THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED JOSE SANCHEZ
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED JOSE SANCHEZ
Review Cassandra Hale
The Doobie Brothers’ debut self titled album was released in 1971, which coincidentally is the same year I was born. It is hard to believe this ridiculously tight unit have been playing their sensational tunes for 45 years and still sound as fresh as a daisy today. Jesus is Just Alright opened the night with a bang, and they were off and Rockin’ Down the Highway much to the delight of the cheering fans. While it was not a rowdy crowd, it was a very appreciative one, thoroughly enjoying the music many of them had grown up with.
The set list of 16 was the perfect length and mix of their back catalogue, including Takin’ It To The Streets, Music is the Doctor, Black Water and China Grove just to name a few. Their commitment to making great music covering many genres such as bluegrass, country and rock and roll is evident in every song they sing. Their enjoyment is obvious which makes for a very pleasurable experience for all in the venue.
Having sold over 48 million albums worldwide is such a testament to this band which has stood the test of time, being no mean feat in todays music climate. The harmonies were brilliant and musically they were faultless, with a sax solo that had to be seen to be believed. Truly a delight to every ones ears, we knew it couldn’t go on forever but we were all hopeful for a few more.
After a brief exit the boys were back doing what they do best, keeping everyone rocking the night away with Without You. Of course the night would not be complete without the classic Listen to the Music, and what a finisher it was! Everyone was up and dancing, enjoying a sing-a-long with these ‘too cool for school’ performers. I must admit I was sad it was over and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
It was certainly a much more dynamic stage setup for Santana, with his entourage of drummers and percussionists a sight to behold. I was immediately struck by Santana’s low key approach to his music. Whilst he might be maestro of his trade you would never now it, so very humble and just enjoying himself without being showy or arrogant. His unique wailing rang out for all to enjoy with a fantastic choice of songs including Maria Maria, Foo Foo and A Love Supreme to warm up the adoring fans. Then it was time to sail away with Orinoco Flow, I absolutely loved this rocked up version and it seemed to be enjoyed by all.
Santana’s choice of singers was spot on, this dynamic duo sang the night away as well as keeping all the additional percussion instruments covered. One half of this duo, Ray Greene was exceptional, but not just his voice, his trombone skills were exceptional, and I must add he was clearly a doppelganger for Seal, and had the voice to match.
I loved the interaction and brief chats with the captivated audience. Santana’s message was one of love and beauty and a hope to change the world with people power, which was a welcome change and kept to the spiritual theme of the night. The classic Santana sound was almost mesmerising and one could not help but sway in your seat with a little shoulder shimmy thrown in for good measure.
The Zombies cover She’s Not There, followed up by Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone were a fantastic combination and at times it was hard to determine the end and beginning of songs as they just flowed into one another with ease. With only a few solos of his own it was evident that it was not the Carlos Santana show but a group effort from all on stage and it worked perfectly. There was not a lot of guitar changes with Santana favouring his signature PRS Goldtop for the duration of the show, and while we all knew this man could play, to see it in the flesh was sensational.
Black Magic Woman brought everyone to their feet, dancing in their seats, singing along hoping to hold onto this amazing spectacle for as long as they could. After a few more songs it was time for the drum/percussion solos, and they blew it right out of the arena. Santana’s wife Cindy Blackman Santana was a machine and I was surprised to see her kit still standing at what can only be described as a total assault to your senses and your ear drums!
While Smooth may have been lacking the vocals of Rob Thomas, this was no cause for concern, the singers were fabulous and the song was a sensational way to see out the night. Love, Peace and Happiness ended it all, and I think it was Santana’s intention for us all to take these three simple things away with us and hopefully make the world a better place. With just a quick wave goodbye the two hour show was over, but I can assure you not one fan left disappointed.
Review Cassandra Hale
It was evident the bedazzlers had been in overdrive leading up to the Dixie Chicks sold out shows at Rod Laver Arena. With no rhinestone left unturned the hoards boot scooted their way down Batman Avenue for a night of country tunes with this terrific trio.
Avalanche City hailing from New Zealand was the warm up to get the nights proceedings underway. Dave Baxter has had huge success in his homeland and showed us why he has several number one hits in the New Zealand charts with songs such as Love, Love, Love and Inside Out. A solid 45 minute set was enjoyed by all. I don’t think he had the lighting he deserved, and I found it difficult to see the band for quite a bit of their performance.
