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Live Review: Thirsty Merc w/ The Reversals & Port Paradise @ The Triffid

Thirsty Merc Review pic

Excited conversations and countless drinks flowed through The Triffid on Mothers’ Day as Thirsty Merc fans waited impatiently for the band room doors to open and the real party to begin. It’s been a difficult eight months for the Aussie rock legends as they’ve dealt with the tragic death of their stage manager Shane Cooper, who was killed in a car accident last September. The trio showed incredible strength and resilience heading back on the road for their nationwide ‘Back To The Grind’ tour, named after the release of their addictive new single The Grind.

Toowoomba hunks Port Paradise kicked off the night with a combination of pop rock similar to Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, and Third Eye Blind. The quartet pumped up the audience with an arsenal of call-and-responses, clap-a-longs, and dance encouragements, which were particularly effective during their cover of John Butler Trio’s Zebra and a love ballad dedicated to all the mothers in the house.

As second support act The Reversals began their first song, it felt as though a blast of cool refreshing water was travelling from their instruments and out into the audience. The quintet incorporated 70s and 80s pop aesthetics reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, with jazz licks, funkadelic grooves and soulful harmonies, creating a fusion of sound that left the audience awestruck.

Although the lead singer held his own with dream-like melodies and gorgeous falsettos, it was the lead guitarist who stole the show through his technical brilliance and confident improvised solos. Before the alternative popsters finished their set they promised everyone in the audience a free copy of their latest single Coming Down With You, which was met by unanimous cheers.


After a half hour intermission ripe with anticipation and high spirits, the lights finally dimmed and a beaming, perfectly coiffed Rai Thistlethwayte strode on stage with the rest of the band. The trio (plus tour drummer) drew out suspense further with an unidentified instrumental piece before smashing into My Completeness, followed by In The Summertime, which the crowd sang along to at the top of their lungs. Thistlethwayte temporarily traded in his guitar for a keyboard during a snappy rendition of Mousetrap Heart, heartfelt ballad All My Life, and unrequited love song Tommy and Krista.

The setlist fluctuated between the latest album ‘Shifting Gears’ and earlier hits, yet the crowd knew the words to every song and needed no prompting to get involved. During The Grind there was a spontaneous clap-a-long, while Thistlethwayte’s vocals were overpowered in the rockified feistiness of Sweet Talker.

Though he wasn’t much of a talker himself, Thistlethwayte gave plenty of thumbs up, sly grins, and funny faces ranging from suggestive eyebrow wiggles, half closed-eye twitches, and crazy winks. And he wasn’t the only one with a quirky stage presence. Phil Stack seemed to be doing his very best ‘Cousin It’ impersonation with his long hair covering his face while he spent the entire set sitting on a stool, though this didn’t stop him from moving his hips in slow suggestive movements to the grove of his bass. In contrast, Matt Smith was a complete rockstar as he attacked his guitar during several blistering solos while miming the notes with his lips.


Thistlethwayte’s vocals were rich with expression and flawless in pitch. It was a testament to rockers’ love for their craft the way they delivered each song with heartfelt conviction and perfect precision. They especially relished their dramatic endings as most songs concluded with a vigorous build up before blasting the last chord in unison.

The rockers ‘finished’ with crowd favourite The Good Life before retreating the stage. As soon as they left the crowd began screaming for “one more song!” and were quickly indulged as Thistlethwayte returned alone, playing a soft melody on the keyboard before launching into 20 Good Reasons. There was something intimate about the frontman serenading the audience with the heartbreaking ballad that caused the rowdy crowd to start giggling and calling out, spurring on a mass of shushing to fill the air. “It’s like a school assembly” Thistlethwayte laughed. “Actually at school assemblies I was never there. It made my dad angry.”

The full band returned halfway through the song before closing with classic hit Emancipate Me. Thistlethwayte caused big laughs as he updated his lyrics in the bridge section to include Snapchat and Facebook, before smashing the ending to rapturous applause.

Nobody does Aussie rock like Thirsty Merc. Between their catchy hooks, high energy, and natural showmanship it was definitely the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day, even if the key person was missing. Sorry mum!

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