ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED TESS
THE DEAN WEEN GROUP
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED SHANE HENDERSON
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED LYNDA BUCHANAN
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED SHANE HENDERSON
Ah yes, the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. What more appropriate and august chamber, firmly established in the annals of rock history and live performance, could be more suited to present such a rock icon as Mr Robert Plant and his assembly of sensational accompanying musicians.
No prizes for guessing the demographic represented, but those assembled were bursting with excitement to see the voice of Led Zepplin and creator of more contemporary musical fare. As one entered the venue and enjoyed the opening offerings from the splendid, gifted and vastly entertaining Seth Lakeman, there presented sufficing time to ponder the reality of what we were so close to experiencing. And perhaps this is another string of talent to the bow of Robert Plant, in selecting an opening act who is so very skillful and impressive, yet somehow seems to help build the excitement for the evening’s main event. Please pardon the ‘string’ pun there Seth, but with such an array of stringed instruments aloft on stage and at your command, one can be forgiven methinks. With such splendid storytelling and musical skill, Seth thrilled the audience most when we joined in with glasses raised high and cries of “raise your glass to the one you love” but for me the highlight was the title track from his 2004 album Kitty Jay. You really do become lost in the Seth Lakeman show when enjoying such well written aural delights and mouth agape in awe of his amazing skill with all that is stringed, but welcome news arrived upon finale that he would be back a little later. Those already familiar with the show know that Seth is back to join the Sensational Space Shifters throughout the evening.
And so to the main event and as the crowd settles in an odd silence, the reality hits that we are about to receive a visit from a genuine rock deity. As the Sensational Space Shifters introduce the opener before a most apt backing banner bearing of a crown of feathers (the modern standard illustrated within the covers of Carry Fire) the legend appears. Now reality nestles firmly at the fore as Mr Robert Plant steps onto the stage. The privilege one feels to be able to enjoy this rock legend, fifty years on from Led Zeppelin beginnings and during his 70th year among we, the mere mortals is scarcely describable. In think the word humbling will suffice. My own bewildered glee is akin to the youthful exuberance of Roberts’s musical beginnings, behind a curtain and before French windows, mimicking Elvis at the age of ten. A kid before Christmas, running rampant in a moment of timeless wonder as Robert brings lips to mic and the unmistakable voice brings together daydream with reality. It’s really him. The voice that has provided the influence and inspiration to literally, generations of performers and carries such a vast chunk of rock history, brings the feelings of genuine honor and privilege. From the first notes, comes the thrill that our musical master still ‘feels’ every note to his very soul as he accompanies every sound with his special array of stage movements, as though squeezing the musical magnificence to the fore.
Before long, time returns to its usual pace and I realise that the Sensational Space Shifters are live and in person also. An assembly of true musical masters, each celebrated in their own right, but here together put on such a phenomenally magnificent show, but what else could tease the spotlight away from Robert but stellar accompaniment. From the magical rhythm infusion provided by Billy Fuller on both double and shoulder slung bass, misery stick, to the outrageously talented and musically magnificent Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson on acoustic and electric guitar along with a seriously sensational helping of electric banjo, this ensemble is just built to thrill. John Baggott at the keys keeps the audience well and truly engaged in providing the prompts for clapping and knee slipping, but performing in such an entertaining manner. Justin Adams is an astonishing guitarist and played literally until his fingers bled, presumably. Wrong Adams for that track I know, but after leaving each solo and strumming sensation with vigorous shaking of the hands, this guy gives more to his performance than we can reasonably expect. Absolutely amazing work resulting in some of the most astonishing and animated guitar performances one could ever wish to experience.
David Smith on drums was afforded more than a little ribbing for feeling unwell and apparently coming very close to skipping the gig, but surely all in jest as an ‘in’ joke because his performance was brilliant.
