Reviews/Music/Perth Festival

Nick Allbrook and Pond – big fish on the edge of the world

14 February 2022

It was a glorious night for a Freo homecoming for local boys making very good, Pond, and their fans of all ages, including David Zampatti

Pond, for Perth Festival ᐧ
Fremantle Arts Centre, 11 February 2022 ᐧ

When Pond formed in 2008, Nick Allbrook looked as though he might break in the sea breeze. Now he’s all grown up, got some serious Jagger/ Hutchence moves about him and become as eclectic and interesting a front man as you’ll see anywhere. He’s the very model of a 21st century sprite.

But the secret of Pond’s appeal is that Allbrook is a frontman among equals. Shiny Joe Ryan (guitar), Jay Watson (keyboards), Jamie Terry (bass) and James Ireland (drums) play up a storm, and share songwriting and production credits with him. Together they have left behind their early tags as psychedelic rock/pop and Tame Impala stablemates and built a grand wall of sound that can paddle around the edges of yacht rock (“Toast”) or slide into smooth funk (“America’s Cup”).

Close up of a guitarist playing on stage
Shiny Joe Ryan on guitar. Photo: Cam Campbell

In their pomp, though, they have a romantic art-rock sensibility (sometimes Roxy Music percolates through the arrangements) that is often majestic (“The Weather”, “Someone Sweep Me off My Feet”).

It was good, then, that despite the nostalgia for Pond’s early psychedelia, Friday night’s set was drawn almost exclusively from the band’s inspired run of recent albums, The WeatherTasmania and 9, though “Moth Wings”, from the much-loved Beard Wives, Denim, and “Don’t Look at the Sun Or You’ll Go Blind”, from Psychedelic Mango, did make the cut.  

There’s something else. When someone in the crowd called out: “What about the Fitzroy River?” Pond’s Nick Allbrook’s mood sharpened. He spent much of his childhood with his historian parents in the Kimberley, and his fears for that unique region, and anger at how it is being endangered, are genuine, passionate and informed.

It was a glorious night for a homecoming, in front of 1600-odd people of all stripes and ages – was it the band, the night, the friendly confines of the Fremantle Arts Centre, or the Perth Festival that drew such a diverse crowd?

Despite a frustrating light show that had the band in silhouette for most of their set, Pond put it all on the table, and left no one wanting.

There have been a couple of times I’ve seen bands live and thought, “These people are going to conquer the world”. I’m not handing that particular poisoned chalice to Pond – they probably lack the arrogance or inclination to want it anyway – but they’ve now got all the tools of that dark trade at their disposal.

It’s all over their should-be-hits like the exuberant “Daisy”, “Take Me Avalon I’m Young” and the propulsive “Human Touch”, but never so apparent as in their encore, their sorrowful, magnificent love song to Fremantle, “Edge of the World”, with its Brian Wilson undertones and Dark Side of the Moon crescendo: “And if the highway gets you down/And if the violence gets you down/If Gina Rinehart gets you down/And if the white guilt gets you down/And if El Niño gets you down … We’ve got the water/We’ve got the water/We’ve got the water for now.”

The Pond performance was part of Perth Festival’s contemporary music program with events across the metropolitan area until 6 March 2022.

Pictured top: Nick Allbrook on stage at Fremantle Arts Centre. Photo by Cam Campbell

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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