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[Review] The Corrs @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 6/11/2023

For those that have known me for a very long time, know that I am a huge fan of The Corrs. HUGE. Even borderline obsessive when I went through a stage of wanting to be them! So, when the opportunity arose for me to finally see my childhood idols in the flesh for the very first time, you bet I was counting down the days until their arrival. The Irish pop group have been touring Australia & New Zealand, and Melbourne was the last stop on their Australian leg of the tour before heading over the ditch to visit our Kiwi cousins.

Headed to Rod Laver on a beautiful balmy 28-degree night, I was met with fellow revellers of all ages that were hyped by a combination of the magnificent weather and anticipation of the night ahead.

Adelaide sister act Germein were the first of the three support acts of the evening to hit the stage. The trio entertained with their fun and heartfelt pop songs, and their inner beauty and humble nature, along with their musical talent, really made them shine on stage. Next on the bill was American-born singer-songwriter, Toni Childs. Toni came out on stage to a quiet reception from the audience, but then proceeded to completely blow everyone out of the water with her distinct sound and powerhouse vocals singing one of her biggest hits, I’ve Got To Go Now. Despite the years gone by and her age, not only does she look amazing, but her pipes are still absolutely incredible and they never faltered once. Toni sang a few of her other older hits including Stop Your Fussin’ and Don’t Walk Away, which had the audience well and truly eating out of her hand. As she ventured into some of her newer material, the audience were thoroughly enjoying themselves, and even more so when she came down into the crowd for her final song. Toni ventured through the audience shaking hands as she delivered her final song which was full of hope, encouragement, and reminding people that they are beautiful, intelligent and worthy.    

Australian sweetheart Natalie Imbruglia was the last support act of the night to warm up the punters – and that is exactly what she did. Natalie kicked off with some older hits Wishing I Was There, Wrong Impression Shiver, before leading into a small catalogue of her newer stuff. The crowd were loving every minute of her amazing vocals and high-energy set, but you knew everyone was waiting to hear THE song. When the opening bars of Torn started, the crowd erupted and sang along to every word of the 90’s hit. Natalie then finished off with my personal favourite Big Mistake, and it was at this point in the night that I realised I had actually entered a time machine and was now well and truly planted back in 1997.    

It was now that my heart rate started to increase, and my excitement was making me nauseous because I knew it was time for my favourite Irish band to hit the stage. Now when I say that I used to be obsessed with The Corrs, I’m not lying. Growing up, my musical weapon of choice of was the flute(these skills are easily transferable to a tin whistle), and my best friend who loved The Corrs equally as much was a violinist. So, we would spend our weekends covering their songs and doing our own arrangements, and when we weren’t doing that, we were watching their live DVD’s over and over again for inspiration. You get the tragic picture now?    

The houselights go down and we’re met with vision on the screens of The Corrs walking down a long corridor, as the goosebumps on my skin are nearly busting right through the surface. Pre-recorded celtic instrumental music accompanies the footage and keeps building up and up into a crescendo. Once the music hits that peak, an almost tribal-like drumbeat kicks in and that’s when The Corrs’ drummer Caroline appears in the singular spotlight on an otherwise dark stage, beating those drums as if her life depends on it. The beat stops abruptly, and the electric guitar intro to Only When I Sleep kicks in and that is when we get our first glimpse of the Corr siblings. By this stage, the tears have well and truly started flowing and all I can think is “Thank god it’s dark in here so no one can see me being a blubbering idiot”.  

With Andrea’s beautiful soaring vocals in this opening number, I knew then that this was going to be an incredible show and that the band haven’t lost a single thing. Give Me A Reason Summer Sunshine got the crowd bopping along, and everyone was in their absolute element. With a now dark stage, the spotlight was on violinist Sharon, who started playing the iconic instrumental Erin Shore. The crowd went mental not only for her stunning playing, but for the fact that they knew this was the introduction for The Corrs early smash hit, Forgiven Not Forgotten. Jim’s keyboard hit us with that iconic piano riff, and it was on. I’ve probably heard and even sung this song approximately 406,282 times in my life, but hearing it live in the flesh was like hearing it for the first time and loving it all over again. This was also the first song of the night where Caroline’s bodhrán made its appearance, and I’m always completely in awe watching her play it.   

