GRINSPOON have always been massive in Newcastle.
Ever since the Lismore quartet exploded onto the Australian music scene in the mid-90s with a burst of chunky riffs, punk attitude and cocksure charm, their music has spoken to the working-class ethos of the Hunter.
The Grinners have sold-out venues like the Cambridge Hotel, NEX and The Bar On The Hill and even rocked in the new year twice in 2004 and 2007 at the Queen's Wharf Hotel in its old Brewery days.
But on Friday Phil Jamieson (vocals/guitar), Pat Davern (lead guitar), Joe Hansen (bass) and Kristian Hopes (drums) attempted their most audacious Hunter show yet when they brought their Chemical Hearts greatest hits tour to the 6,000 capacity Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
Numbers wise it was a bridge too far. There were ample empty or blacked out seats in the stands, while the punters on the floor were hardly packed like sardines.
However, man, did the old shed rock. The combination of Davern's granite-like riffs and Jamieson's charisma more than proved Grinspoon belonged on the big stage.
Brisbane indie-rockers Bugs opened the night in front of an almost-empty NEC. Next up was Newcastle punk duo The Gooch Palms.
Leeroy Macqueen and Kat Friend made the most of their 20-minute set, entertaining the crowd with their Novocastrian banter and older tracks Hunter Street Mall and We Get By. Macqueen also proved he had more than recovered from his larynx tear in August when he delivered a rousing rendition of You.
The final support were Adelaide emo band The Hard Aches. I Get Like This won over new fans, as did their closing track Happy, which featured Newcastle's Rachel Maria Cox on vocals.
The crowd swelled with anticipation for Grinspoon, and they were worth the wait. A beating heart announced their arrival before Jamieson leaped out from behind the curtain in white pants, a Hole t-shirt and a pale blue jacket.
Even at 42, Jamieson remains arguably Australia's coolest rock frontman as he bounced around the stage with abandon. And unlike his hit-and-miss formative years, he was note perfect from the balladry of Better Off Alone to the pure grunge aggression of Post Enebriated Anxiety.
READ MORE:Pat Davern pumps up Chemical Hearts tour
You couldn't fault the set list. It was a non-stop cavalcade of Grinspoon classics. The band were so confident in the depth of their back catalogue they even dusted off their first hit, Just Ace, four songs into the set.
It was telling that the 22-song set didn't feature anything from Grinspoon's final three albums Alibis and Other Lies (2007), Six To Midnight (2009) and Black Rabbits (2012). The band knew what people wanted.
Friday was the 20-year anniversary of Grinspoon's second album, Easy, and to mark the occasion Newcastle was given a rare performance of the record's opener American Party Bomb and a crunching rendition of Secrets.
Davern's guitar riff absolutely boomed around the old shed.
Hard Act To Follow produced one of the night's biggest singalongs, before Jamieson momentarily halted the song before the second verse to allow security to remove a distressed woman from the mosh pit.
The show was also a family affair for Jamieson, who lives near Port Macquarie. His teenage daughter Lyla made a cameo dancing with her dad in a giant heart suit and his father was also among the audience.
"My Dad took me to the Cambridge [Hotel] when I was 15 to see Tumbleweed and The Meanies," Jamieson said about his first musical experience. "I couldn't get in and I watched from behind a wire fence."
Besides dancing hearts, Grinspoon also unveiled other surprises.
Following the instrumental Overdriver, Jamieson appeared alone on a mini-stage above the sound desk at the back of the floor to perform a solo version of Sweet As Sugar, just like Bernard Fanning did at Powderfinger's final Newcastle show in 2010.
The encore began with a faster paced Chemical Heart - which didn't quite capture the majesty of the studio version - before the crowd-pleasing Champion and More Than You Are sent NEC into a lather.
Grinspoon might be resigned to living off past glories, but when you're capable of performances like this, fans will continue lining up to indulge in the rocking nostalgia.
DCx3, Lost Control, Sickfest, Just Ace, Pedestrian, American Party Bomb, Secrets, Hard Act To Follow, No Reason, Better Off Alone, Rock Show, Better Off Dead, Overdriver, Sweet As Sugar (solo), Bad Funk Stripe, Black Friday, Post Enebriated Anxiety, 1000 Miles, Don't Change.
Encore: Chemical Heart, Champion, More Than You Are.