A disclaimer was read several times on entry to Rod Laver Arena stating the show was being filmed for a DVD, which answered a few questions as to why the roadies were wearing surgical booties, clearly they were keeping the stage super clean for the DVD footage. Michael Chugg even graced the stage reminding us yet again that we were being recorded. With all the housekeeping taken care of it was time to get on with the show.
Due to the filming the house lights were not dropped which I did not like, but it didn’t seem to worry the fans too much. Let’s Go Crazy by Prince rang out which built the anticipation a notch or two until it was finally time for the Dixie Chicks to take the stage.
Opening with The Long Way Around to thunderous applause the Dixie Chicks were off and running in what would be a huge two hour show filled with plenty of hits to keep everyone satisfied. Some Days You Gotta Dance did just that and everyone was on there feet enjoying the spectacle. With a stage of all black and white and outfits to match the Chicks looked pristine and all class as they played their hearts out to the adoring fans. A beautiful tribute to Prince with Nothing Compares to You brought tears to many an eye, the man himself would have been proud, they did an amazing job.
Taking the show down to stools and minimal instruments in front of a curtain at the front of the stage was a nice touch, it gave an intimacy that we are not often shown in big stage shows. The girls had changed their clothes from ‘black and white’ to ‘white and black’ keeping in the theme of the night. Their bluegrass roots shone through during this set and it was a part of the show I really enjoyed. Travelin’ Soldier, Don’t Let Me Die in Florida and Daddy Lessons were a few played before the girls did a cracker of a bluegrass instrumental. The musical talent these three have is evident in every song they played and Natalie’s voice was pitch perfect in every word she sang. It was wonderful to see that three of the backing band hail from Australia, a real credit to them, and not too shabby to put on your resume.
Back to the main stage and the floor that was black was now white, still fitting in with the colour free theme. Ready to Run was fabulous and clearly a fan favourite, finishing with confetti cannons from all corners of Rod Laver Arena. The variety of cowboy boots on display was fascinating, fringes adorned every second person in some way shape or form, as did the cowboy hats and I think there might have been a sale on pink ones as they were the choice of many.
The Fleetwood Mac cover of Landslide was beautifully performed, backed up with Cowboy Take Me Away, Wide Open Spaces and Sin Wagon to finish out the set.
I can’t recall exactly what song it was but I believe it may have been Sin Wagon when the square dancing ensued on the floor, the camera man made a mad dash to film it, so there is no doubt it will make the DVD. Well done to the participants you dosey doe’d quite unlike anyone I have seen before!
A brief moment or two and it was into the encore, Not Ready to Make Nice had this country loving crowd kicking up their heels and eager for one more. A cover of Ben Harper’s Better Way rained out giving the fans the chant they had been waiting for. They sang back with gusto, loving every minute. The two hours flew by but I am sure many will be back for the second show on Sunday night.
While my hat may not be of the cowboy variety, I would still take it off and say job well done, a very entertaining show!
Review Cassandra Hale
Last night it was back to 170 Russell, a great intimate venue to get up close with your favourite bands. I do enjoy gigs at 170 Russell but it is not known for its ventilation and Melbourne had dealt us another hot day so we all knew what to expect. I really must point out that I think the lack of lighting is bordering on dangerous, my point was definitely proven when I entered the ladies only to find a man walking out, he looked as confused as I did, it was so dark you could not see the men from the women. Not that there were many women, we seemed to be outnumbered 100 to 1. I found a nice spot a little distance from the stage under an industrial fan which served to keep me cool all night
Thy Art is Murder played a short set of 45 minutes to an enthusiastically brutal fan base, this deathcore band hailing from Sydney relished in the craziness their fans brought to the floor, the singer even taking to the crowd for a surf. While deathcore is not necessarily a genre I enjoy I can see that the black t-shirt clan that turned out definitely did. Singer, Chris McMahon had a few chats with the audience stating his struggles with drugs over the past year and advising everyone to be sensible, and enjoy life, hopefully his words were taken on board, you never know it might save someone’s life.
