Review By Renee Morrison
It’s a pity Friday night’s Brisbane show was the last for Winston Surfshirt’s Panna Cotta tour – if it hadn’t been I would have told your brother, mother, sister, sister’s friends and, basically, anyone who would listen to go see this flawless performance. The night started later than advertised, but all three sets were well worth the wait. It began on point with electronic funk emanating from Perth-based collective, Supathick. Each of the five-piece act unquestionably hold their own and get the early crowd moving… and moving forward. Frontwoman and vocalist Grace is a standout though with an enviable vocal range and power beyond her years. Since Supathick’s EP, In the thick of it, which was released 3 years ago, the act have relocated to Brisbane but continued to tour Australia and receive many an accolade. The sometimes disco, sometimes pop, but always groovy set includes tracks like Time, Backseat driving and slower one, Can’t keep waiting. Like Das Druid who come on next, Supathick don’t feel like just another support act. Let us hope they are not yet tired of touring, despite a very busy three years.
I’ll admit -embarrassingly- that I was pretty unaware of Das Druid before the night. Their commendable presence put the growing crowd in a psychedelic haze I will remember for a long time though. Unsurprisingly, the band identify The Stone Roses as highly influential to their sound and while such a claim might make other acts nervous, Das Druid are worthy of the self-proclaimed comparison. Their set takes Brisbanites on a magic carpet ride weaving Manchester brit pop with, ravy, trance and even jungle sounds. Despite the otherwise echo-filled set, the trio cleverly start with a focus on percussion really highlighting their attention to detail and phenomenal sound. Motion control, Anxious oxygen and Euphoria, all from their first album Das Album are just some of the tracks we’re treated to. The synth-heavy sounds put us in a pleasant daze.
Between sets the capacity-crowd flocks to the beer garden attached to the venue- Queensland’s oldest standing theatre, the Princess. This 133-year old venue has been meticulously restored but I’ve never seen the seated mezzanine been used before, let alone fill out. Fortunately I was on the floor, but my space for grooving was decreasing by the minute. Once Winston Surfshirt hit the stage there is standing room only, and just! The Sydney-based six piece start the night with Nobody Like you, leaving no question that they’re here to party. Next up, their collab with Cosmo’s Midnight, Get to know you. It’s here that punters first experience the magic brought by trombonist, The Bone – magic reminiscent of Andy Cato from Groove Armada. Slower track, Need you, from their 2019 album Apple Crumble is up next and it’s obvious this crowd are long-time Winston addicts. They sing along passionately. Crowd pleaser Complicated follows – just try not to dance to this dirty beat. The only thing funkier is the track’s videoclip – be sure to check it out.
It would have been very easy – and forgivable- for Winston Surfshirt to have designed a set around the songs that have made them near-household names in Australia, songs like Smile, Be about you and All of the little things. While they do play these of course, the ARIA award winners instead utilise the whole set, and nothing but the whole set, to showcase their huge range of genre bending talents. All of the little things starts abruptly, and we find ourselves almost mid-song – this works well though and keeps the pace of the night flowing. The undulating beat and vocals are comforting and highlight just why this act attract such a diverse array of followers. Despite describing themselves as a hip-hop act, and despite being a hip-hop fanatic myself, I think to label them as such is limiting. Some of their work would feel just as relevant in a (funky) elevator as it would in a Brooklyn club. Winston’s skills as an emcee are impeccable for sure though and his deep flow could easily be mistaken for none other than ATCQ’s Q-tip.
A return to some tracks off their first studio album, Sponge Cake, come next. For real, and When you’re ready are wrapped around newcomer 0421, the latter of which allows the one-man brass section to again take centre stage. Speaking of the stage, it seems the Princess’ elevated pulpit could simply not contain all that talent – Winston jumping down and getting amongst the crowd at one point. Loungey, reggae-inspired, On a lock slows down the pace just a little but if the crowd are disappointed, they sure don’t show it. In this one, guitarists Bik Julio and Mi-K, and Dool on keyboards keep us bouncing. It’s obvious that once solo-artist, now front man Winston relishes every moment of their version of Doja Cat’s Kiss me More. The song also makes it clear that Winston has a gorgeous voice, one capable of holding a complex tune, as well as rhyming and rapping at pace. Jazzy Of another kind follows, foregrounding Dool’s magic on the keys. This was one of three singles released prior to their most recent, third studio album along with Maybe I’m in love with you. No doubt hip-hop royalty, Talib Kweli, who features on the track recognised it was so much more than a love song. It perfectly encapsulates that aforementioned genre-bending that Winston Surfshirt make look easy.
