Joseph Dipisa-Fiorenza

It was destined to be a special night as Brisbane prog legends Caligula’s Horse arrived in Melbourne to finish up their Let It Grow Australian Tour – a tour which saw them celebrate their second and third albums by performing them in full.

To ease us into the night, first we were treated to an acoustic set by Melbourne up-and-comers Circles. The set saw the band stripped back to frontman Ben Rechter and guitarist Ted Furuhashi – two performers who gave unique renditions of some of the band’s biggest songs despite being riddled with technical difficulties. The lilting version of Another Me stood out as especially memorable.  Amid guitar swaps and fiddling with leads, the duo was able to remain professional and share their troubles humorously with a crowd who were just happy to be there. It’s safe to say the set did not suffer at all from the malfunctions.  A very strong performance.

Once Caligula’s Horse took to the stage it was clear straight away how intimate and unique this performance would be.  The band simply walked out and greeted the crowd immediately. No intro track, no waiting til a few songs in.  Frontman Jim Grey took a moment to talk about the albums they’re celebrating and then without further ado, the band began playing their third album, Bloom.  At that moment, the titular track seamlessly transitioned to fan-favourite, Marigold, and the energy jumped from the chilled vibes of earlier to straight up insanity.  We had only reached the second song and already we had a solid circle pit going.

Firelight and Dragonfly went over slightly more gently with the audience, allowing guitarists Sam Vallen and Adrian Goleby to demonstrate their masterful dynamic control. Rust, however, saw the return of the circle pits and an opportunity for drummer Josh Griffin to show off his chops.  Locking in with Griffin with the low frequencies, new bassist Dale Prinsse showed us he’s more than capable of filling the gap left by founding member Dave Couper, who left earlier this year.

It’s worth noting that the banter between band and audience continued throughout the night, making appearances after nearly every song. There were discussions about how wholesome the mosh-enthusiasts were. There were people shouting questionable desires at the band (much to their amusement) and there were plenty of requests for their 15-minute opus, Graves.

Hit song Turntail, however, was rallied by Grey with a more serious note, “Who wants to sing about overcoming obstacles in your way?” The energy remained almost as high as the level of musicianship throughout the tune as well as Daughter Of The Mountain.  To close out the first album, Grey and Vallen remained alone on stage to play Undergrowth. This one would have had guitarists drooling as Vallen utilised the piezo system on his Music Man JP15, essentially rendering the sound coming from his 7-string electric a nicely voiced acoustic tone.

During the brief intermission it was nice to see Rechter from Circles take to the stage again to perform another acoustic song. It was a nice change of pace from the usual 10 to 15 minutes of random songs through the PA.

‘The Tide, The Thief, and River’s End’is the slightly heavier album of the two and it showed nearly immediately through opening songs A Gift To Afterthought and Water’s Edge. The band reminding us the whole time of their prowess on stage and on their instruments. Atlas and Into The White caused mass bopping and swaying respectively, their anthemic sections leaving no voice unused even towards the back of the venue.

When Grey spun his mic stand with a flourish and headed off-stage it was clear that they were wasting no time in transitioning into Old Cracks In New Earth, one of the band’s only instrumental pieces. The piece serves as a midway point on the album, summarising melodies and rhythms that have come before, as well as foreshadowing what is yet to come. Seeing it performed live in all its technical glory was truly a treat.

Dark Hair Down hit with the impact of a bulldozer and served as the last super heavy moment to mosh to. Heading towards to the end of the night, Grey explained that penultimate track, Thief, was originally written as an instrumental piece by Vallen and former guitarist Zachary Greensill for his wife to walk down the aisle to. They all shared a laugh then over how they, ‘Turned it into a song about someone who steals things’.

All Is Quiet By The Wall was an epic way to finish the night, the vibe and atmosphere charging one last time before the band leave us for good until next time. As the house lights came up on this extraordinary evening, Graves finally played over the PA system, bringing a chorus of laughter and cheers.