But this entire performance was nothing short of legendary for the observer, but mere daily business for such a skilful band. All the musical delights bound together with offerings and oddities from our beloved host, from “I made some new friends today, they make as much sense as everybody else…they’re called penguins” to a brief history of the introduction of the sukey jumps of the south bringing Gallows Pole a most warm reception, the performance brought the man and his personality to us, as much as his music. And that music. Oh that music, from as recent a release as The May Queen to All The Kings Horses to songs ‘born on the side of a mountain in 1971, by the side of a waterfall, it was about 11 o’clock in the morning if I can remember rightly’, Misty Mountain Hop to That’s The Way, the expansive catalog was explored exquisitely. Even after a fitting description of his collaborations with Alison Kraus, Robert introduced Please Read The Letter which included a magnificent string accompaniment from Seth Lakeman back on stage. And a magnificent rendition of Fixin’ To Die, originally by Mr Bukka White was a chance for Justin Adams to showcase his particular skills. Just unbelievable.
A goodnight Melbourne was bought by no one, but a standing ovation was offered none the less. Not the first of the evening either. But the gang were back with no particular delay and were met with howls of celebration, because all knew it was not over until we had enjoyed some of the New World and the finale that would see all leave satisfied and fully spent, Whole Lotta Love. And so the finale was brought about and all were happy. As the crowds departed, I could see that I was not alone in wishing to share such a wealth of rock heritage with my children and mouths were agape in suitable reverence to all that had been witnessed. Thank you Robert and thank you all for bringing such a memorable highlight to the lives of so many. And you thought we were “just sitting there while you lot fuck about…”. Really? Wow. Thank you.
Review Contributed by Casper
In a world exclusive, Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson has announced she is coming to Australia to appear on stage in Sydney and Melbourne in NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE, a celebration of the music of Prince performed by musicians and singers that performed alongside him at various times of his career. NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE will premiere in Australia a week after the anniversary of Prince’s passing (April 21st, 2016) – playing at the Sydney Opera House on the 27th April and then play in Melbourne at Hamer Hall on the 29th April 2018.
“I am very excited about coming to Australia to celebrate the life of my Brother with you. Prince loved your country and enjoyed playing there! I look forward to joining the other wonderful singers and musicians on stage for NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE, and I hope to see and hug as many of Prince’s fans as I can off stage! See you in April,” said Tyka Nelson.
Tyka Nelson joins this unique celebration of a remarkable musical life which covers four decades of hits. Expect to hear such iconic songs such as ‘Purple Rain’, ‘1999’, ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘Raspberry Beret’, ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Kiss’, ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’. Classics he wrote for other artists will also be showcased including ‘Manic Monday’ (The Bangles), ‘The Glamorous Life’ (Sheila E.), and, of course, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. It will also feature a special, never heard before tribute by Tyka to her late brother that cannot be missed.
Directly following on from Celebration 2018 at Paisley Park (April 19-22) NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE features twelve performers, musicians, singers, producers and composers who, at various times, were directly involved in Prince’s incredible career – all co-conspirators in the creation of the music that changed the world. The line-up includes St. Paul Peterson, who was chosen by Prince to appear in Purple Rain and was later the original voice of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’; Cassandra O’Neal, keyboard player for Prince and The New Power Generation from 2009 to 2016, Tori Ruffin, lead guitarist with Morris Day & The Time , SHELBY J. (as named by Prince) who spent the last 10 years at his side as a lead vocalist in The New Power Generation, notably featured with him at Superbowl XLI, Collaborator, Stokley Williams of Mint Condition and Minneapolis All-Star, Jellybean Johnson of The Time, a high school friend, and along with Prince, one of the architects of The Minneapolis Sound; Ricky Peterson, who co-produced Prince’s ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’, a number one hit in Australia in 1994; The list continues with Andy Allo, collaborator Nik West plus members of The NPG Hornz.