There’s only one and For the record are not too far away, the former sounds a bit like Jamiroquai at his best and raises the party vibe in the room once again. For the record is just as tasty as Apple Crumble, the name of the 2019 album from which it came. Honestly, the production of this track- that translates well to stage- is far more mature than one might expect from a relatively new outfit. Ali D off the Sponge Cake album is up next – it was the first song of Winston Surfshirt’s I’d ever heard and still reminds me of Glamorous by Fergie for some reason. I can’t help it. Fortunately, cheeky track Smile and then their cover of Crystal Waters’ Gypsy Woman get the Fergie out of my head. In a fitting end to their set, well in terms of originals anyway, Surfshirt finish with the song that Winston explains really started it all, Be about you. With over a million views on YouTube, the track has come a long way since existing as a chorus alone being played to the local pub flies in Sydney.
Winston Surfshirt, while there is no question that you now have a diehard fan in me, I “don’t know how I feel about” the Montel Jordan and then Wu Tang covers as encores. You pull them both off, naturally, but with a back catalogue as delicious as yours, I suggest instead letting your talent shine right till the last second. World domination for this six-piece Aussie act is so close you can taste it. While this tour may be done and dusted, if by some miracle Winston Surfshirt were playing again tonight, I would already have my tickets. Have a listen, seriously – happiness is just a song away.
Review By Elizabeth Sharpe
With this legendary line up of unmistakable hip hop superstars, this was always going to be a night to remember! Not going to lie; I parked, got out of my car, and already had an unmistakable scent wafting my way – this only got more intense as I approached the gates of the venue. One thing was for sure – despite the heavy security presence and the venue staff’s obvious concerns, this event was deemed 420-friendly by the punters. DJ Total Eclipse of New York's The X-Ecutioners was on stage warming up the eager crowd as I entered the auditorium. He’s a legend and definitely the perfect hype-man for such a night!
The Game’s inclusion on this line up was cancelled sadly due to visa issues, however a perfect replacement Australian support was announced soon after – A.B. Original! As the first support act of the evening, A.B. Original, comprised of rapper, Briggs and his emcee counterpart, Trials – in my opinion, are THE indigenous force to be reckoned with! I’ve always held a strong belief that those who think music and politics shouldn’t mix are kidding themselves and I love and respect that A.B. Original are often at the forefront of some of the nation’s most critical cultural discourse, emulated throughout the bangers performed during this set. Much to the crowd's delight we heard the likes of Bad Apples, January 26, 2 Black 2 Strong, and the latest catchy track, King Billy Cokebottle. Refreshingly and unapologetically forward with both their lyrical content and their hard hitting bass-enforced stage presence. I’ve seen them rock a few stages now and will never grow tired of watching their high energy sets.
This is the first time ever that I’m seeing Cypress Hill live and I can’t tell you how excited I am for them to step out on stage. I have high (pun not intended) hopes and the nostalgic feels have got me buzzin’ (pun also not intended!) Eric Bobo gets up of stage first and takes his place behind the drums which are laden with appropriate greenery. Sen Dog and B-Real burst out and they get straight into it with a medley of favourites including the iconic I Wanna Get High and Hits From the Bong. B-Real is very fittingly smoking one of the fattest joints I’ve seen since my late teens, a time when uncoincidentally Cypress Hill were often the soundtrack for some crazy fun times.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, a giant inflatable spliff begins bouncing throughout the crowd. The light-heartedness and comedic value of this is more than appreciated by the crowd as to is the fact that the set list chock full of quintessential stoner hip hop jam. They bring out all our favourites like When the Shit Goes Down and Rock Superstar and then close out their dynamic set with the 1993 hit, Insane In The Brain.