Swedish extreme metal band Meshuggah have a massive following in Melbourne, with tonight being one of two shows at 170 Russell, if merchandise was anything to go by there were plenty of t-shirts getting a run! An hour and a half set comprising of 14 songs played out to intense moshing and head banging. Clockworks, Born in Dissonance and Sane a terrific opening trifecta to set the tone for how the evening would play out. The sound was sharp and the lighting and laser shows were a spectacle worthy of White Night! The top twelve songs finished up with Bleed a definite crowd favourite. Heads were nodding on auto pilot, all totally consumed in the music, some even with eyes closed completed absorbed in sound enjoying every last second, or maybe just giving their retinas a rest from the fierce light show.
Lead vocalist Jens Kidman was a man of very few words, just a quick hello and thanks for your support, I would have liked to see a little bit more interaction with the crowd but clearly it didn’t seem to worry them much. A never ending steam of bodies surfed over the top during the course of the night, many coming down to earth with a mighty thud, and maybe a broken rib or two. Security was working overtime and it is one profession I definitely do not envy. I watched the sweaty bodies bouncing around from the comfort of my breezy position and was very happy with my fore thinking.
An encore of two comprising Demiurge and Future Breed Machine got fists pumping and sweat flying for the final few minutes, the moshers not wasting a single note of the Swedish metal machine that is Meshuggah in full flight.
The army of spent fans filtered out onto Russell Street another awesome gig under their belts, and I am sure a large portion will be back again tomorrow to do it all again.
Review Cassandra Hale
Last night I found myself back at the Melbourne Zoo for the second time in a week. Once again I will sing the praises of the Zoo for these concerts, great venue, easy parking, helpful staff and security, very well run events.
After grabbing a patch of grass it was time for the opening act Gabriella Cohen, who wandered on to the stage sipping peppermint tea which gave you the feel for how the set would go down. Very laid back, very folky, and if you could imagine a female version of Bob Dylan singing you would have her pegged perfectly. Gabriella has a very unique style, and after singing the first three songs solo she had a violin/guitarist join her on stage for a song before adding the bass player and drummer to the mix. The crowd enjoyed the easy listening warm up for the night and offered Gabriella and her band a warm round of applause at the end of their performance. I must say I did find it odd that they played with their backs to the audience for some of the songs, but who am I to judge, each to their own.
Eight o’clock on the dot and The Living End make their presence known in an amazing ‘Twangin at Twilight’ set. I never thought I would be writing a review that mentioned The Living End and String Quartet in the same sentence let alone playing together. But it worked outstandingly well, opening with Moment in the Sun and CCR cover Lookin’ Out My Back Door to get everyone swinging. The violins and cello were beautiful and while I did not catch the musicians names they deserve a huge wrap for their wonderful talent. On with the twang and into Raise The Alarm, Eleanor Rigby (Beatles cover) and West End Riot. It was interesting to hear these favourites slowed down and acoustic, and certainly whet the appetite for what the rest of the nights events would hold. We could all see the full drum kit and mass of amps just teasing us, but patience is a virtue and only one more song until we got the full assault that is The Living End live! For Another Day wrapped up the ‘Twangin at Twilight’ set but it was not the last we would see of the string quartet for the evening.
A quick stage clean up and the boys were back and in cracking form belting out Monkey, Second Solution and Roll On. While everyone lounged on their picnic blankets for the first set they were all on their feet now lapping up the awesomeness that is The Living End. The set list comprised hit after hit and the latest release Staring Down the Barrel was a great addition and sounded first rate.
Chris Cheney has to be one of the most underrated guitar players that Australia has to offer, his skills were showcased last night with some finger blistering solos including a hillbilly finger picking fest that showed his lightning speed and proved that Chris holds his own with the best of them. While on the subject of Chris Cheney, full credit to his guitar tech, Chris has more guitar changes than I have had hot dinners and the pressure on his tech to get it right is huge. Job well done!
Scott Owen is another freak of nature, his iconic double bass makes The Living End what they are and provides the sound we all know and love. It wouldn’t be a Living End gig without him jumping up on top of his double bass to play a few notes and thrill the crowds.
The time keeper of these Three Wise Monkeys, Andy Strachan showed his playful side last night wrapping a bra over his head which had landed on stage. It was hilarious, that was until Chris reminded him that his daughter was watching from the side-lines, bra exits stage right at rapid speed. It certainly gave everyone a giggle. Andy’s chops were perfect as always and kept this tight-knit trio on schedule for every song.
