There has been a big run of 20th anniversary release tours and so called nostalgia acts doing the rounds for the past 5 years or so. Actually it has been going on for decades but it just seems like a recent thing because now is the time that the bands of my teenage and early adult years are coming back around again. I couldn’t be happier as a lot of the bands I loved were playing at venues and hours that teen me couldn’t access. I did manage to get to quite a few Kim Salmon and Died Pretty shows back in the ’90s but I never got to see Radio Birdman in their heyday. The first of 2 Melbourne shows for the double header Died Pretty Radio Birdman shows saw Died Pretty headlining, Kim Salmon taking the opening slot and Radio Birdman slotted nicely in between.
Kim Salmon rocked with bass player Loretta Wild and drummer Mike Strangers treating us to Scientist classics Frantic Romantic, Swampland and We Had Love as well as The Beasts of Bourbon classic Cool Fire which fit comfortably beside his solo material including Freudian Slippers in addition to a sultry rendition of You Only Live Twice. He and his band wore their set lists on their shirts – literally showing his material covered a lot of material!
Radio Birdman claimed the stage next opening with the 13th Floor Elevators cover You’re Gonna Miss Me which appeared on their debut Radios Appear album along with others from that classic album including Do The Pop, Hand of Law and a powerfully epic Descent into the Maelstrom mid way through the set. Rob Younger’s vocals were spot on and hadn’t lost any of its edge but it was guitarist and co-writer Deniz Tek who owned the stage. His playing was sensational and the tone perfect with dynamics and presence and when he unleashed for solos almost tore the roof the Croxton Park Hotel. Another standout was their cover of Magazine’s Shot on Both Sides and of course the song that the kids, now 50+ year old blokes, in the room yelled “Yeah hup!” to – New Race. With 20 songs in the set, the intensity never let up; it was frantic and nervous energy from start to finish.
Died Pretty had a hard act to follow this time – on paper and in reality. However, the minute Died Pretty hit the stage the crowd was enraptured. The 2 sets were completely different in style but the intensity was still there. Ron Peno cut an imposing figure, although small in stature, his charisma and his distinctive moves embodied a feeling that the audience connected with from the outset. The pairing of these bands made perfect sense once the songs began to unfold and capture a feeling that was both nostalgic and new as I listened to these songs again with fresh ears and 25 years of different life experiences from the last time I saw Died Pretty play live. Whereas Radio Birdman embodied the very fast train, Died Pretty took us on a scenic route through the pop tinged Triple J standards of Doughboy Hollow that was arguably their most commercially accessible album.
Just Skin from their 1986 album Free Dirt was a highlight as were crowd favourites Sweetheart, Harness Up and DC.
Having these 3 acts on the one bill made for a great opportunity to reconnect with notably influential artists of the ’80s and ’90s – not just in Australia but on the international scene and reminded me just how well the material from that time stands up today. There was nothing half baked about any of the performances – all were totally on their game if not better than I remembered them to be in a live setting. The audience around me, although appearing older on the outside, no doubt were taken back to a time and place where live music was central to everything. In the age of digital downloads and streaming where we have so much access to music at our fingertips, it was a reminder that there is nothing that connect us all to a feeling and to music as being there and experiencing it in person and in real time.