While Cypress Hill could have easily been the headliner tonight, that pleasure is afforded to the one and only Ice Cube. Imagery begins to roll up on the big screen and the spoken word lyrics of What Is A Pyroclastic Flow? begin to play…
“What's the definition of a pyroclastic flow
That's what happens when a volcano blow
That's what happens when Ice Cube starts to flow
Red hot lava mixed with saliva
Pulverising everything in its wake
Nothing can survive a pyroclastic flow
And no one will survive this one.”
Way to set the scene!! Ice Cube explodes into the arena with Natural Born Killaz with exactly the level of attitude you would expect from one of hip hop’s ultimate supremes. After Hello, he takes a moment to acknowledge the audience – “I really appreciate you all coming out tonight. Some people might say that Ice Cube hasn’t “got it” any more. To those that say that…YOU BETTER CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF!” Classic segue into Check Yo Self!
Ice Cube proclaims (many times throughout the set) that this is the “loudest mother fucken crowd in Australia” – while this could be a crowd-appeasing statement for them, I’d easily say that it’s the loudest crowd I’ve ever experienced at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre for sure! And when they say this show is sold out, they mean it – not a single seat is spared! They’ve even opened up sections I sometimes see blocked off and unused. It’s nuts!
There’s a decent amount of Ice Cube taking the time out for acknowledgement of the crowd throughout his set and audience engagement is at 110%. At a few points every single person is throwing up their “W’s”, especially for Gangsta Nation, and the comradery is palpable.
After Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It, “We’re gonna start hitting the serious stuff so if you got a bad heart or gangsta shit makes you nervous – you better hit the exits right now.” By this, Ice Cube means the likes of Straight Outta Compton, after which he recalls fond memories of working alongside Dr Dre and Easy E (RIP) “sets the record straight” about his split from N.W.A. To throw a bit of humour in he transitions into No Vaseline – the original diss track!
He closes out the epic set with the suitable It Was A Good Day. You’re damn right it was! Ice Cube is ageless and his name is unquestionably synonymous with the hip hop genre itself. This live show, indeed the entire line up, was entertainment plus and gave more than the face value of tickets. I wouldn’t hesitate to see this legend again… and again.
I suspect that the motivation behind any artist, but especially musicians perhaps, is to make the audience feel something. Feel anything. To feel differently for having experienced their art. Well, Icehouse’s return to Brisbane on Saturday night certainly did that for me. Though the band frequently tour Australia extensively, including just recently in 2022, this “Great Southern Land – The Concert Series show” was my first live encounter with them. Being an eighties baby, I grew up knowing and loving their songs… but that was a long time ago. What a relief and absolute joy to realise that this chart topping, platinum selling musical force can still hold their own, and then some. Joining them as special guests on the RiverStage were Eskimo Joe and Karen Lee Andrews.
Though traffic carnage brought about by another concert (cough: Ed Sheeran) meant I missed Karen’s set, there is no doubt her soulful, chilled vocals and guitar playing would have mixed well with pre-drinks on the lawn as the sun went down. Her four-piece band are known as some of the hardest working in the industry and I will make it my business to seek out the Polynesian singer’s classical blues rock show in future.
The 6-piece Freemantle act, Eskimo Joe are next on stage. It’s been several years since the ARIA award-winning band has released an album (their latest, a live recording in collaboration with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra), but their choice as support for Icehouse simply makes sense. They burst on to stage, vocalist and front man Kavyen Temperley donning a white suit coat and slicked back hair, channelling Elvis perhaps. Initially, there are some sound issues making the lyrics and melodies less clear than punters may have liked. Their set is started with Sarah off the Black Fingernails, Red Wine album. This is followed by New York. Despite being released as the third single from this same album, Temperley explains New York was really the first to result from their early planning of acoustic songs. Understandably, bands must walk a fine line when touring, never wanting to sound exactly like the studio press, but the start of this one is almost unrecognisable. In Older Than You from the band’s second album, A Song Is a City, a disproportionate focus upon the heavy beats doesn’t quite allow the beauty of the melody to be captured. Indeed, given the unquestionable skill the band have as writers, I felt it wasn’t until quite late in the set that the sound properly represented this skill. The haunting piano solo introduces Echo next, before London Bombs continues the slower pace. This one was written in Cairns Temperley tell us. The unmistakeable sounds of (recorded) bagpipes welcome Foreign land from the album Inshalla. It is obviously a favourite for the band, each clearly relishing the moment, but paying particular homage to drummer, Joel Quartermain.