The string quartet took the stage and accompanied the band for How Do We Know, it sounded fantastic, a real highlight of the night. I am still amazed at how they slotted in so perfectly.
Dan Sultan joined the boys to play a few songs, one of his, one of theirs and a Bill Haley cover. His song Fear of Flying was a terrific choice, then on to White Noise where Chris and Dan shared the vocals. Rock this Joint (Bill Haley cover) really did get the whole place rockin’ and the sax and trumpet players that joined them were sensational.
Out rings Who’s Gonna Save Us? then the song that needs no introduction Prisoner of Society, what an absolute cracker to see out what has been a fantastic night of live music. After seeing two brilliant Australian bands within a week, it really brings to the forefront how much impressive talent we have right on our doorstep. Get out there and see a live band, support these hard working musicians so they will still be there for future generations to enjoy.
Review Cassandra Hale
Is the Melbourne Zoo the right venue for live music? Well, after attending my first Zoo Twilight session last night I can answer that with a resounding, Hell Yes! The Melbourne Zoo is a fantastic venue for this type of show, it caters for everyone with many seating options and plenty of food and drink for those who didn’t bring their own along. You can choose to take a picnic blanket, a low back chair or a regular camp chair and that determines where you sit. This idea works well and no matter where you sit you can see the stage, which is set quite high to allow everyone a perfect view. If taking your own picnic basket is not quite your thing you can order a hamper ready to collect at an extra cost, which seemed quite a popular option.
Australian singer/songwriter Abbe May took the stage first up to perform a short set of six or seven songs. I have seen Abbe May last year touring with Peter Garrett and enjoy her laid back style. Performing as a solo artist can be difficult but Abbe May has everything covered with her ‘band in a box’ set up that works extremely well. Her sound is funky at times, relaxed at times and overall enjoyable to listen to. She finished her set with Doomsday Clock, which is a song I really like and I definitely recommend checking out Abbe May if you haven’t already.
It was about this time when the Zoo’s bats made a mass exodus overhead, quite a spectacle to see. While they were not noisy you definitely couldn’t miss them.
Formed in 1996 Killing Heidi hail from a small Victorian dot on the map called Violet Town. Brother and sister duo Jesse and Ella Hooper took Australia by storm with their unique sound and colourful hairstyles. After a very successful career the band took time out to pursue other avenues, and it is then that The Verses was born. This folkish sound the siblings produced was different from Killing Heidi but eerily familiar at the same time.
Ten years later the band is back together and performing to rave reviews. The energy of the nineties is still running rife and the enjoyment they are having is evident in every song. The sound was crisp and Ella was on point in everything she did. Sassy, sexy and still having all the right dance moves, she did not miss a beat the whole performance, very, very impressive. The connection between brother and sister is clear and Jesse chats to the audience nearly as much as Ella which shows they are really in this together as a team.
After a few songs to get everyone in the mood, they took it back to their first song Kettle which started the ball rolling with Triple J Unearthed all those years ago. Plenty of songs in between and then it was Live Without It and Heaven Sent all performed faultlessly. Jesse dedicated the next song Superman/Supergirl a personal favourite of mine, to his wife who was in the audience. We sometimes forget that musicians have families at home that miss seeing them while they are busy performing for our enjoyment. It was during this song that Ella’s microphone went into meltdown, no problem, Ella just grabs her brothers until another one gets passed out, that’s great in theory if the new one worked, but it didn’t so it was back to Jesse’s again. Ella remained calm throughout, ever the professional and handled the whole situation with ease. Not so much as a swearword or nasty glance, she just got on with it!
There were a few of The Verses songs thrown in and one of Ella’s solo tracks Monkey Mind which were all well received by the enthusiastic crowd.
After advising there will be no encores, ‘we will just play’, that’s exactly what they did, the two we had all been waiting for, Mascara and Weir. The crowd were all on their feet, singing and cheering enjoying every minute. From the start of the show to the very last note the enjoyment and energy was contagious from this fantastic front woman.
All wrapped up by 9.15pm it was time to head out, here comes my only complaint of the night, a little bit more lighting was needed for those who had parked at the front gate and had to walk back through the zoo. It was really difficult to see.