“I am so excited to be coming back to Australia this April, heading up an All Star line up of singers and musicians to honour the incredible life and music of Prince. The entire band were fortunate to work with him, and we are honoured to keep his memory and music alive at the world premiere of NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE,” said St Paul Peterson, the show’s musical director and keyboard player.
“To say that I am excited to return to Australia to honor my friend, Prince, is an understatement. I was there with him for his Piano and a Microphone tour in 2016 and the memories are enormous. For me, this will be an emotional occasion and one of the hardest performances I will have done. I am HONORED and HUMBLED to work with these wonderful artists and musicians for this world premiere of NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE,”said Nik West.
NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE takes place a week after the anniversary of Prince’s passing and a special event at Paisley Park to mark this date. Celebration 2018 will take place between April 19-22, 2018 at Prince’s iconic home and creative sanctuary and will feature four days of live music and special events where many of the artists appearing in Australia will be playing too.
NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE – tickets on sale now.
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE: 27TH APRIL, 2018
MELBOURNE HAMER HALL 29TH APRIL, 2018
The NOTHING COMPARES 2 PRINCE line up:
Like her older brother, Music Legend Prince, Tyka Nelson grew up surrounded by music. The Minneapolis based artist is the daughter of Jazz singer Mattie Shaw and accomplished musician John L. Nelson. Growing up Tyka listened to Mahalia Jackson records and began singing at the age of 2. She wrote her first song at the ripe old age of 10. Tyka has a 4 octave range and plays 4 different instruments, piano, guitar, bass and clarinet but admits “I don’t consider myself a musician, I play, just well enough to put down my own musical ideas.”
Tyka has had people tell her that she often sounds like her older Brother, her reply is simply, “It is not my intent to sound like anyone else and I have strived to be original in everything I do. Even though my brother is someone I greatly love and respect, there can and will be only, one Prince.” With 4 CD’s under her belt Tyka wanted to honor the memory of the late musician with the release of a music video for her song “End of the Road” that takes fans on a journey through her and her brother’s early life together. “After Prince passed I wanted to give him one final birthday present and I decided to fulfill his wish, and record this song at Paisley Park,” she says. “This song poses the question ‘is this the End of The Road?’ and my answer is I don’t think so! I will see all three of my beautiful family members someday again.”
St Paul Peterson: Discovered at 17 by Prince, St Paul was hand picked to appear in the 1984 Grammy Award winning film Purple Rain as the new keyboard player in the acclaimed funk group The Time. He shortly thereafter contributed his keyboard and bass skills to the group’s platinum album Ice Cream Castle (#24 pop), the infectious singles Jungle Love (#6 R& B/#20 pop) and The Bird (#36 pop). Prince later recruited him to front The Family, now known as fDeluxe, whose self-titled debut was released to critical acclaim in September 1985, generating the popular singles The Screams Of Passion (#9 R&B), High Fashion, (#34 R&B) and the original, and arguably, the finest version of the worldwide hit Nothing Compares 2 U, later popularised by Sinead O’Connor.
A mainstay of the Minneapolis music scene St. Paul has scored R&B and Pop hits as a solo artist, contributed to a number of albums for Paisley Park (Jevetta Steele, Mavis Staples, Nona Gaye, Rosie Gaines) and written for acts as varied as The Corrs, Paula Abdul, The Veronicas, George Benson and David Sanborn.
Cassandra O’Neal: Cassandra was Prince’s musical director and keyboardist from 2009 to 2016. She joined The New Power Generation and played at Grand Palais and La Cigale concerts in France, Prince’s 20Ten Tour, Welcome 2 America, 2011 Montreal Jazz festival, Welcome 2 America Euro 2011 tour and the 2016 Official Prince Tribute Concert in Minneapolis. Other artists she has performed with include Macy Gray, Mary J Bligh, Pink and Leann Rimes.