The band comically shout out to the ‘expensive plastic seat’ section at this point, hinting that- while they won’t force anyone up off their seats- this group have a strong responsibility to set the vibe for the evening. Next up is Setting Sun which featured in the 2011 film The Last Song, rumoured to be the scene for the beginning of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworths’ off-screen romance. The band dedicate the song to Miley who is, they suggest, practically an Aussie citizen now. Like the lyrics in this one, the predominantly ‘older’ audience, clearly know and understand they’re “forever young”, partying in strong numbers at Brisbane’s Riverstage. Who Sold Her Out follows next. Temperley describes an intense pressure to produce a second song -one packageable as a single – for their debut album. Determined not to ‘sell out’, the band explain this one was actually written far earlier but released in response to this pressure and to the threat of the label pulling the album. Black Fingernails, Red Wine is up next – the song the band attributes to changing their lives forever. Here too I perhaps would have liked the vocals and piano to been better accentuated but the powerful crescendos and cuts and unparalleled lyrics see the audience get amongst it.
Like us, Temperley explains he is starting to get very excited to see Icehouse, an act they refer to as one of Australia’s best ever. He describes growing up listening to Icehouse, being mesmerised by their mysterious sound. The set ends with From the Sea, undoubtedly their best adaptation of the night. The near-incomprehensible skills of drummer, Joel Quartermain, are again showcased before From the Sea is extended. Punters clap and sing along. All in all, this act has solidified its position as an Australian tour de force but should “the world repeat itself somehow”, and I get the chance to see them again, I hope the sound technicians can better present Eskimo Joe and all their talent. There is a full 30-minute interlude between Eskimo Joe and Icehouse but watching the amazing roadies work, there is no doubt that every minute was required.
Until Icehouse’s set, visuals were quite minimal, but the headliners start the show, fittingly, with a visual acknowledgement of country. Let us hope this is a sign that this Great Southern Land continues to grow and learn. With the stage still otherwise dark, audiences are awoken first with the sounds of an isolated synthesiser, then single piano notes and finally, drums. It is obvious immediately that any sound issues are now behind us ….. and that we are in for a night of astounding music. Icehouse start with their namesake track – ironically, released when they were instead known as The Flowers. The crowd clap along and enjoy the stylistic and ultra-modern visuals. Uniform from the Primitive Man album is up next before Fatman, both of which evoke (pleasing) New Order memories. And then they played… Electric Blue, possibly their most successful song charting at number one in Australia, as well as in the top ten in both New Zealand and the United States. While we all know the track, Icehouse cleverly accentuate both the guitar and sax solos within, allowing Paul Gildea (rhythm guitar) and Hugo Lee (saxophone) to stun with their exceptional talent.
After four decades of music making, the band hold countless accolades. Beyond the official titles and awards though, one of their chief accomplishments has been as frontrunners in extending the use of the synthesiser beyond dance tracks. Hey Little Girl, their next song for the night, is one such example. It is hauntingly beautiful and allows Iva to show off his voice – a voice that miraculously appears to have gone unchanged for forty years. In Mr Big, off their 1986 Measure for Measure album, the instrumental and experimental bridge translates well to the big stage, and again reminds us just how ahead of their time this Australian band has always been. Soon enough, Iva looks to be introducing his band members – many of which have changed over the years- but he doesn’t, instead suggesting that “to the left of me… and to the right are …….humans. A little touched perhaps. A little mad”. Nice way to introduce Crazy, the next track and next most successful commercial tune for them – also hitting top ten in Oz, NZ and the states. During Crazy, old footage of the original videoclip is run, including what has to be Australia’s best mullet and one that even I might forgive. What an odd sensation for Iva and original crew, I remember thinking. But while they may look up and not recognise themselves, the punters certainly recognise and love this one- perfectly joining Iva in the vocals when encouraged. Despite being a slow song, it is No Promises and the synthesiser specifically that gets me out of my seat for the first time. Hugo Lee’s saxophone solo keeps me there and I find myself even involuntarily screaming for more. Michael Paynter next returns to the stage to lend vocals for Touch the Fire.
