughout the set, most pointedly when he drawls that everyone is looking “fucking luscious” from where he stands up on stage tonight. Between the first and second songs, he picks up a package that’s been thrown on stage and is stoked to find it contains a floral bucket hat – the only thing his outfit was missing.

Launching into These Girls for the first all in singalong of the night, there is a glimmer of concern that perhaps Sti Fi are going to burn bright a little too quickly. No such fucking luck. Even when they try out new, previously unheard material from the album they tell us is currently being mixed right here in Melbourne, the excitement from the audience feeds back to the stage and builds upon itself the entire set. Maybe it’s down to the fact that while there’s no questioning that everyone present is a massive fan, Sti Fi kind of feel like you’re seeing your mate’s band – which means you’re comfortable enough to let completely lose. There’s no doubt that it’s in partly down to their own rep as the loosest legends out.  There is no feeling of “us” and “them” dividing things up between the people on stage and those they dive onto to surf around the theatre.

Which is where things take a strange turn, even for a rowdy Sti Fi show. They’ve played a stellar set of songs from the contagiously sunny Gold Snafu to Just For You with what is still one of the finest refrains going around to Liquourlip Loaded Gun which fills the entire massive room as though it is theirs alone. But when Frost launches into the crowd at the end of the song, there’s a long pause of concern that drifts right from the front to the very back pews of the theatre – because he takes his sweet time resurfacing.

It is another two minutes or so before we see someone clamber back up on stage. A light shining on what is now a bare-arsed Frost as he grabs the mic and calls out with a laugh a particularly rowdy section of the crowd who are brandishing his pants like a pirate flag. Even now it’s hard to discern if Frost is genuine in his amusement – especially considering that after strutting around covering himself with his hands while the pants were being coaxed out the clutches of the crowd, he finds his trousers ripped to shreds and walks off stage for a good while. Bassist Paddy Cornwall tells us to hang tight: earlier in the night we had “instrumental issues, now we’re having musician issues.” Fair enough, really. The rest of the band are left to tinker around on stage as best they can while Frost sorts his situation out, but when they stop their instrumental interlude after a few minutes, everyone starts to wonder if he’s coming back at all.

But he does, in pants a fair few sizes too big and launches right into Rum Rage. The rest of the set plays out smoothly and at one point, we wonder if he’s going to jump back in for another go, but he doesn’t. Outcast At Last has only been out for a month, but it’s already a firm favourite.  How To Fly flows into closer Australia Street which is the most fun of the night, placing us perfectly in that wonderful space between reggae, psych and rock that Sti Fi do so well.

The green and gold lights fade to purple and Sticky Fingers leave the stage, Frost pulling down the pants he’s commandeered to flash us his smiley face tattoo and flip the bird. There is no encore. Still, everyone hangs back a while in hopes of seeing them play one more before they leave for the US in a few days time. It isn’t until the lights come back on and we can see all the statues and the wrecked floor clearly that everyone spills out onto the street, buzzing for that new Sti Fi album and their return. One thing is for sure: they’re going to be fucking brilliant at Splendour.

Read our interview with Sti Fi’s bassist, Paddy: Sticky Fingers: ‘It seems like the current government couldn’t care less about live music or art’.