Tori Ruffin: Guitarist/composer/arranger/producer/performer, For the past 23 years Tori Ruffin has been the lead guitarist for Morris Day & The Time, appearing with the band on tour, TV (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Arsenio Hall Show and more) and in the studio. In 2004 he toured with the band as opening act for Prince’s Musicology Tour and appeared on Prince’s DVD ‘Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic’. In 2016 he performed with the band at the ‘Official Prince Tribute – A Celebration of Life and Music” and in April 2017 as part of the official Paisley Park Celebration.
He was lead guitarist with Fishbone from 2000-2011 and for Michael Franti & Spearhead in 2002/3, touring Australia on a number of occasions. Tori has performed with acclaimed names such as Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz, American Idol’s Randy Jackson and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis of Flyte Tyme Productions. In the studio he has performed with, written with/for the likes of Mariah Carey, Smokey Robinson, Me’Shell NdegeOcello and Dru Hill amongst others.
Jellybean Johnson: Jellybean Johnson was friends with Prince since high school and was a member of The Time. The group would go on to score four gold and/or platinum selling albums: The Time (1981), What Time Is It (1982), Ice Cream Castle (1984) and Pandemonium (1990). The band was featured prominently in Prince’s Grammy & Oscar winning film ‘Purple Rain’. Jellybean was recruited to play drums for The Family, before joining Jam & Lewis’ Flyte Tyme where he produced hits for Janet Jackson, New Edition, Alexander O’Neal and Mint Condition.
Shelby J: Shelby was a member of Prince’s New Power Generation for 10 years. Shelby performed beside Prince at the historic 2007 Super Bowl Half-time show and the sold-out 21 nights in London concert series. In 2012 Prince and Shelby collaborated on an ode to her home State ‘North Carolina’ which topped the New-Soul/R&B Amazon charts.
Andy Allo: Cameroon born Andy Allo joined The New Power Generation in 2011 as singer/guitarist. Prince and Andy worked on the album Superconductor which he co-produced and Andy arranged. Prince and Andy also wrote 2 songs together at that time. “You’re in presence of someone who has so much experience and so much knowledge,” Allo said of working with Prince. “At the same time he gave me that space to blossom and grow.”
Nik West: Nik is an accomplished bass player. She sports a colorful mohawk shaped like a bass clef. Explosive stage presence isn’t enough to describe the way Nik West moves, wows, and shocks crowds everywhere. Nik first jammed with Prince at Paisley in 2012 and then famously turned down the opportunity to play in his band as she wanted to continue as an artist in her own right but remained a good friend and collaborator with Prince. Nik completed 4 studio recordings with Prince at Paisley Park late in his career.
Stokley Williams (Mint Condition): Stokley William’s band Mint Condition toured with Prince during the 2010 Welcome 2 America tour. Being from Minneapolis, both bands crossed paths several times in their history. Since 2017 he has been performing with The Revolution alongside other long time Prince collaborators – Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby Z, Matt Fink and Mark Brown.
Ricky Peterson: A life long Minnesotan whose sound has always focused on a characteristically “Minneapolis” sound, Ricky Peterson is known for having produced, written and played keyboards for Prince on and off in studio while a staff producer at Paisley Park since his early days on the Twin Cities scene, perhaps most notably producing and arranging the song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and working on “Gold”, “Emancipation”, and “Crystal Ball”. Ricky has also played with some of the biggest names in music including Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Billy Joel, Anita Baker, James Taylor, Sting, Rodger Waters, Rick Braun, Jimmy Buffet and more.
Adrian Crutchfield (sax): Adrian Crutchfield has taken the world by storm in recent years, not only as the last sax player to perform and record with Prince, touring the world and being featured on Prince’s last three albums, but also touring domestically and internationally with acts such as Lionel Ritchie, Bette Midler, and Cee Lo Green — all the while writing and building his 2017 release titled ‘Leap’.