Though the night had many highlights, for me, it was the quiet acoustic version of A Man of Colours, the title track from their fifth studio album, that I will remember forever. I’m not an emotional person by nature. Not someone who cries a lot …but I can say without hyperbole that the song was so incredibly beautiful and powerful that I was choking back many tears. Iva brings out the Oboe towards the end and saxophonist, Lee, takes us on another journey. This really was something special. Love in Motion comes on next quickening the pace and allowing me to get my boogie on.
In a surprise move, Great Southern Land – Australia’s unofficial anthem is not last or even an encore but next on the set. In introducing it, Gildea thanks Iva, suggesting none of them would ‘be here’, like all the songs, without him. Despite turning 40 this year, Great Southern Land, continues to thrill audiences, as does the next one, I Can’t Help Myself. The band relish the ongoing applause enticing us to be louder again – louder perhaps than Ed Sheeran’s crowd just kilometres down the road? The last song (or so they tell us) is We Can Get Together with Temperley from Eskimo Joe returning to join the band.
First encore is a cover of Marseilles by The Angels, a band we’re told Icehouse used to support for and for whom they continue to have great respect. Here all members clearly rock out enjoying the moment and pay tribute to the pianist specifically. It’s a pity at times – I recall thinking – that unlike Jazz gigs where solos are applauded mid song, often solos of this nature appear to go unnoticed. They certainly were not though and the pianist, like the drummer and saxophonist all deserve special mention here. The band end the night with Nothing Too Serious, the lyrics of which can’t help but make me laugh. While I was not wearing an Icehouse T-shirt on Saturday night, I swear one in five punters were. Though the shirts, like the punters themselves perhaps, may be a little ‘warn around the edges’, they were certainly ready to party and not going home disappointed. Thank you Icehouse. Thank you for making me catch some feelings.
Multi-Platinum, Grammy Award Winning rock outfit Switchfoot made their long awaited return to Australian shores and played their first show of their tour on Tuesday night at Brisbane’s Triffid. Their global fan base as strong as ever, not deterred at all by the midweek show and looming heatwave, sold out the event and showed up early and excited with the line stretching down the street outside the venue. I myself have been a fan since the 2000 release of ‘Learning To Breathe’, which now has a special place in my heart, however this will be my first time seeing them live and I couldn’t be more excited.
Local heavy hitters Nervous Light opened the night with a sampled intro from modern day spiritual philosopher Alan Watts. This spiked interest from the start, implying an indication of the depth of the music about to saturate the Triffid. From opening track Rope, the band didn’t disappoint delivering an emo vibe any Mayday Parade fan would love. Their tracks bridge emo, pop punk and metalcore with an extremely natural flow. The depth and disparity in each track, given strength by the combined talents of Jordan Olive (guitar/vocals), Antony Borrmann (guitar/vocals) and Rich Brown (bass/vocals) all contributing their unique vocal styles through all songs. Latest single, Coffee Stains & Picture Frames, hit the crowd full on, projecting a melancholic feel across the room, the crowd mesmerised by Brown’s emotional guttural intensity.
They lifted the tone with pop-punk drenched Outsider bringing out the crowd and continued through their set closing with a haunting intro to their popular track Haunt. All three guitarists on vocals providing an intense ending to an incredible set. Nervous Light may have seemed like an interesting choice to open for the popular Christian rock act but the response from the crowd indicated it was a chance well taken. You gotta love it when the support band for the night becomes a new favourite local act – I’m looking forward to seeing these guys again live and immersing myself in their recorded work.
Switchfoot – Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), and Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) – walk up onto the stage with touring guitarist Boaz Roberts, to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd. The gentle guitar riff to Beloved begins and Jon’s comforting vocals with wise words join in soon after. The band forms an immediate connection with the audience and sets the intentions for the rest of the show.
