For You Am I frontman Tim Rogers, it’s still a strangely novel sensation to get his hands, voice and body around a clutch of tracks from the band’s newly released 11th album.
The Sydney-born rock band recorded their individual parts remotely last year, with the four musicians split between their homes in two states due to COVID border closures.
Its title track, The Lives of Others, was written in the midst of Melbourne’s extended lockdown. Rogers kept returning to Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote: “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”, a timeless observation heightened by the uncertainty that gripped us all last year.
“It’s the song on the record that makes me feel very, very emotional,” says the singer-songwriter.
“I just hope I’m not purloining it, or being a magpie and grabbing from it for my own benefit. I hope that I’m learning about empathy by keeping my eyes open.”
On Sunday night in Brisbane, You Am I played two sets of scintillating rock ’n’ roll that blended songs from their 1993 debut with new material.
Now that the quartet is out on the road again after a 380-day break from being in the same room together, the overwhelming sensation among this band of brothers is joy tinged with relief that their peerless skills remain in demand.
“The excitement of putting a record out at 51 is actually much more exciting than putting one out at 21,” says Rogers. “Maybe you just learn actual gratitude over time. That’s all I’m feeling at the moment – and very hungover.”
On a Monday morning call with The Australian while in transit to the airport ahead of further shows in Sydney on Wednesday and Melbourne on Thursday, the afterglow of the prior night’s performance shone through amid the weariness.
“I like seeing people happy,” Rogers says. “I like being part of the industry of human kindness and human happiness.”
After previously wrestling with his indifference toward playing some of You Am I’s most popular material — including their run of three consecutive ARIA No 1 albums from 1995 to 1998 — the COVID-enforced absence from the stage has made his heart grow a little fonder.
On this tour, generation-defining rock songs such as Berlin Chair, Purple Sneakers and Good Mornin’ are all played with gusto.
“It’s not a purely altruistic thing, because that rush from the crowd is very intoxicating,” says Rogers. “All those teenage daydreams you had about playing in The Ramones, or you’re Keith Richards for five minutes? They all come back, and it’s pure excitement.”
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