If there was such a genre of music called ‘art punk’ Do Re Mi certainly
qualified. I last saw the original line-up of Do Re Mi back in 1987 opening for Simple Minds. It was a short, sharp set from memory and it was filled with a number of their radio hits that were popular at the time. Move forward to late 2018 when the band reunited in Brisbane for an Australian Women in Music awards night, the seeds of a tour were planted in front woman Deborah Conway’s and bass player Helen Carter’s mind. The subsequent re-boot of the band sees Conway and Carter joined by drummer Julia Day, guitarist Bridie O’Brien and keyboardist Cleo Renner and it’s a winning combination of super talented women.
Seeing them in a club environment was a great opportunity to really embrace the multitude of great songs in the Do Re Mi catalogue. Early on in the set the familiar chords of Man Overboard – their most controversial song given its lyrical content and absence of a chorus, came towards the audience in a fast and furious manner. People were looking at each other quizzically as if to say “Wait what’s this?” and “Was that…?!”. Yes it was! The punk rock version as played at The Jump Club in 1982. Deborah had plenty of anecdotes about the songs and seemed to recall them very fondly. It was obvious that hearing these songs again were rekindling fond memories for the majority of the audience as the familiar songs from another lifetime it seems rang throughout the Corner Hotel. I was actually amazed at how well I remembered many of the songs having not heard them in so many years.
The Theme From Jungle Jim, Idiot Grin, King of Moomba and Guns and
Butter all had the crowd jumping. It was interesting to relate to these songs as an older person listening and it was evident that this had evoked a similar reflection from the perspective of the band, Conway being the main songwriter on the majority of these songs. When she introduced Adultery, she mentioned that it all depended on the perspective really which hinted at the fact that she probably didn’t share the same views on adultery now as she did when she first sang those lyrics.
Warnings Moving Clockwise was powerful and built the tension until the
familiar strains of Man Overboard – not the punk Jump Club version from The Waiting Room era Do Re Mi but the version that can still be heard on
Australian radio on a regular basis. The way this incarnation of the band
recreated the sound of the recording was incredible. Every sound was
authentic and true to the original production and the same could be said for
pretty much every song in the set. The sound and set up of the roto toms was particularly authentic and something you don’t hear very often live these days – such a great touch. The guitar sounds were equally as authentic and carefully curated with extra added edge. These little touches really enhanced not only the sense memories associated with these songs for many of the people in the room but it also introduced sounds that aren’t heard so much in this current era of music.
Fittingly, Conway dedicated the encore The Happiest Place in Town to her
children who she remarked she never thought would see the day of their
mother fronting her old band again. Given the love and support in the room for Do Re Mi that Friday night it probably was the happiest place in town!