Taking us back a bit further into their impressive discography spanning almost a quarter of a century, they lift the energy in the room with Stars and Oh Gravity. Then called on the crowd to help them in the opening chant for Hello Hurricane, the title track for the album that won them a Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album in 2011. Jon jumps up onto the crowd barrier, scaling along, touching as many hands as he can, using some for support, before jumping back up onto the stage to finish the song.
Bull in a China Shop kicks off and fittingly, Jon steps off the stage once again, this time crossing the barrier and launching into the crowd, moving towards the back of the venue – not missing a single word. “I wanna rock this block like a bull in a china shop!” His vivacity and enthusiasm is contagious. The room is jam packed and it’s hard to make out where he’s gotten to, but before long I realise that he hasn’t just gone to the back of the room… he’s made his way upstairs and is now up with the crowd on the mezzanine! This is fantastic! The venue security have an easy job with the respectful crowd but are having an absolute field day trying to keep up with Jon! The song ends with the frontman still up on the mezzanine, exclaiming how grateful he is for having this opportunity to be back in Australia. He shared a tale of his time in this country as an exchange student at university.
It takes him almost the entirety of If I Were You to get back to the stage with the rest of the band then is passed his acoustic and begins to play I Won’t Let You Go. The ENTIRE crowd sings along with him from the very first breath and word. A special kind of harmony is created and has its own life when a venue of fans erupts in unison and form a union with the band like this. Jon sings in falsetto and the audience has its own register – this song is given a whole new meaning when it’s played live and exactly like this.
Jon introduced Boaz Roberts on electric guitar and tells of how he convinced Boaz to go for a surf when they were just in New Zealand… and Boaz injured his foot, slicing his heel on a rock – this explains it looking a little like a balancing act for someone who’s use to moving freely wielding the guitar and stomping on pedals – he’s doing a brilliant job up there keeping up with the energy on stage and hiding the fact though!
A tom drum gets placed in front of Tim and he begins to pound it for what becomes the very heartbeat of their 2018 single Native Tongue, the words also boldly and proudly painted on Jon’s electric guitar. Fluorescent follows, and then that unmistakable and catchy groove of Tim’s bassline for Float – if Switchfoot were to have a dance track, this could very well be it! Jon has removed his jacket for this one and heads across to Tim, arm around him – the wholesome, heart-warming brotherly love is in the air! And yes, once again, Jon makes his way back out into the audience!
Dark Horses is probably my highlight song of the night. It’s a track that’s always felt like an anthem to me, one for the underdogs – now, together in a sea of fans singing every word together as one, it shines a new light on those anthemic qualities. Switchfoot have that power – the ability to bond emotive, passionate, and meaningful lyricism with a driving force of rock beats and infectious melodies to connect to and soothe the soul of the listener and earn them such loyal fans. I wasn’t expecting this song to be the standout for me, but it was for this very reason.
Meant To Live is followed by Where I Belong, and the band get a short respite offstage before returning for a two song encore of Only Hope and Dare You To Move, which is one of the first Switchfoot songs I ever heard and is the perfect end to this crazy amazing show for me.
You can catch Switchfoot at the remaining dates around the country:
Feb 3 – Melbourne, Max Watts
Feb 4 – Adelaide, Lion Arts Factory
Feb 6 – Perth, Freo Social – ALL AGES
Tickets available here
“It seems to me that maybe”….. I should start calling myself a Jack Johnson fan. I’m embarrassed to say that prior to Saturday’s Brisbane show, I’d never seen the American singer-songwriter before. I’m embarrassed to say that, had someone asked me to name five of his songs, I would probably have struggled. And yet, during Jack’s near two-hour long set, it was odd to realise that there were few songs I didn’t know the words to. This perhaps best speaks to the power of this artistic juggernaut. While Jack could boast (unlikely) of his multiple Grammy nominations, his worldwide fandom or of his millions upon millions of views on the socials, to experience that kind of reach – where your songs actually become part of common, even unconscious, vernacular, is hard to imagine. Fortunately for us, Jack’s lyrics typically preach life and love, including a love for our environment. For more than a decade now his record label (Brushfire Records) and touring crew have worked towards ‘greening’ the music industry by expanding eco-friendly touring practices and promoting sustainable food and plastic free initiatives. To celebrate his eighth studio album, Meet the Moonlight, the surfer-turned musician played five Australian shows: all outdoors and under said moonlight. On the Brisbane leg Jack was supported by none other than Ziggy Alberts and Indigenous newcomer Emily Wurramara, both of whom returned to the stage later to join the headliner.