For those of you who are yet to see Killing Heidi, go and buy the tickets and support this amazing Australian band, you will not be disappointed. While I still do not know who the hell Heidi is they absolutely kill her every time they take the stage!
Review Cassandra Hale
As I turned into Russell Street the temperature clicked over to 38 degrees and all I could think was how hot it would be in 170 Russell, it is a terrific venue to see bands up close but is definitely not known for its ventilation! My assumptions were proven to be correct and by the close of proceedings it was stifling. The line of ‘mature’ aged fans snaked across the front and around the corner of the club, everyone lining up for the precious front row, or to nab a seat, which were few and far between.
After finding what I hoped would be a safe spot to stand, Caligula’s Horse took the stage right on time to perform a short five song set. This enthusiastic band from Brisbane wowed the crowd, and I must say, me as well. I had not seen them before and was pleasantly surprised. They were quite humbled that they were supporting their idols Opeth, stating it was fulfilling a childhood dream. Formed in 2011, and producing an album every two years since they had plenty of ammunition to warm up the metal-head army. It was impressive to see the crowd so receptive of them, and supporting our home grown talent.
Opeth, the masters of progressive metal have returned to our shores yet again following the release of their latest album Sorceress. The Sorceress World Tour even included a sold out show at the iconic Sydney Opera House to rave reviews. We can only hope that on the back of its success it will open the door for more of the same.
Playing two capacity shows in Melbourne once again confirms that we are the home of live music and a testament to heavy metals fans across Victoria.
Drinks were disappearing at a rapid rate to try and ease the oppressive heat, this definitely kicked the rowdiness levels up a notch or two. The buzz in the air was what can only be described as electric, the hum growing louder by the second as the start time approached.
To say the crowd went a little bit crazy as Opeth took the stage would be an understatement, 170 Russell erupted with screaming and metal fingers in abundance. The impressive peacock that graces the cover of the new album Sorceress was a majestic backdrop as the boys launched into the title track of the album. Heads were banging on autopilot, some more enthusiastic than others but all nodding none the less. I was shocked by the amount of tall people or maybe it was just the size of their hair that had me dodging to get a clear view.
Opeth has a style all of their own and while many have tried to replicate it, none will ever take their place. The set list may only have been ten songs long, but given then length of the songs it filled the one hour and forty minutes perfectly. Front man Mikael Akerfeldt worked the crowd amazingly, his calming voice delivering some of the wittiest one liners I have heard in a long while. His banter with the fans was fantastic, even answering a drunk question or two yelled out during the silence between songs.
Faces of Melinda and Windowpane were crowd favourites, with a mosh pit forming early on in the night and ebbing and flowing depending on the song. The melodic sounds were pure perfection matched with the full on hardcore metal that they are renowned for. The Drapery Falls rang out as the last song for the night and the masses exploded, sweaty hair whipping and some pretty funky smells to match. It was clear to all in the venue that Opeth really are the Masters of their trade.
We were all hopeful for ‘one more song’ and after numerous chanting they returned for just that. As the familiar opening notes of Deliverance rang out mass hysteria ensued. The whole floor became a giant mosh pit and it was every man and woman for themselves for the final 13 minute song. Bows and promises to return finished out the night. Opeth can only be described as polished perfection, their experience was evident in every song they sang and I can see why they are admired by so many.
As we spilled out on to Russell Street hoping for cooler air we were sadly disappointed to find it was still 30 degrees. Yes, it was stinking hot, yes, I was exhausted and, yes, I would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Review Cassandra Hale
The heavens opened relentlessly as the crowds made their way to Margaret Court Arena for a night of ear ringing bliss. There was nowhere to hide and the end result was a lot of people’s makeup looking like Alice Cooper’s without even trying! It was a young demographic, balanced by a few parents making the trip to escort their kids to what would be an amazing night of music with all the bells and whistles.
Kicking off proceedings was Australian band Hands Like Houses, they were well received by the crowd and have been touring enough of late to be a familiar name and sound for the screaming hoards. Their most recent release Dissonants is a terrific mix of clean versus dirty lyrics which is well balanced, and if full on screamo isn’t quite your thing you would enjoy Hands Like Houses.
