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Gig ReviewsReviews

[Review] The Darkness, Festival Hall Melbourne 03/02/2024

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album Permission to Land sees The Darkness back on Australian soil for an impressive string of dates. With singer Justin Hawkins going down with illness just before their arrival we have all been waiting with bated breath, but never fear The Darkness are here and ready to rock. They are no strangers to Australia being greedily lapped up with every visit, now it was my turn to see what all the fuss is about.

The iconic Melbourne stalwart Festival Hall is back up and running after a dubious period in no mans land, and I for one was glad to get back down to Dudley Street and rock out where so many music legends have graced the stage. The openers were plentiful giving punters great value for money, as Melbourne’s Cry Club and Brisbane’s DZ Deathrays got the party started. It was then up to Sydney lunatics You Am I to give the final warm up session. Treating us to a Spinal Tap set that opened up a world of nostalgic memories from the quintessential piece of fictional history. Tim Rogers was the perfect fit to pull off the The Majesty of Tap, he enveloped the role to perfection along with the perfect accompaniment in You Am I. Their musicianship and theatrics were the key to this set going next level, add to this Tim wearing silver flares and a black hooded cape it really set the tone. Stonehenge was delivered with faux stone appearing from the roof, keeping with the theme of the movie, it certainly enveloped the mocumentary with gusto. Hell Hole was another welcome additional and had the crowd up and about as Tim said “Open you cheeks to the sight and smell of the Tap!” as only he could. A wonderful addition to the show and a perfect fit for The Darkness.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least, green lights resembling a landing strip flashing down each side of the stage as The Darkness took full flight to an erupting Festival Hall. This show was their biggest in Australia to date and Melbourne music fans turned out in droves to witness this most prestigious celebration. Justin donning a red and black jumpsuit in his trademark fashion as they jumped into Black Shuck to get the party started. Working through the album in no particular order the fans were 100 per cent committed to making the show one for the memory banks with phones put away and everyone living in the moment. It felt like stepping back in time just people going nuts, hands in the air, clapping on command, dancing, singing and have a bloody awesome night.  Get Your Hands Of My Woman, Growing On Me, Givin’ Up were all slotted in as they worked through this cracker of an album. The punters singing the ‘oh, oh’s’ and ‘Givin Up, Givin Up Givin a Fuck’ with unabashed enthusiasm. Justin had now stripped the top half of his jumpsuit down saying “I didn’t think it would be this hot up here!”  But we all knew it wasn’t called ‘Festy Hall’ for nothing. Crowd engagement was second to none as Love Is Only A feeling and Stuck In A Rut played out, Rufus Tiger Taylor was smashing the skins to within an inch of their life and kept the set running like clockwork.

Dan Hawkins is really a jack of all trades when it comes to musical instruments, his guitar work is of the highest calibre as he strutted his stuff and worked the stage like a true professional.  Frankie Poullain kept pace with the bass, this four-string slayer did not miss a beat, so at home on the big stage as Friday Night saw the fans ready to sing. A sneaky little snippet of Led Zeps Immigrant Song was a worthy addition as super shredder Justin even noodled the intro of AC/Dc’s Thunderstruck before he launched into I Believe In A Thing Called Love. With Melbourne finally throwing up a summer day, good old Festy Hall started to really feel the heat, living up to its nickname in spades as the sweat drenched punters screamed for the one they had been waiting for. Arms aloft clapping in time it really was a sight to behold, Justin still hitting the high notes with faultless precision of a man many years his junior. With the roof well and truly raised the boys left the stage to cool their jets for five minutes but the Melbourne maniacs were having none of it as they stomped and clapped, and if you have been to Festival Hall before you would know those timber floor do love a good feet hammering. It was no surprise when The Darkness returned that Justin said he could hear the stomping from downstairs. With their outfits changed to bedroom attire, all four sporting silk robes or PJ’s of choice, even guitar tech extraordinaire Ian Norfolk sporting a robe. With Justin having more guitar changes than I have had hot dinners he was certainly kept on his toes, and he did not miss a beat. I can see why they call him the fifth member of the band.  Speaking of the band, Justin went on to do introductions to the tune of In The Air Tonight made famous by Phil Collins, with his brother Dan on the drums, mixing things up a bit. Once again I reiterate, super talented musicians!!