To suggest that there was ‘standing room only’ by the time Jack came on is a huge understatement. It was obvious people had gotten there early, laid down their picnic blankets and settled in to watch the sunset. Brisbane had put on quite the sunny summer afternoon for us too which meant punters were very happy to wait. We didn’t have to wait long though – Jack came on right on time despite his warning us that he may not. Surf was up on the Goldy and an earlier post on his socials suggested Jack was having a hard time tearing himself away from the beach. The band is certainly no stranger to Australia, having toured at least six times before and while I have seen countless shows in Brisbane over the years, I can honestly say I have never heard a crowd roar like they did for Jack Johnson on Saturday night.
One doesn’t become a multi-platinum selling musician, nor have a career that spans decades without truly understanding their audience and making a connection. Johnson’s care and attention to detail in this regard was once again obvious on tour with Saturday night’s setlist sure to please even the ‘oldest’ of fans. Yes, there were songs played from the latest album (Costume Party, One Step Ahead, & Don’t look Now) but these were carefully weaved between twenty or more beloved tracks from the entire array of Jack’s back catalogue. Those who’ve followed the artist for more than two decades would have no doubt approved of Jack’s heavy drawing from debut album Brushfire Fairytales and from his 2005 In between dreams. Taylor from the latter started the show and allowed the crowd to quickly warm up their vocal cords before the real singalong began during Sitting, Waiting, Wishing, up next. By the time the familiar riff to Flake began, there was no stopping the capacity Brisbane crowd – Jack now had 9500 backup singers and you know what, they did alright! Next came one of many mashups – a combo of Upside down / Time is the master/ Badfish and John Holt cover You can’t control it.
In Inaudible Melodies, drummer Adam Topal gets the first chance to show off his numerous talents. Actually Jack takes the time to introduce and pay tribute to all long-term band members during the set (bassist: Merlo Podlewski; and pianist but also singer/songwriter/ ALO member: Zach Gill). When Emily Wurramara returns to the stage to sing Lady Blue as a duet, it is easy to see why Johnson chose the up-and-comer to support him. The song’s calming melody and hypnotic ukulele immediately transport us to the water, like so many of the headliner’s tunes. This was followed by crowd pleaser Bubble Toes – you know the one – la-da-da-da-da-da – just try not to join in. Next, it’s Zach Gill’s time to sing along, offering the last verse of the undulating and understated Wasting Time.
In between new tracks, Costume Party and Don’t Look Now, Ziggy Alberts returns to the stage. Here we are treated to Heaven, the first single of Ziggy’s second album ‘Laps around the Sun’ and the first of his tracks to ever reach ARIA chart status. Ziggy clearly has a good fanbase here too – and why not; he tells us ‘you sound beautiful Brisbane’ before heading backstage again. Ultra-fun Banana Pancakes follows before the rhythmic Rodeo Clowns. It seems like an odd note to finish on in some ways as the band leaves the stage. Fortunately, we are not done yet! Jack returns amid thunderous applause, the likes of which I have not heard in Australia before. I also can’t recall seeing an artist give us seven, yes seven, encores. How blessed Brisbane feels at this point. Most of these see Jack on stage solo doing acoustic versions of classics like Do you remember and Breakdown while the crowd whistle along to I got you. The full band returns for final track, unsurprisingly, the infamous Better Together. This, like so many of Jack Johnson’s songs, has undeniably entered the realm of cultural artefact. Like so many of his songs, the track just vibrates in a way like it was always going to be written and always going to be so special to so many. Will I be signing up to see Jack and band again? Absolutely. But how to end this review? “There is no combination of words I could say. But I will still tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together”. So get there Australia.