Next on the list was the unrequited love track,What Can I Do. Andrea joked that singing this always worked in getting the guy, however Sharon hilariously retorted that in doing so meant “you usually got the wrong dude at the end.” It’s no secret that The Corrs have covered Fleetwood Mac tracks in the past, and even collaborated with Mick Fleetwood. So, it was only fitting that they covered Fleetwood’s Little Lies, in tribute to the late Christine McVie. After Don’t Say You Love Me, we were treated to their stunningly beautiful cover of Jimi’s Hendrix’s tune Little Wing. Despite also being a die-hard Fleetwood Mac fan, I would have to say that this is probably my most favourite song that they have ever covered. With the poetic lyrics and their Celtic touch, the song really is a moving and emotional journey. It was time for Andrea to take a quick break from the stage, leaving Sharon & Caroline on lead vocals to sing the Jimmy MacCarthy song, No Frontiers. Their rendition of this has always been a favourite of mine, and it has to be said that you can be the most talented vocalist in the world with the ability for killer harmonies, but nothing beats the smooth butter-like sound of siblings harmonising together(It’s also scientific fact!). This song is a stripped-back prime example of this, where both Sharon & Caroline’s voice blend so well that they sound like one.   

It was then time to get up and have a jig around to the instrumental Joy of Life, before being led into one of their newer tracks about immigrating called, Ellis Island. We were back into another instrumental number with Haste To The Wedding, and it is seriously impossible not to move around and feel happy when listening to these pieces. Radio was next which then led into another of my favourite’s (and also my bestie’s favourite too), Queen of Hollywood. It’s such a beautiful and sad song and the lyrics get me every single time. We were then treated to another Fleetwood cover of Dreams, and despite being a sucker for the original, I just adore this arrangement and their little Irish spin they put on it to make it sound even more incredible. My gut was telling me that we were nearing the end of the show, but I was hopeful for an encore as they fired up with So Young. This got the whole crowd up and dancing and there was just so much love and happiness in the room. The band struck while the iron was hot and kept the crowd up dancing and singing along with, I Never Loved You Anyway.   

We went through the motions of a fake goodbye before we welcomed them back for an encore. No Corrs gig would ever be complete without hearing Runaway, so that was the first song waiting for us in the encore. However, the crowd took it upon themselves to give Andrea a break and provide the lead vocals for this track, and every single person in the place was singing along. Everyone was left Breathless for the next track, before they rounded out their encore with the iconic instrumental piece Toss The Feathers. It was a sad farewell as The Corrs wished us goodnight and left the stage, and I was left wondering what I was going to do with my life now that the show was over.  

If I had to sum up this show in one word? Flawless. In every sense of the word. The Corrs are an incredible talent, and time has certainly not aged them or their music. This gig was an absolute dream come true for the chubby little 12-year-old girl who loved playing the flute and listening to The Corrs on repeat, and for the now 34-year-old body and mind in which she now resides. A truly magical night all round with a huge array of talent. You’ll be sad that you missed it!   

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[Review] Don McLean @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 27/04/2023

Review By Emily White

It was February 3, 1959 ‘the day the music died’. The tragic loss of great American musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson marked the end of an era, and of the ‘social innocence’ held within early rock and roll. Two years later American singer-songwriter and guitarist Don Mclean released American Pie, a revolutionary moment for popular music, and the beginning of a career that was set to last over fifty years.

Taking a seat in the iconic Palais Theatre on this beautiful, frosted winter’s evening, it was impossible not to notice the rich history concealed within the century-old building – a most fitting venue for what was to be a historical night filled with some of music’s greats.

Andrew Farriss; the name may not initially ring a bell, but the music composed by the Australian rock musician and multi-instrumentalist is recognisable to an entire generation. Best known for being the backbone of INXS, it was difficult not to expect anything less than perfection from his upcoming set. Having released his debut solo album in 2021, Andrew is making a name for himself not only in Australian music but through leaning into his country-American audience.

The raw talent of this man is unmistakable – his creative genius and sublime instrumentalism is something that can only come of a legendary artist, more than 45 years into his career.  Lighting up the Palais with an intimate acoustic set, I couldn’t help but feel I was witnessing a fleetingly rare performance, a collation of decades worth of musical mastery. Joining him on stage were three other musicians – humbly appearing as his equal, stationed behind a row of freestanding mics.

Andrew’s solo tracks have an unmistakeable modern country feel, clearly influenced by his time living and writing in Nashville, Tennessee. The set of four cowboy hats and boots also adding a touch of Americana to the simply dressed stage. Much of the set provided a gorgeously romantic premise; with deep ringing guitars making each song warm and homely. Remaining unequivocally humble, the only reference Andrew made to his success in INXS came as he offhandedly mentioned how he ‘used to write songs for a band called INXS, and this one’s called Beautiful Girl’.

The velvet smooth harmonies and fresh acoustic sound of the set truly took my mind from the bustle of the city, and deep into the stories Andrew had to tell. The same goes for the latter end of the night – where poetry was set to meet world-class instrumentalism. One of his latest solo tracks, Love Makes the World Go Round, was met with an exceptional reception, the upbeat seventies feel bringing such joy to the audience of the ‘peace and love’ era.

Although he was here to debut some of his solo tracks, the incomparable highlight of the set was Andrew’s acoustic rendition of the ARIA Award Winning single, Never Tear Us Apart. A shout came from the crowd ‘you’re a legend!’ A reminder that there were diehard fans in the audience who had come to get a glimpse of what was one of the biggest bands of the time. The song was retold as a beautiful yet heart-breaking dedication to his bandmate and close friend Michael Hutchence. The moment truly stopped time, making me think how ridiculous it was that this set had been an opening act. Thinking it would be impossible to top such an iconic set, we were in for an absolute treat.

Being comedically introduced by his pianist as the man behind ‘South Korea’s president’s favourite song’, the 77-year-old Grammy-award honouree took to the stage in Melbourne for what would be the last time. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the cultural touchstone that is American Pie, the singer was surprisingly casual in his demeaner, ‘I’m just gonna ramble and sing a few songs that I feel like’… and ramble he did, but in the most hypnotic of ways – I wished the night would have gone on forever.

Beginning his ninety-minute musical tirade with So Doggone Lonesome, originally performed by Johnny Cash, was a perfectly fitting introduction. Mclean’s musical career has in a way been dedicated to Cash, with his musical legacy being the inspiration behind many of Don’s lyrics and compositions. The upbeat country feel of the track plunged the audience deep into the Americana sound – backed by steel-string guitar and a jazzy keys, this night was set to be a blessing for the ears.

‘This is our last tour of Australia; we’ve done twenty and I’ve loved every one of them’, the singer announced as he settled into his next original track, Fool’s Paradise. A heavy kick of bass guitar and a steady drumbeat counted the song in. Much of the cheerful music taking my mind to a 60s school dance filled with mid-length dresses and limitless, innocent dancing. Even fifty years on, these songs hold onto their youthful charm – Don’s voice as clear and belting as it was all those years ago.

As the night went on it became clear that Mclean may fancy himself as somewhat of a jokester, as he certainly had the crowd in hysterics with every monologue he delivered. ‘It’s so nice of you to applaud songs you don’t know’. There was an assumption that tonight’s audience was here for one song only – but I cannot believe this to be the case with the overwhelmingly positive reception of even his B-side tracks.

Moving into his newer record Botanical Gardens, Don showed off another side of his song writing, using less of a metaphorical structure, but rather a storytelling approach. The Lucky Guy was another favourite, a gorgeous light-hearted love song, with its faster pace truly showing off the composition of his band, who are distinguished in their own rights. Guitarist Kerry Marx is a highlight of Don’s live shows, with the pair playing together for the past 37 years, and prior being Johnny Cash’s guitarist. There is such an authentic sound to his playing… a true musical god.

At this point of the night the mood began to pick up incrementally, as Don played old-time favourites from the American Pie album, all in the lead up to the title track. Crossroads being one of the standouts was accompanied by a lone piano instrumental, and Mclean’s signature works of poetry; ‘you alone can make me whole’. The storytelling continued through the night, with the six-piece band playing what sounded like a produced album live on stage.

The stage suddenly darkened as the first lighting state for the night threw thousands of stars across the stage… ‘Starry starry night’… there was a roaring cheer that bellowed from the audience. The acoustic ballad being Mclean’s second-most celebrated song could not have been any more moving than what was experienced that night during Vincent.

I could have told you Vincent, this world was never made for someone as beautiful as you

Fans were left with nothing more to desire following covers of Elvis’ That’s All Right and Little Sister, and Roy Orbison’s Crying. The songs reaching such a crescendo that the room shook, the keyboard appearing to almost fall right off its stand – and with that, it was time for American Pie.

 The room took to their feet, a crowd surging towards the stage. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to catch a glimpse of the ‘song of the 20th century’ in the flesh. The iconic bass riff and stunning keys played out the eight-and-a-half-minute song as Mclean looked out across the audience, as if to say one final goodbye. It was truly an honour to bask in the joy of American Pie, but I can’t help but feel that February 3, 1959 was not ‘the day the music died’ – in fact, music had never been more alive than it was in this moment.

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[Review] Smashing Pumpkins @ PICA, Melbourne 22/04/2023

Review By Noah Redfern

I was blessed to witness this weekend’s A World Is A Vampire on Saturday. A mini fest stacked with alternative legends of now and then, and headlined by the 90s legends The Smashing Pumpkins.

Featuring the insane lineup of Battlesnake, Amyl and the Sniffers and Janes Addiction, along with sets of pro wrestling between each act, the energy was unreal at Port Melbourne’s PICA warehouse venue. It was a blessing to see such legends of alternative arena rock play a more intimate location rather than catching a glimpse of Billy Corgan from the back of Rod Laver.

When I arrived just before the first act, I took in the vibe and demographic of the gig. Not as many young people as I expected, it was mainly 30-to-50 somethings. Not heavy on the moshing, but prominent on the hearing protection. Experienced rockers, still trying to save their ears from tinnitus in their 60s. Wise moves millennials, wise moves.

Cracking open the night with their bizarre but ripping take on hard rock and chugging thrash, Battlesnake blew the lid wide open on the evening’s affairs. A 7-piece rock band, with guitars a plenty, a keytar and a set of hilarious priest costumes for all. The lead singer led the pack wearing devil horns over his priest robes and laughed maniacally with every song title announcement. Singing stories of dragons, rituals, kings of old, the underworld and death, the band was heavy metal fun for all. Fans of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard will feel the bite of Battlesnake. My favourite track was The Atomic Plough, followed closely by self-titled track The Battlesnake.

After that great tone setter, I checked out the wrestling going on just outside the venue in the food truck area. I had no choice but to see what the fuss was all about, as the moment the band finished the match announcers started playing over the stage PA, so off I was to ringside viewing. The National Wresting Alliance or NWA (USA) vs the Wrestling Alliance of Australia (WAOA) was the name of the game today, and this translated to a lot of booing at Americans and then watching them get slammed. In the vein of the WWE, this is Kayfabe wrestling. This is about the drama and the fun, and boy were our wrestlers good sports. I haven’t laughed or cheered so hard at sport since I was a kid. I had no idea what was going on but I loved it.

Next, we caught Melbourne based pub rock legends, Amyl and the Sniffers. This was not my first time catching the future hall of famers but will never be my last. Sometimes I honestly catch myself wondering if Amy Taylor is the secret love child of Debbie Harry and Bon Scott, but alas. The pure stage presence on display from our favourite frontwoman as always gives you no choice buy to chant along and give her an ear-to-ear grin every time she sticks her tongue out or bangs her head. A lovely set, we caught classics from earlier years like Balaclava Lover Boogie, mid careers bangers like Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled) and modern favourites like Hertz and showstopper Security.

After Amyl we saw LA alt rock favourites Jane’s Addiction. Giving us a blend of hits and deep cuts, singer Perry Farrell and company indulged us in some seriously heavy grunge jamming. Some tracks launched into extended versions, with dancers coming on stage to show us some hardcore acrobatics while the band burnt down the house. A deeply captivated audience, fans nodded along the whole way through, loving every moment. Favourites of the set included Whores, Summertime Rolls and the awesome closer of Ocean Size.

When our glorious headliners finally took the stage to close out the night, The Smashing Pumpkins started out strong. Jumping into Empires, a heavy as hell track off their latest album ATUM – Act I & II released this January. Immediately after we were thrown back into Pumpkins’ golden era of the mid 90s with the one-two punch of Bullet With Butterfly Wings and Today. Man, those two songs blew my mind to hear them live. Sounding better than ever, better than the record, just absolutely hot and heavy.

The band then moved in into a set mixed between several covers of classic artists like Talking Heads and The Church, along with some deep cuts from records old and new. Their cover of Once In A Lifetime was like a stoner doom nightmare version of David Byrne’s weird and wacky monologue. Some moments in between left something to be desired, with some truly awkward inter-band discussions making the crowd feel equally strange.

An intimate, acoustic version of Tonight, Tonight from 1995’s Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness was a true highlight of the night’s set. The emotion on display was truly moving, and the stripped back version left the perfect amount of room in the mix for Billy Corgan’s vocals to soar through.

The classic melter of Cherub Rock from 1993’s Siamese Dream, my favourite Smashing Pumpkins album, was possibly the only contentious point for me during the set. Unfortunately, the raw distortion of the track made the sound a bit hard to distinguish, and so I was left a bit disappointed in the mix for a moment, but the amazing song was impossible to ruin.

The unforgettable 1979 was an amazing singalong moment for the crowd, with fans young and old screaming every word. And of course, we couldn’t forget Zero either, another Pumpkins classic.

Closing the show with Silverfuck, although an interesting choice, ended the night with heavy riffs just as it had begun.

Overall, The World Is A Vampire festival was a true blessing to fans of alternative and heavy music, and was just fantastic to catch at a smaller warehouse venue instead of a giant corporate arena. I felt truly connected with the artists I saw, and the curation of the lineup along with the wrestling as a fun activity between bands made for a rad time at the rock show. In Corgan’s words: Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known

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