Keeping things fresh on the road is a challenge at best for most touring bands. Playing the same songs night after night can become as arduous as it is fun, even if you’re standing in front of a brand new crowd every night. Luckily for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, they aren’t most bands. With more than twenty albums to their name, every live show is a guessing game for fans. Earlier this week, they kicked off their European tour in Paris, continuing in Amsterdam on Friday and last night in Tilburg. The three shows have produced a combined total of roughly forty different songs, only three (and a half) of which have been played more than once. Last night marked the band’s first appearance in Tilburg, in front of a sold out crowd at 013.
Los Bitchos’ opening set was a strong reminder as to why the four-piece were asked to support Gizzard on the road. Their music is even more infectious and powerful live than it is on record, mixing tropical elements with Cumbia-like rhythms and earworm melodies. There was even room for a sunny cover of the headline band’s very own Trapdoor, which went down like a house in fire in front of an already-packed room. Popular single The Link is About to Die was well received, operating on a party mode wavelength for its duration. Los Bitchos are one of the most exciting new live bands of the moment, a live show that ought to not be missed.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard took to the stage not long after 9pm, with fans launching small “just married” balloons once Ambrose Kenny-Smith took to the stage (the multi-instrumentalist got married last month). Frontman Stu Mackenzie didn’t wait long before ushering his bandmates into the rampant Open Water, a semi-deep cut from 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana. Michael Cavanaugh’s intricate percussion passages helped keep the track together, and together with bassist Lucas Harwood they make a formidable rhythm section. The silky sweet Honey received a more thunderous live rendition to follow on from Open Water, before Kenny-Smith took the lead on fan favourite Billabong Valley. It’s one of the strongest songs in the band’s expansive back catalogue, and live it’s an absolute beast of a track. Last year’s Hypertension marked the first long jam of the night, spanning fifteen minutes and riff after riff of psychedelic garage rock godliness. Contrasting this with the Cook Craig helmed The Garden Goblin only went on to further show how diverse the band’s output is within just the first five songs of the night.
Iron Lung, one of the best songs the band released in 2022, allowed Mackenzie and Kenny-Smith to trade off vocal duties, culminating in a monstrous mid-section that made way for a moment of calm led by guitarist Joey Walker: the jazzy Ambergris. It’s a sexy song on record, and live even more so. Not that a large part of the Dutch crowd would have noticed, though, veering off into conversations amongst themselves as though they were at a party or social gathering. If anyone tries to tell you that The Dutch Disease isn’t real, then just take them to a concert in the Netherlands. Last year’s Lava made for the most left-field moment of the show, building up slowly before ultimately erupting in a stunning cacophony of sound. Iconic track The River featured in its entirety after being merged with older cut Wah Wah in Paris two nights prior, marking one of the highlights on the night.
The final part of the band’s Tilburg show saw one last chance for the crowd to lose their collective minds, with 2019’s Infest the Rats Night standout Self-Immolate seeing the floor break up into multiple circle pits. It’s safe to say that King Gizzard know what they’re doing when it comes to thrash metal, with the equally vicious Predator X leaving no stone unturned in its pursuit of chaos. It’s one of two thrash-leaning tracks which appeared on last year’s mammoth double album Omnium Gatherum, one of five long players the band put out in 2022. The other metal track on said album – Gaia – didn’t make an appearance during the band’s two Dutch shows.
As the night neared its close, guitarist Walker announced that the band were about to unveil a brand new song live. Eagle eared fans instantly recognised the booming Gila Monster as one the band had sound checked a day earlier in Amsterdam, and its debut was certainly well-received by the crowd. It had hints of thrash mixed in with curious flashes of glam rock and pirate metal, as Mackenzie and co. broke out in chants of “Gila! Gila! Gila!” during its brief but catchy chorus. There’s no word on when the track (which also featured a brilliant verse from Kenny-Smith) will come out, but it’s safe to say that the wait shouldn’t be too long.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Walker announced that there was time for one more jam – the frantic Am I In Heaven? It’s never been a staple of the live set, rearing its head every now and then for an appearance. The band thrashed the song out until right before the venue’s 11pm hard curfew, leaving the stage to a deafening roar from the crowd. For little under two hours, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard not only treated the room to a set list full of rarities (insofar as you can call them rare) and fan favourites, but in doing so did not repeat a single song from the previous night’s show in Amsterdam. That’s 27 unique tracks spanning not even half of their discography. When you have a back catalogue as diverse as theirs, no two shows are the same and this is what makes them the most exciting and revered live band on the planet right now. They’ll return to the Netherlands in August for a set at Lowlands Festival – perhaps with an extra album (or two) to boot.