Strange Karma – Live Review

Let’s face it, Sunday nights can be pretty goddamn boring. Most of us settle in for a night in front of the TV, trying to forget the fact that tomorrow is the start of a new working week. So when I got an invitation to the launch of Strange Karma’s new single ‘Devil From The Moon’,  it was a no brainer ;  An excuse to extend the weekend festivities and listen to live music? Why the hell not?

I’d never seen strange Karma perform, in fact I only knew they existed after accidentally stumbling across a few of their videos on You Tube, yet I was curious to hear more. A self confessed groupie from the 70s,  I was struck by the  band’s  ability to bring the classic rock sound of the my favourite era and rework it into a contemporary blend of hard hitting rock and showmanship sadly lacking in today’s manufactured music. However, I have to be honest, I made my way to the gig at Top End Studios in Marrickville with no expectations, just the sole intention of having a final weekend fling before Monday-itis  set in.

Arriving at the venue I made my way to Studio 2 and walked into sound check mayhem! The studio was dotted with TV cameras, equipment and an assortment of photographers, musicians and sound guys  focused on getting the perfect sound.  Lead singer and co-founder of the band Martin Strange flitted between the keyboard and his guitars, fine tuning and growling ‘one, two’ repeatedly into the mic (this ritual has always intrigued me….can musicians count to three, I wonder?)

Just so you know, I’ve hung around musos for most of my life and am lucky enough to have some high profile mates including members of Procul Harum, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I also worked in A&R for Warner for many years, so without sounding too cynical, I’m not easily impressed.  Don’t get me wrong,  I have the utmost respect for musicians in general and musicians who write their own material in particular. But the bottom line is I didn’t walk into this gig expecting to hear the next big thing by any stretch of the imagination

The ever increasing crowd was pumped. Clad in leather and T shirts, predominantly black,  I got the impression they knew what was coming and I have to admit, picking up on their energy made me just a little excited!

Finally the moment arrived. The lights dimmed and Strange Karma hit the stage, delivering tracks from their upcoming album. I’d read somewhere that their debut album America had achieved moderate success here in Australia and in the U.S and my ears pricked as they smashed out tracks from their soon to be released second album, like  ‘Should’ve Seen It Coming’, ‘Freedom’ and my personal fave ‘Cold Blooded’.  Just a few songs into the set and I had to admit – this band was frikken tight! Straight away it was evident that Strange Karma was a group of guys who had paid their dues on the road and knew how to put on a show.

Drummer Jason McDonald was a joy to behold. Besides being a percussionist of note, watching him lay down beats dwarfed by a drum kit that took up most of the stage, it was blatantly obvious that the guy really loved what he was doing. Singing along to every song with a huge grin on his face – he captivated every person in the room. Bass player Bob, stood quietly confident yet unobtrusively in the background pumping out a solid bassline. And then there was Martin –  keyboard player, guitarist and frontman,  who strutted around the stage (all 6′ 5″ of him), tossing back his mane of curls in a sex-on-legs style reminiscent of Zeppelin rock god Robert Plant. Add to that an astounding vocal range and a theatrical flair to rival that of phenomenal frontman Freddie Mercury and it was only a matter of time before he had the audience in the palm of his hand. And they were loving every minute! 

Finally, the big moment arrived. As Paul (Strange Karma co-founder and Martin’s sibling) stepped into the spotlight, flicking his long blonde hair and belting out the raunchy guitar riff that announced their new single ‘Devil From The Moon’,  the crowd positively erupted. I glanced around the room and was met by a heaving mass of bodies moving to the music – the atmosphere was electric! This debut single from their yet to be titled 2nd album has hit written all over it. It’s one of those great songs that sucks you in, then takes you on a rock n’roll  rollercoaster ride before spitting you out on the other end, giddy, breathless and begging for more!
And more is exactly what we were treated to that night. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Strange Karma delivered a proverbial ace from their sleeve, treating us to medley that was pure euphoria; Kicking off with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Martin hit the high notes effortlessly, staking his claim on the ecstatic audience before launching into a rendition of The Beatles ‘Come Together’ followed by some of my all-time faves including Stones classic ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ and snippets of Zeppelin. But for me it was their take on Black Sabbath’s Paranoid that was the highlight. Delivered with a rawness even Ozzy would be proud of, it made my night!
So did I enjoy the show? You bet ur ass I did! By the end of the hour long performance I (along with every person in the room) was a gyrating sweaty mess – and an irrevocable Strange Karma fan! This band is everything a die-hard rock junkie could wish for! But more than that,  their ability to take the classic sound of the 70’s and bring it into the present has an undeniable power and intensity that leaves fans (as it did me) gobsmacked.
Strange Karma’s sound is passionate, timeless and has the chops to appeal to both young and old rockers alike. On this night, the crowd ranged in age from 20 somethings to over 55s and judging from the audience response, it was clear to me that Strange Karma’s appeal knows no age barrier. Young and not so young rubbed shoulders in joint adulation. And,  in an age where music is largely disposable, I can’t help but believe Strange Karma could well be the breath of fresh air the world has been waiting for! So when’s ur next gig guys..?

Wendy Loupos