While She Sleeps took the stage, immediately starting a circle pit and getting the fans pumping for the night to come. They were last on our shores for Soundwave four years ago and have been touring heavily of late. Their latest album You Are We is due for release in April this year, and while vocalist Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor admitted to having a throat like ‘Razors’ it definitely did not hold him back. Hurricane from the new album was a fantastic mix of almost choir like melodies mixed with screaming metalcore, a taste of what to expect on the new album. Loz joined the crowd in the pit for a sing-a-long, then clearly spent, laid on the stage to finish the out the song and gather some much-needed energy. The band were tight and left nothing in the tank as they left the stage.
A quick trip down memory lane to 2007, Gigantour, Festival Hall Melbourne, I was waiting backstage to meet Megadeth and a group of young boys from Sheffield London stuck their heads around the corner to sign autographs for some squealing fans. That was my first sighting of Bring Me The Horizon, and ten years later they are selling out multiple nights at Margaret Court Arena, a real credit to them in what can be a very tough industry to break into. Bring Me The Horizon has gone from strength to strength and amassed a huge fan base along the way. After canceling tours in September last year due to illness to boys were back and they weren’t just in fine form, they blew it out of the park, leaving no stone unturned in what was to be a killer night for all.
Opening with Happy Song off their latest album That’s The Spirit, I was thankful for my trusty ear plugs as the crowd went crazy. An amazing spectacle of smoke cannons, shooting streamers and screens lit up like Times Square were quite amazing and really showed that Bring Me The Horizon are living up to the huge expectations placed on their shoulders. A set list of 15 covered everything the screaming fans wanted, including Avalanche, Chelsea Smile, Shadow Moses and the much awaited Doomed.
A mass of circle pits, walls of death and crowd surfing matched the wicked sounds and thumping bass lines that shook through everyone in the arena. Flashing strobes mixed with awesome lighting and digital backdrops heated up Margaret Court to boiling point, when mixed with the thousands of hot sweaty bodies only needed a stray spark to start one hell of a fire. I really enjoyed the combination of percussionist and drummer, they played well off each other and added another layer to what was a polished performance by all band members.
Oliver Sykes delivers what a great front man should, the fans love him and are happy to oblige when he screamed, ‘push it back’ or ‘make a wall’, they did it with passion no matter what injuries they may suffer in the clash of the masses. Announcing he was happy to high five fans if they made the surf across the top, lead to a ‘surfin safari’ like no other, Oliver slapping sweaty hands as they were delivered above the hoards by the many hard working security guards.
Throne was the twelfth song but we all knew they had a few more in reserve, saving some of the best for last. A short break for a minute of two before they were back at it again, smoke cannons on steroids and fans in a frenzy as True Friends rang out. We all know that ‘true friends stab you in the front’ and there were hundreds of t-shirts telling you so in case you missed that memo. This was followed with Oh No and of course the one everyone was waiting for Drown. Smoke and confetti rained down on the fans, many shirtless, many shoeless and many in need of a shower. It was done for night one, but Bring Me The Horizon will be back to do it all again Monday tonight and I’m sure many fans will be returning again to get another fix. It was clear as an outsider that Bring Me The Horizon didn’t just bring the horizon to the fans they brought them the world.
Review contributed by Cassandra Hale
The Melbourne weathers Gods had thrown us into the deep end again, with torrential rains to start the day, I was holding out hope it would stop before my journey into town began. Things were looking promising, until the last five minutes of the walk to Rod Laver Arena when the heavens opened yet again. With nowhere to run it was just a case of suck it up and get wet. With luck on my side I made it to dry ground without getting drowned, others were not so fortunate.
As it happens Margaret Court Arena was hosting WWE that coincided with Keith Urban and as I was waiting for my tickets at the box office I was taken back to my childhood when I would watch WWE and Wrestlemaina. I did second guess myself as the WWE fans streamed past, did I have the right night?? was I in the right place?? Then low and behold a mass of cowboy boots and plaid shirts filed past, and I knew I was OK. I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of cowboys boots on display in any one place ever before, they were the equivalent of the ‘black t-shirt’ at a heavy metal gig. People watching is never boring, an entertaining way to fill in a few minutes.
Tickets in hand it was on to delve into a night of country music in what I thought would be quite a low-key show and given the older demographic of fans perhaps no need for ear plugs. As it turns out I was terribly mistaken on all levels!