BK Jackson (sax): Bernard “BK” Jackson is an international-performing saxophonist, electrifying audiences across the globe with his unique playing style, energetic stage presence and unparalleled passion for music that touches the soul. A native of Tampa, Florida, he goes by the stage name “BK Jackson” and has crossed musical paths with industry giants such as B.B King, Bruno Mars, Brian McKnight, Hunter Hayes, Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Zac Brown Band and more. Most notably, BK spent three years touring domestically and abroad with musical icon Prince, performing timeless hits for sold out arenas night after night as a member of his 11-piece horn section, known as New Power Generation (NPG) Hornz.
Lynn Grissett: A formally educated professional musician, Lynn J. Grissett Jr. is a truly dedicated artist. A member of the NPG Hornz, the horn section of the band New Power Generation (NPG) once led by the late great musical genius Prince, Lynn has performed around the world as both a solo artist and as part of elite level ensembles. His trumpet can be heard on the following recordings: Prince: Hit N Run Phase One & Two (2015) Liv Warfield: The Unexpected (2014) Judith Hill: Back In Time (2015) Grammy Nominated: (Mint Condition: Healing Season (2015).
Returning for the second time in under 12 months Rory Graham AKA Rag ‘n’ Bone Man was back for the Byron Bluesfest, and luckily enough for us Melbournites some sideshows followed down the coast. After last year’s show I could not get my hand up quick enough to go back and see this tattooed teddy bear, wow the packed Palais Theatre and what a spectacle it was.
Wallace opened the night’s proceedings with a thirty minute performance, she was accompanied by Novak on keys and computer generated bass line that keep the music humming along. She was well invested in her songs and one that stood out was Peter Pan, we can all concur that sometimes we just don’t want to grow up! They were well received by the expanding audience and they were thrilled to be the opening act for Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.
Anticipation was building rapidly as we waited for the main event, the stage filled with multi levelled risers to accommodate the extensive band, including brass and keys. Opening with Wolves, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man took the stage, his presence huge and his voice ever bigger. Ego rang out and while he is the first to admit not all his songs are happy ones Your Way is one of the cheerier ones and if you wanted a dance this was the time. The Fire and Hard Came the Rain both superb, then Lay My Body Down which is a song about murder but Rory promised to smile while he sang it. His witty sense of humour ever present.
Life In Her Yet a beautiful tribute to his grandmother and to strong women all around the world, followed by the glorious Odetta. You could hear a pin drop as Grace echoed through the theatre accompanied by stunning lighting and lyrics to break the hardest of hearts, add to that Skin and the tears were flowing. The opening verses were sung with just the keys accompanying, so hair raisingly beautiful I was at a loss for words, but as the band came in and the lighting radiated to red this exquisite song reached celestial heights like no other I have ever heard. So emotive and soulful and yet this gentle giant ever humble with just a small thank you to the standing ovation he received.
As You Are, and Guilty terrific editions and then we were treated to a new song written about Rory’s son, only rehearsed during the day we had a sneak peak and it was splendid, while I don’t recall the name the lyrics were “everything is coming up roses” words of a man who is very happy with the turn of events in his life, and he sung it with passion and love. There was no introduction for the next song but it was the one everyone in the theatre knew, Human, the song that started it all in Australia and didn’t we love it! I lost count of the standing ovations we gave over the night but this one had the room aloft and we kept clapping until the return of the band and Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. Touching briefly on the band, they are truly remarkable and talented bunch of musicians and singers, it was apparent immediately that they truly love what they do and spreading the joy of music is held high amongst them. But Rag ‘n’ Bone Man demands your attention, seeing the cheekiest of smiles shine through, or the hand on his chest as he poured his heart and soul into his performance, you could feel every word of every song work through your body until you had your hand raised at the crescendo without even knowing you had done it.
Bitter End and Hell Yeah the perfect songs to finish the most soulful of nights, and should we be lucky enough to have Rag ‘n’ Bone Man grace our shores again, I will have both hands held high in a heartbeat, is that greedy of me, maybe but I’m only Human after all!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale