2014 was a huge leap up in the ranks for Sydney rock and rollers The Preatures. With a high-profile slot on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel, more tours around Australia, Europe and the US than seems physically possible and a #4 chart spot for début album Blue Planet Eyes, they’ve certainly got something to be proud of.
But in their transition to more than just another local Aussie rock group, the five-piece seem to have traded in their achievements for the unadulterated fun and excitement their shows used to ooze – and their set at Dingwalls in Camden was a disappointing shock for a group who otherwise have everything going for them.
At the end of a long European stint the Sydneysiders’ exhaustion is probably understandable, but the air of complacence and a “this is just a job” mentality is pretty impossible to shake. Maybe they’re just treading lightly as they test international waters, but so much of their appeal was an immersive, electric live show that seems to have lost its spark.
Missing is singer Isabella Manfredi’s reckless abandon, her carefree sexuality, her signature white crop top ready to be soaked right on cue by the inevitable pouring of an entire water bottle. Her intense audience interactions are gone, replaced by stagnancy and the occasional routine interaction with guitarists Jack Moffitt and Gideon Bensen. Their inter-song banter, more Australian and sweary than you’d ever expect from them is out the window too – it’s music and nothing more.
They can, though, almost get by on their repertoire of interesting, varied tracks. With stellar songwriting and genuine ability from all members, the material from Blue Planet Eyes mixes well with their earlier rock and roll pastiche. Even with the lacklustre atmosphere you can’t deny the catchiness of Is This How You Feel? or Manfredi’s alternately growling and beautifully soaring vocals on It Gets Better.
“Guys, look, I don’t care if you want to chat, but if you could please just shut up for this song,” Manfredi says out of the blue to the unobtrusive, quiet (albeit largely ‘Strayan) audience. If you want to alienate an audience, this is a pretty good way to go about it.
“It’s been a really big couple of years for us – some good and some bad – and it’s really tough being on the road all the time, you know, so if you could just listen to this song, it’s about making it in the business” she quips – as if they themselves invented the concept of struggle – before launching into Business, Yeah.
If they wanted it enough, The Preatures could take the leap and become more than a good band without much difficulty at all. The music’s all there – but whether it’s pre-emptive complacence from their early success or just a tentative step into the much bigger pond of the UK, they were scouted on their irreverent, cheerful, all-inclusive rock ‘n’ roll – and their swift rise to success might prove a slippery slope if that doesn’t come back.