I had no background knowledge of Carrie Underwood, other than her American Idol history, winning the fourth season in 2005, I can now say WOW what a set of pipes this country girl has. Carrie engaged the audience well and they loved every second. The hits flew out, Undo It, Church Bells, Wasted to name just a few. Dirty Laundry was a song I really enjoyed, from the 2015 album Storyteller, the fans loved it too, singing along to every word. With lines like “all the Ajax in the world ain’t gonna clean your dirty laundry’ what’s not to love. A few more hits followed then on to a rousing cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, accompanied by only a guitarist and a stool she did a cracking job of this beautiful song made famous by Whitney Houston. The songs rolled on with a set of about 14 tunes, everyone was dancing and clapping along thoroughly enjoying the performance. The stage was well set up and the big screens showed the people in the back stalls everything they may miss out on. Dueling violin players added to the country-themed night perfectly. Carrie looked amazing, and clearly she is never too far from a gym. She was the perfect opener for Keith Urban and set the tone for what was in store for the night ahead.
I must say during the interval it was a site to behold watching the stage be completely remodeled. In most shows the support act plays in front of the main acts equipment, well, not in this case, the whole stage was completely removed and a new one erected. I have never in all my times attending concerts seen the amount of roadies on the stage as I did last night, I lost count at 20. They worked together in unison to rebuild the stage to suit Keith and his band with ease, it was quite incredible to watch the transformation.
Then it was time for the main man, Rod Laver Arena exploded as Keith Urban took the stage, opening with the terrific hit Long Hot Summer. All of the favourites were there, Worry ‘Bout Nothin’, Cop Car, Days Go By, the list goes on. We have all watched Keith on The Voice and said, wow what a ‘great guy’, I can tell you after seeing last night’s show, is he is so much more than a ‘great guy’!! After the first few songs he tried to read a sign a girl a few rows behind me held up, when he couldn’t quite read it so he invited her down on stage, the sign read to the likes of ‘let me tick this off my bucket list by getting a hug from you’, he happily obliged then invited the girls’ brother down on stage to share the experience, selfies with the crowd behind them followed and some terrific banter that made a story to tell for generations to follow for the young girl from Kilmore and her brother, a night they will never forget.
Carrie returned to the stage for a fantastic duet of the single Fighter off the current album Ripcord. Then they both sang a fabulous rendition of ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, originally sung by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. There was a guitar change for Keith with almost every song, his collection I am sure would be the envy of every budding guitarist around. The band was faultless even changing up the guitars for banjos and a mandolin over the course of the show. The drum machine worked well in addition to the classic drum kit, and added that little bit of electronics where necessary. Keith’s guitars and banjo no matter which one he played seemed to fit to his body as if he was born with it strapped on, (maybe it was? – Editor) always looking so easy and natural, and boy can he shred, his skills were shown off all night, but never cocky, just flawless.
Then to everyone’s amazement, Keith with band in tow made their way through the adoring fans to the back of the venue where Stage B was set up with the basics for a few tunes with the back half of the venue. Keith asked them “how do you like your seats now?’ which was met with a thunderous applause. After a few tracks and a sweat filled towel flying to one very happy lady, it was time for my highlight of the night, Keith mentions how his guitar is feeling very ‘heavy’ and decided to take it off and sign it on the spot, then hands it to a young boy, maybe 12 or 13 years old, the look of shock, surprise and happiness on that boys face will stay with me for a very long time. The most humble of acts from this kind-hearted country singer that will change that young boys life forever. Such a genuine act of kindness from the ‘great guy’!
Then it was back to the main stage and on with the show. Now we have all seen a mirror ball or two in our times of nightclubs and disco’s but to put things into perspective, I have never seen one the size of a small car that was hanging from the roof of the arena last night. The effect was mind simply blowing, showering everyone in the most beautiful fairy lights, such an amazing sight. On with the songs and Little Bit of Everything rang out, followed by John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 with its lyrics of Jack and Diane, No Woman, No Cry and a little bit of So Lonely by the Police thrown in at the end. One of my favourites off the new album Ripcord was next, Wasted Time which I can only say was faultless. I have seen some confetti cannons in my time but when they are front and back of the arena as they were last night it was a showstopper like no other, a spectacular site throwing Rod Laver Arena into a wonderful almost winter like wonderland, once again Keith was remembering about the whole arena not just the fans in the front seats.
We know the end is nigh but no one is ready to go home, hoping for just a little bit more, and we were all rewarded with an encore of two acoustics including Stupid Boy which was pure perfection and the crowd favourite Raise ‘Em Up. The show is over but Keith still finds the time to say a few words to his fans, so gracious to the people who had traveled a long distance, or saved to buy a ticket, his words so genuine you could feel the love for his fans with every word that left his mouth. Keith then went on to shake hands and sign autographs long after his band had left the stage, more than just a rockstar, truly a ‘great guy’.
Review contributed by Cassandra Hale
The kite surfers were out in force on St Kilda Beach as I drove to the iconic Palais Theatre for a night of eighties inspired music. Being a child of the eighties I hold this time very close to my heart with a lot of happy memories. While there was not a huge amount of eighties inspired clothing the age bracket was very similar to myself with only a few exceptions. I find it hilarious that I can remember every line of any song from the eighties but sometimes I can’t remember what I walked into the next room for!
First up it was Howard Jones starting right on time which is always pleasing. The hits were flowing, No One is to Blame, Like to Get to Know You Well and Life in One Day. I enjoyed Howard’s insight into the lyrics of Life in One Day, it’s always interesting to understand how the mind of a songwriter works. Howard had his trusty Keytar on hand which he popped on and off what can only be described as an ironing board type stand when not in use. I did wonder how he would pull off his set with not a guitarist to be seen, but between his drummer and backup keyboard player they did a great job. I had to keep reminding myself that they were eighties tunes which were saturated with synthesizers, although Howard’s new tracks are heavily electronic, they still work well in 2016. Then it was on to What is Love?, a crowd favorite and you could quickly watch the phones being held up for a quick video. When I say quick, I really mean quick the ‘Fun Police’ were out in force tapping you on the shoulder should you try to grab a snippet of film to watch back later on. While I understand you go to the show not to film, it is always nice to grab a little moment of your favorite song to look back on.
Things Can Only Get Better was a fantastic finisher, it was at this time when everyone was dancing their hearts out that I noticed the lady in front of me was wearing a tulle skirt matched with a denim jacket, the memories flooded back of Blue Light Discos, V05 hairspray, double denim, and no responsibilities. Just when you think Howard had finished he strikes a button on his Apple Mac and you could be mistaken for thinking you were at a Rave Party, the fast paced dance version of Things Can Only Get Better was pumping out much to the crowds delight. A much different alternative from the original version. A huge applause followed and it was time for a short interval.
Then it was time for woman we had all been waiting for, Kim Wilde! Opening with her huge 1981 hit Chequered Love, one of my highlights of the night, the memories of watching the film clip on Countdown and wanting to be Kim looking super cool in the steamed up bathroom made me feel 10 again. Then it was on to View From a Bridge and Water on Glass a killer opening trifecta. Time for a quick chat with her audience then out rang the familiar opening of Cambodia another crowd favourite.
All the hits were there, If I Can’t Have You, You Came and You Keep me Hanging on just to name a few. These mixed nicely with the classic cover of Forever Young and many more Kim Wilde classics.
The fans screamed for more and Kim delivered with a fantastic tribute to the late Pete Burns with You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), her outfit completed with a top hat and red feather boa! This was extremely well received by the audience consisting of a majority of 80’s fans. Then the song we had all been waiting for Kids in America, and it was well worth the wait, Kim belted it out much to the delight of her captivated audience, everyone dancing and singing at the top of their voices. The audience participation was just right with everyone enjoying a sing-a-long over the course of the show. The band were terrific together with the extremely confident backup singer Scarlett whose hair matched her name to a T!.
The fans were on a high and hoping for one more song, although with all the classics covered what could possibly be left? Kim then took the stage with Howard Jones her brother Ricky Wilde and backup singer Scarlett to perform their rendition of God Only Knows originally performed by The Beach Boys. It was a lovely end to the night, although personally I think it would have fitted better at the beginning of the encore and finishing with Kids in America, which really left everyone buzzing. Kim credited a lot of her music and songwriting to her brother Ricky, who played guitar and sang backing vocals in the show, the amazing pipes definitely run in the family.
As the crowd left the Palais Theatre and the first drops of rain started to fall, I can guarantee that everyone took a little slice of the eighties home with them, a step back in time to remember, and maybe, just maybe a picture or two.