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Enmore Theatre, August 24

IT’S NOT OFTEN SAID of a group that’s five albums/13 years-in, but this is a band in transition: transforming sonically, visually and emotionally. And so far the process looks promising for Tim Nelson, principal vocalist, Zoe Davis, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist, Sam Netterfield, keyboardist/vocalist, and drummer Dan Puusaari,.

True, on a multi-tier set with the three vocalists on slightly raised platforms at stage level and the drummer two metres higher at one of two kits, Cub Sport’s past dominated this show. You could see it not just in the setlist laden with songs going back to their 2016 debut (Come On Mess Me Up closed out the night on a kind of Nothing Compares 2 U unified tremor) and its 2017 sequel (the early double pop dramas of Hawaiian Party and Chasin happily flaunting their Brisbane/Savage Garden roots), but in the way audience and performers slipped into a communal echo and sway.

When The Party’s Over was near hymnal, daringly so you might think if this year’s open-armed Jesus At The Gay Bar album was your introduction to them. But an almost trembling vulnerability-meets-intensity has always been Cub Sport’s natural mode. What is a flood of revelation and openness is a relatively recent setting, the fruit of the story described in Party Pill, Netterfield and Nelson falling in love as teenagers, pretending it wasn’t happening for 8 years and then blowing the secrecy away in euphoric release. And, at the end of that song tonight, a kiss.

It is the unfurling of these new forces that is changing them. We got the taster in the night’s opening, the pulsing Always Got The Love – a leather jacketed Nelson almost diving into the front rows to soak it in, only his silver lame glittery vest keeping him visible in the dark – and the almost self-explanatory High For The Summer. But it was a while before Keep Me Safe brought the simmer back teasing the possibilities of Cub Sport as a full force dance band.

That’s something which for now remains on the near horizon, edged closer to in songs like Songs About It, Magic In U and Replay, which formed a dynamic, rhythmic bracket late in the show, but edged away from more often across these 20 songs. After all, Confessions, described by Nelson as “one of the angstiest songs I have ever written”, still generates the most passionate response on and off stage.

It’s coming though. We can see it, and Cub Sport can feel it.

Cub Sport play:

Tanks, Cairns, August 31

Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, September 2

Forum, Melbourne, September 8

A version of this review was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald

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