Review: Headless Chickens at the Powerstation

By Scott Kara

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It's fair to say it was a bit loose at times. It was also more than a little chaotic - but hey, it's been 13 or so years since the Headless Chickens have played together. Aside from cleaning out the cobwebs, the songs still stand up.

This reunion show may have lacked the menace and tension they mustered up in the late '80s and early '90s, especially before Fiona McDonald added her lovely lilt to the band, but songs as sick, unique and catchy as Donka, Railway Surfing and Gaskrankinstation are timeless.

And the more pleasant Chickens tracks like Cruise Control and Donde Esta la Pollo remain great, oddball pop tunes more than 15 years on.

The set took in the whole canon, from early songs Slice (which just as easily could be called Sliced and Diced) and Soul Catcher (from debut album Stunt Clown), to the sonic slab of Million Dollar Dream and their last big hit, George, off 1997's third and final album, Greedy.

Leader Chris Matthews' demented yowl still gives you the creeps, especially when he delivers devilish lines like, "Because it looks like the life you're driving is a pretty mean machine, so take me for a ride," and best of all, "As long as my heart keeps pumping, I guess I'll keep on pumping gas, sometimes I wonder if there really is a God," from Gaskrankinstation, the night's highlight.

The way his vocals rub alongside McDonald's sweeter voice is one of the reasons they were a potent pop band in the '90s.

Although, McDonald shows she can dish out some disdain on George.

There are flashes of that imposing past with the rhythm section of bassist Grant Fell, and the grinding groove kept by poised and powerful drummer Bevan Sweeney, and the visuals are unhinged, with the cackling manic monkeys the standout.

Sadly, songs like Donka and the uppity epic Expecting to Fly were a little rushed and didn't quite have the impact you expect.

They are playing a few gigs across the Tasman before next year's Big Day Out at Mt Smart Stadium - the venue for their last gig in 1995 before McDonald and keyboardist Michael Lawry left - so here's hoping the Chickens will be back to their menacing best by the time that comes around.

As reunions go, though, it was well worth celebrating.

- NZ Herald

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