Justin launched into I Love You 5 Times, almost a cappella with the fans singing along until he strapped on his guitar and ramped it up a level or two.  Love On The Rocks With No Ice saw out the show and had the rabid crowd in a right frenzy as Justin took to the shoulders of one of his team and made his way in and around the floor of Festival Hall. All while shredding up a storm and not missing a single note, fans very respectful of him with the odd pat on the back as he made his way from one side to the other. After being delivered back on stage he showcased his skills again playing, jumping and even hopping on one leg as he played like his life depended on it.  Forever the showman and a moment forever etched in our hearts. The Darkness really are the complete package and if are yet to see them do not delay, with just a few shows left on this Australian tour it would be a cardinal sin to miss out.

Celebrating 20 years in the biz is no small feat but here’s hoping there will be many more years in the tank for The Darkness. Gauging on tonight’s performance Melbourne Airport will not just grant permission to land but dedicate a runway in their honour. Thanks for the thrills boys, here’s to seeing you back in Aus real soon!

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Gig ReviewsReviews

The Black Crowes @ Palais Theatre, Melbourne 20/11/2022

The evening began with a last minute decision to move the the gig from the Palace foreshore into the Palais theatre. Probably due to Melbourne’s laissez faire attitude towards adhering to weather forecasts. A decision that I enthusiastically applauded and was most pleased with.

I arrived at 6:15pm as the doors were about to open and a long line had already snaked its way around the front of the venue. This crowd had waited a long time for the much overdue reunion of The Black Crowes.

Taking the stage promptly at 6:45pm was Full Flower Moon Band, a five-piece outfit hailing from sunny Brisbane. Comprising of Babyshakes Dillon (Vocals & Guitar), Christian Driscoll (Guitar), Caleb Widener (Guitar), Marli Smales (Bass & Backing Vocals) and Luke Hanson (Drums)

Right out of the gate their drummer was like hearing a bomb go off. Every hit of the skins had intentionality and ferocity yet he had a good understanding of utilising dynamics when the song required a softer touch. The bass held a consistent groove that you felt in your stomach and the three guitars made up of an SG, a Telecaster and a Stratocaster formed an unholy trio of tone. Together they weaved a rugged and lipstick stained tapestry of rhythm and melody. Crushing riffs juxtaposed with haunting vocals. Babyshakes Dillon’s vocals reminded me of Shirley Manson of Garbage. She had a swagger and filth in her delivery that said not only can I throw down with the boys but I can beat you.

My favourite song that they performed was, Come and be my baby. Ironically it is the only song from their set that isn’t available online at the moment. All in all Full Flower Moon Band are a great example that the future of Aussie rock is not just alive but absolutely thriving. You just have to look and listen a little closer.

Filling the main support spot was Australian icons You Am I fronted by eccentric frontman Tim Rogers. Dressed lavishly in his trademark look of bellbottoms and a red shirt Tim oozed vintage chic as they took the stage to a hearty applause. Opening the set with Rumble they were off and running after a few small sound issues which didn’t seem to slow them down. The Waterboy, Who Put The Devil in You? and Cathy’s Clown all made an appearance keeping the fans happy. 

Tim was up and about with his cheeky banter keeping the punters entertained as Mr Milk and How Much is Enough rang out. While I don’t believe it was their strongest performance there was plenty of crowd support as they finished off with their huge hit Berlin Chair. Tim ever supportive of the local music industry inviting people to go out and sample some of the live music scene and support our musicians. So get to it people, there is so much live music to see in Melbourne you will be glad you did!

James Brown’s Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine played over the PA as we starred into the darkness as silhouettes moved across the stage and you could feel the anticipation in the atmosphere change. Then a single light illuminated Rich Robinson and his guitar as he began playing the intro to Twice as hard and the crowd simultaneously exploded with rock and roll as frontman. Chris Robinson’s entrance was greeted with deafening screams. Chris was dressed in a gold sparkle shirt and shiny silver shoes. But even an outfit this loud was barely able to contain the infectious energy he exuded.

The Black Crowes didn’t give a performance you’d expect of seasoned veterans, but they played with the vigour of a new band hungry to prove themselves. As I watched from the balcony I couldn’t see a single person that wasn’t on their feet, despite the Palais being a seated venue. The third song of the night was Sister Luck. You could feel the nostalgia in the air and for a brief moment all of us were transported back to 1990. Such is the magic of good music. Seeing Things showcased the band’s soul and gospel influences as Chris Robinson didn’t merely sing the lyrics but managed to engage the crowd in an unspoken dialogue. Following this was their cover of Otis Redding’s Hard to handle. The crowd exploded once more to an even higher level that literally made the floor and walls of the Palais theatre shake. As the chorus came around The Black Crowes didn’t have two back up singers in the band but a couple thousand new ones.

