You can always count on Melbourne to turn out in force for live music, tonight was no exception with a sold out show at 170 Russell. The line was a long mature based crowd, all happy to natter between themselves while we waited for doors. As we all streamed in I took prime position front and centre and awaited the soul master Andrew Strong. Joe Matera gave us a 30 minute set, just a guy and his guitar happy to warm up the expanding audience. DJ Rich had the tunes flowing while we waited, his selection perfect for the occasion with the lively punters giving us their finest rendition of Sweet Caroline.
The buzz was electric as we waited for the lights to drop, and right on time, Andrew and his crew took to the stage opening with Midnight Hour. With the exception of Andrew’s sister Niamh, the band were all dressed in black suits, looking sharp and fitting of the music. Hand To Handle followed on, Andrew so charismatic and joyful as he belted out song after song. His cheeky grin and effervescent personality flowing through the music as he sang, religiously calling for us to give him more applause and to make more noise, and we did so with gusto! Dark End Of The Street a definitely highlight of mine, the power behind the lyrics enough to give you chills, so beautifully performed it brought a tear to the eye. Then it was Niamh’s turn to come to the forefront with I Can’t Stand The Rain, it was quickly apparently that outstanding pipes run in the family, and that they certainly struck pay dirt in the Strong family gene pool. Take Me To The River, Treat Her Right and Thank You, the hits kept flowing, with the backing of the amazing band that hailed from all corners of the globe, including Italy and Hawaii. The brass section on fire with the tenor sax player giving one of the most amazing solos I have ever seen at the end of Treat Her Right, his stamina was incredible, and he was rewarded with huge applause.
Andrew Strong is far more that just the booming voice we all know and love, he is a consummate professional and entertainer extraordinaire, always keeping crowd participation to the highest level making you feel like part of the show not just a spectator. It is not an easy thing to do but Andrew pulls it off with ease, smiling all the while enjoying every minute. Mustang Sally took it to a new level with the fans going crazing, singing back ‘Ride Melbourne Ride’ at Andrew’s request. Hands clapping on autopilot everyone sweating up a storm, it is just how a good rock show should be as Gimme Some Lovin’ rang out. Thanks were said as Andrew and his cohorts left the stage, but I think we all knew there was still enough left in the tank for a few more. With shouts and stomping we called them back to finish out the night with the James Brown classic I Feel Good and the goose bump inducing Try A Little Tenderness. Andrew so humble with his thanks to us for coming out to see him and to enable him to do what he loves for all his life. The constant support from the Australian fans is such a credit to every person who brought a ticket for the show tonight, no doubt you got your money’s worth and then some.
As the finals bows were taken it was hard to believe that I was a mere 20 year old when The Commitments movie was released. Here I am now with many years under the bridge, seeing these amazing songs sung live and sounding bloody better than ever, such a testament to amazing music, it’s like a fine wine that just gets better with time!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale