Hilltop Hoods The Great ExpanseHilltop Hoods at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Saturday August 10, 2019

The MCG carpark is closed “Due To Weather” this evening, and it’s a blustery walk to Rod Laver Arena.

Inside the stadium, Mojo Juju is on warm-up duty and opens with the stunning title track from her breakthrough album Native Tongue. She is accompanied by backing beats plus her brother Steve “T-Bone” Ruiz de Luzuriaga on drums, and brings the LOLs via one intro: “This is a song I wrote for a guy called Peter Dutton, ‘cause he’s a f-ckwit.” Think Twice may be political in tone, but it’s also catchy AF with an irresistibly funky riff to get those hips moving, and sees Mojo adopting a soulful vocal tone. “History will not be kind, oh, you’ve got it so wrong,” is her closing lyrical diss to Dutton. She speaks the truth and we receive her message loud and clear: Mojo Juju’s time is now.

Skilled turntablist DJ Nino Brown gets us lurching in our seats during half time with some classic hip hop jams by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes, but it’s the sinister intro to Simon Says by Pharoahe Monch (and the repeated opportunity to screech, “Get the f-ck up!” that scores the mightiest audience response.

After the house lights dim, sonic rumbling underscores chants of “Hill-top! Hill-top!”, which eventually extend out to become “Hiiiiiiilltoooop!” as time passes and anticipation builds. Searchlights circle the inside of the arena, smoke billows out onto the stage, we hear strings and then the black curtain drops, revealing Plutonic Lab perched on his drumstool, DJ Debris manning the wheels of steel, and a three-piece brass section – all elevated on an upstage platform. On bounce MCs Suffa and Pressure, and then we all unite to Chase That Feeling. Silver streamers explode into the audience to punctuate song two, Leave Me Lonely, and we notice these are later transformed into browbands by fans in GA.

When dropped by Debris, we immediately recognise the flute and strings the usher in Melanie Safka’s People In The Front Row – a segment of which is played in its original form – as the ye olde sample that flows through Hilltop Hoods classic, The Nosebleed Section. Rewinding waaaaaay back to 2004, the Hoodies’ live rendition of this cut absolutely goes off! With added live brass and drum sass, this song is pure dynamite live. Phew, it sure is hawt in here!

Nyassa, direct from the Hoodies’ hometown of Adelaide, is welcomed to the stage to take Montaigne’s parts on 1955 and excels performing the female feats throughout this show’s duration, sounding just like Sia during the uplifting I Love It. Recalling their first Melbourne gig was at Cherry Bar, the MCs take a moment to acknowledge how far they’ve come during the second of their two sold-out shows at Rod Laver Arena. Suffa and Pressure probably surpass their daily step target on stage as they constantly criss-cross across its width, even randomly chucking in a few Angus Young duckwalks for good measure.

Singing along with Won’t Let You Down‘s chorus is a bit tricky when you’re old and remember the original Ph.D song (1982’s I Won’t Let You Down) that inspired it, ’cause the phrasing is slightly different. Adrian Eagle joins the crew to show off his distinctive soaring vocal during Clark Griswold. We’re stoked that Illy and Ecca Vandal are also in the house to perform their respective parts on Exit Sign and all of these incredible featured artists further elevate the calibre of talent showcased this evening. “Our babies are sidestage!” Suffa excitedly notices his daughter watching the concert. Higher is another (appropriately titled) highpoint and exemplifies Hilltop Hoods’ knack for hooks. We’re then treated to some “really old shit” in the form of The Hard Road (which never gets old) and Still Standing. Prior to main-set closer Rattling The Keys To The Kingdom, all crowd members are asked to shed a layer to helicopter skyward. The result is spectacular as shirts, beanies, shoes (you name it!) are circled vigorously overhead, the arena resembling the inside of a washing machine on spin cycle. Confetti cannons detonate red and white ticker tape to signal the main set’s conclusion.

Returning to the stage for an encore, the familiar tinny riff and bass of Cosby Sweater rouse the crowd before guest after guest – Briggs and Shadow as well as all of the aforementioned legends – roll out. There’s a ridiculous amount of punters on shoulders in GA, it’s pogo central and the atmosphere is celebratory fire.

As we wander towards the tram stop, a tout selling bootleg Hilltop Hoods T-shirts takes the piss while spruiking his wares: “$20 each, two for $15” – huh?