In the middle of performing Stare it Cold, an over enthusiastic fan climbed up on stage and charged towards the band. Two members of security rushed over to apprehend him but he grabbed one of them and threw him into the audience. The second security personnel managed to grab a hold of him while Chris Robinson pushed him away with his mic stand. As security struggled to subdue him Rich Robinson didn’t miss a beat and ran over to strike the misfit with the butt of his guitar. As the assailant was brought under control Rich grabbed the mic and yelled: “Get this mother fucker out of here.” Which was met with applause and approval from the fans. Chris then took the mic and decided to restart the song. Nonchalantly brushing off the incident and getting right back to the music.

The guitar nerd in me noticed that both Rich Robinson and lead guitarist Isaiah Mitchell were using three amplifiers each. An educated guess leads me to believe that this was to have their guitar signal panned in stereo and have one signal straight down the middle. Keyboard player Joel Robinow had a vintage Leslie speaker in his setup, something I’ve never seen a band do in a live setting. These little details show a lot about who The Black Crowes are as artists and how much care and attention they place on their sound. Something often overlooked in our modern digital age where such analog efforts are deemed too costly and unnecessary.

The set was closed with the fan favourite, Remedy. The crowd gave all they had and sang at the top of their lungs and the band graced them with a breath taking performance. At the end the lights went down but the crowd could not be quelled and for their passion they were rewarded with an encore of Rock & Roll by The Velvet Underground.

This was a a night of passion, joy and drama. Much like the things that make up life and to me the very essence of what Rock and Roll is all about. The Black Crowes embody this and show us that they are just as important and relevant today as they were when they debuted Shake Your Money Maker in 1990.

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InterviewsTour Interview

Interview with Davey Lane (You Am I)

Soon after ADELAIDE GUITAR FESTIVAL announced their 2022 program, Rohan sat down with DAVEY LANE of YOU AM I to talk TAP!!!!

Interview with Davey Lane (You Am I)

In its second annual year, Adelaide Guitar Festival proudly announces the program of world-class finger plucking favourites of rock, classical, blues, flamenco, country, and much more, from July 9 to 24, presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and visiting ten South Australian towns with the return of the On The Road regional touring program.

In a world premiere and festival exclusive, sharing center stage are Spinal Tap’s cult bass player, Derek Smalls (otherwise known as Harry Shearer), and Australian rock legends, You Am I, who will perform their tribute show Majesty of Tap after turning it up to eleven with Smalls for one night only at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Extra keen enthusiasts will be able to catch a special screening of This is Spinal Tap and Q&A in July at Mercury Cinema.

Another world premiere and exclusive to Adelaide is El Corazón del Flamenco, featuring a double bill of Spanish flamenco star José María Gallardo del Rey and Victoria-based group Arte Kanela in one exhilarating, spirited evening of music and dance.

José will also perform the Australian premiere of his new classical composition Altamira in the double bill Origination, joined by a string quartet, and the world premiere of a quintet by renowned Australian composer Gerard Brophy. Rounding out the performance, Australian voice/guitar duo Quin Thomson and David Malone will present a program of beloved favourites and premiere new works by Quin and by classical composer (and Associate Professor at Tasmania’s Conservatorium of Music) Maria Grenfell.

Adelaide Guitar Festival Artistic Director Slava Grigoryan: “The world’s most popular instrument will continue to shine in all genres in 2022, in both ticketed performances of all sizes and free and interactive opportunities. Whether you want to dance, learn, play, or simply sit, listen and enjoy, we have you covered this winter and hope you can join us at Adelaide Festival Centre and throughout regional South Australia.

”Many of our 2021 On the Road attendees commented how much they had missed and enjoyed the unique, intimate experience of live performance, which is something we all appreciate more than ever before. We were very fortunate to be able to hold events in so many regions in addition to the Adelaide performances, and this year we will get to expand on this further, plus welcome back international performers alongside some of our city and country’s best to present a fabulous program.”

This year, attendees will also be able to play the world’s largest acoustic guitar! The newly opened Festival Plaza will be home to The Immersive Guitar, which offers the free opportunity for participants to step in and get strumming on overhead strings. The project is a joint creation between performers Karin Schaupp and Vanessa Tomlinson, luthier Jim Redgate, architect Bruce Wolfe, and structural engineer Hassan Karampour, and during the festival, Karin and Vanessa will create and perform a newly commissioned work.

Commemorating the incredible milestone of 50 studio albums is Joe Camilleri, whose Black Sorrows need no introduction, but would not exist without him at the helm. Joe and the band will be joined by special guest Lecia Louise and her bluesy, rockin’ 60s and 70s-inspired tunes.

