A seething mass of Rose Tattoo faithful pack the Corner Hotel in Richmond, Melbourne to capacity but thanks to the professionalism and care of the fantastic staff from door to floor, this matinee performance was a tremendous success.
To set the scene a little further I would encourage readers to schedule a few moments listening to a recent chat I had with Gary “Angry” Anderson speaking about the importance of the Blood Brothers Tour, the album itself, the current and past band members and the ongoing legacy of Rose Tattoo. But please be suitably warned that this is an interview charged with emotion and will bring the most staunch and rock hard ‘Tatts’ supporter to tears with Angry in camaraderie and fond reminiscence.
But for today I will concentrate on the remarkable spectacle before me. 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and the venue is cracking at the seams with the sheer ferocity of a contemporary Rose Tattoo and the proud supporters assembled within.
As Angry takes to the mic we are treated to a stark, profound and quite sobering realisation that this staple icon of Aussie rock and pop culture, has been pushing out these rebellious rock anthems since 1976 and he has seen the inside of more rock n roll than most could lay claim to. He has done it, talked about it, screamed it and survived it all. Most impressively, here he is still doing it. After spending a good hour and a half recently with both Angry and Mark Evans enjoying what was more a friendly reflection on the last 40 years of heavy rock, I am firmly convinced that Rose Tattoo remain the bearers of the heavy rock battle standard in Australia. Mark himself being a member of the mighty AC/DC from 1975 until 1977 carries more rock experience in is big toe than most can hope to achieve in a lifetime and he is here joined today by the unbelievably talented maestros of rock mayhem Dai Pritchard on slide and lead, Bob Spencer on guitar and John “Watto” Watson – drums. All of these men have held firm the Australian rock place in music history and carried on the legacy of those lost to time. Those we sung the anthems with as much as those who wrote and performed them, Rose Tattoo in this current form, carry such an important legacy under the crossed banners of the iconic serpents aloft the adorning rose and that of the Eureka flag. Bonded by the songs, the camaraderie of the genre, the belief in the band or the heritage here represented, this room, this crowd, men and women, shoulder to shoulder today, blood brothers one and all.
The ferocity and strength of Angry Anderson in his vocal delivery is scarcely believable, but having an insight into the man himself, I realise the memory of band brothers past would be driving him through this set list and they would be with him on stage in spirit. The anthems are played by the band in resolute commitment to their original manifestations and as I gaze up at the skill of Dai Pritchard, I cannot help but feel that the man who personally approved his taking over the slide duties of the late, great Peter Wells would be thrilled with his magnificent performance. A ‘stage presence’ archetype and monster axeman Dai Pritchard could be on stage all by himself for hours on end, and command attention for every second of performance.
The skills of all the band members need no particular superfluities, if indeed such a word can be used in the same sentence as Rock n Roll Outlaw, but needless to say that the experience and passion or each protagonist is reflected in their powerful delivery. I’m quite certain that I am not alone in enjoying a gig until the end, but generally quite satisfied to take my recollections home with me to my comfy chair, but this is one of those rare shows where I wish it would start all over again. My mind is awash with memories prompted by the assortment of staples, featured on the soundtrack of my life. My body shudders with the excitement of screaming lyrics back at the band with an entire room of people hurling what voice they have left in accompanying celebration of a mighty Aussie rock band doing what only Aussie rock bands can. My chest bursts with pride that I have been a proud follower for so many years and my rock heart bleeds for the brothers long gone. This is the one place I can be loud and proud of who screams from within and my own ink finds its meaning among the revellers. My
Angry spared us from all but the most important of politically motivated narrations and all present are pleased to hear his words. His reflections on current affairs are seldom delivered to a Rose Tattoo crowd but those assembled certainly are made privy to, or reminded of the spirit that Rose Tattoo stand for. With his bottle of Stones Ginger Wine in hand and freedom yearned within his heart, Angry imparts words of tremendous importance.
As a Eureka flag is offered forth from the crown and emotional Angry replied with ‘oh no brother, not those colours’. As he accepts the flag you realise his emotional investment for so many decades in all that is ‘justice and right’ and his plea is merely a ploy to hold back the rush of emotions that this banner carries in his heart. Of the twenty two who died at the Eureka Stockade and everything that flag has represented since. The entire show could not close without a symbolic draping of this standard over the mic stand as the parting vision and the sole standing element before the Rose Tattoo emblem. Angry and the band leave the stage with this symbol for us all to ponder.
Today was a historic moment for all who bore witness to the magnificence of Rose Tattoo and all that they have and continue to stand for. No encore, no bullshit. Just rock hard and iconic, raw Rose Tattoo. Renditions of Bad Boy For Love, Rock n Roll Outlaw and We Can’t Be Beaten that were so powerful, loud and celebrated so thoroughly by the crowd that I’m quite certain sent the pigeons at Flinders Street startled to flight and play stopped at Etihad while the umpires sang a line or two in accompaniment.
The better part of eight years since the band has toured and here we are witness to why they are begged to return regularly to Europe. Have we lost sight of what treasures we have residing in on our own soil, or dare I challenge that perhaps we have lost the spirit of Aussie rock and roll somewhere back in the 80’s. With sensational performers like the mighty Airbourne spending most of their time overseas and Palace Of The King being yearned for in Europe like long lost lovers, one cannot help but wonder where the legacy of rock in Australia will come to lay. But after witnessing the celebration of Rose Tattoo here today, and seeing the resurgences of mighty bands like The Screaming Jets, Baby Animals, The Angels, Chocolate Starfish and Jet, coupled with the rise of acts like Dellacoma, Twelve Foot Ninja and the celebration of great bands like Tonight Alive, my hope is rekindled. Sparked and spurred on by the thought that great, iconic bands will march as one with Rose Tattoo carrying the standard aloft will rekindle the celebration of Australian Rock and our hard rockin’ heart will be thumped with a death defying defibrillation and Aussie rock will rise once again as the revered world leader in rock n roll.
Wouldn’t that make the past champions of music proud of what they achieved in their day, and what we can do in ours to ensure every band in every state, has an audience every day and a stable future in their chosen vocation. But for now, thank you Rose Tattoo for keeping the faith and fighting the fight. Thank you dear reader for entertaining the fire spurred within me, all prompted by a mighty rock n roll band in Rose Tattoo. If I have successfully conveyed an accurate picture of what was stirred within me, then you have a reasonable but peripheral snapshot of what we all witnessed here today at the hands of legends, Rose Tattoo.
Review and Photos Contributed by Casper