A celebration of the clear, precise beauty of classical music is triple bill Sketches and Orchestrations featuring China’s Xuefei Yang (China’s first internationally-recognized guitarist on the world stage), and sets by both the Adelaide Guitar Festival Orchestra (the festival’s Guitar Winter School Classical stream) and the Brisbane-based Riverside Guitar Ensemble.

Shred heads can rejoice when local guitarist/composer/80s enthusiast Cam Blokland with a stellar local band playing the best of Satriani, Vai, Malmsteen, and more, followed by lead guitarist Simon Hosford and rock band Fair Warning who will channel the spirit of Eddie Van Halen in Foundations of Shred.

Songs Told of a Land of Gold brings to life the musical sounds of our beautiful country, via the charming sounds of country music. ARIA award winner and eight-time Golden Guitar winner Fanny Lumsden takes a break from sharing the stage with Paul Kelly, whilst self-proclaimed country vagabond Jimmybay will park his Kombi van, for one special night to each share tales from the road and weave together stories and songs.

Another world premiere, Spectrums of Sound, set the stage for two highly respected and prolific artistic duos to delve into new genre-bending works and sonic grooves. Out of Sinc is a collaboration between one of Australia’s most in-demand bass players, Nick Sinclair, and Adelaide-born ARIA award-winning jazz guitarist James Muller. Fellow duo Isola (guitarist/composer Cameron Deyell and percussion/producer Laurence Pike) share a 20-year history as friends and co-collaborators and will be joined on stage by their friend and multi-instrumentalist composer Jasper Leak, internationally known for his collaborations with Sia, Tegan and Sarah, and Quincy Jones.

Three previous Adelaide International Classical Guitar Competition winners – Pavel Ralev (2021), Pietro Locatto (2020) and Andrew Blanch (2019) – will present a monumental afternoon of inspiring solo recitals, sure to further cement their apt deserving of the title. The 2022 competition will be held on the final day of the festival to appoint this year’s winner.

Festival stalwart, Adelaide Guitar Festival Winter School, will hold a week-long guitar intensive with some of Australia’s finest guitarists in a small, immersive environment. Participants can choose from two streams: Blues and Roots (July 11 – 15) and Orchestra (July 18 – 22), open to all ages and with subsidies available.

Recorded in 2020 and with over 200,000 views, resonating with audiences everywhere were The Backstage Sessions, featuring some of South Australia’s most talented and emerging musicians performing in the intimate concert setting of the Festival Theatre stage. Six newly recorded sessions will be released throughout May and June to join the currently re-released 2020 recordings, ensuring plenty of online opportunities for those preferring to watch from home.

Free events include Paul Nash and the Classical Guitar Society of Victoria with a tribute to legendary Grammy-Award winning musician, Julian Bream; Yamaha Guitars’ Come and Try sessions where anyone can unleash their inner Tommy Emmanuel or Chick Corea via hands-on experience with the latest models; new handmade treasures from some of Australia’s finest luthiers at the Guitar Expo; and a historical exhibition of Yamaha guitars stretching from 1966 to the present day at A Tradition of Innovation.

After huge success in 2021, in 2022 Adelaide Guitar Festival On the Road returns, with additional regional towns added and program details released in May. An incredible lineup of local musicians will present free evening community hall concerts at new towns Elliston and Streaky Bay on July 8, and at Crystal Brook and Watervale on July 15. Also new in 2022 are Wallaroo (July 17) and Gumeracha (July 24) where residents will enjoy full-day micro-festivals, along with revisiting Tumby Bay (July 9), Cleve (July 10), Edithburgh (July 16), and a special one-day event in Eleanor Downs on Kangaroo Island (July 17).

Also returning in 2022 are Adelaide Festival Centre’s CentrED program, arranging artist visits to selected schools on Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas, and the ever-popular Resonance program which will entertain residents in 11 regional and metropolitan aged care facilities.

In 2022 Adelaide Guitar Festival is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, Festivals Australia program, and RISE funding body.

Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director Douglas Gautier AM: “In our second annual year of Adelaide Guitar Festival, and with the newly opened Festival Plaza precinct, we’re relishing the opportunity to welcome back audiences to our venues this winter. It’s a privilege to support our local artists and teachers and the next generation of performers via our Winter School and we look forward to showcasing some of our best South Australian talents at the free regional events, which proved very popular last year.” Minister for Arts, The Hon Andrea Michaels MP: “It is wonderful to see our iconic festivals getting back in full swing, reinvigorating our state and enriching our lives the way that only live performance can. I heartily congratulate Slava and the Adelaide Festival Centre team on another exciting program and encourage everyone to get out and about this winter to enjoy the Adelaide Guitar Festival.”

Tickets are on sale now online and via Ticketek.

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