Less than four hours before doors, I got a text asking me to review tonight’s concert. Given I had no other plans for a change, and the venue was a very short stroll from my city home, I obliged – and moments after I accepted, the rain began. This was more of a concern since the venue was Melbourne’s beloved (and heritage-listed) Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the outdoor amphitheatre in the Kings Domain parklands.
By the time I arrived for first band, Even, at 7pm, the rain had thankfully stopped. Upon entering the venue, I saw some people with lawn tickets wisely putting down plastic and then their picnic blanket on top, while others tucked into food from the great international array of food trucks.
Even’s front man, Ash Naylor, informed the crowd that the last time they played the venue was back in ’97, at a time when it was a real thrill getting their songs played on the radio. They then launched into “Black Umbrella,” something that I hoped wouldn’t be needed for the next few hours.
Wally Kempton (aka Wally Meanie of The Meanies) grooved away on bass, while Matthew Cotter rounded out the rock trio on drums, as they performed select songs from their eight studio albums.
Anton Ruddick from the Melbourne band Swedish Magazines joined them on guitar when it was time for “Dandy Stomp” and he stuck with them through the last half of the set, which culminated with their last song “Rock and Roll Save My Life.”
I enjoy the classic ‘60s and 70s influences in Even’s brand of rock music, along with the pop sensibilities that make their songs very listenable to those hearing them for the first time, which made them the perfect choice to get tonight’s show rolling.
Beneath his unbuttoned pink floral shirt, Ash wore a black long-sleeve t-shirt of The Dandy Warhols, who were next to take the stage, with their every move also captured by the Moshcam film crew. From the vibrant and eco-friendly cultural city of Portland, Oregon, The Dandies formed back in 1994 (the same year as Even did too.)
The last time I saw The Dandy Warhols was 2013, when I photographed them backstage in New York City for my book Before I Hit the Stage. Their singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor was also featured in my book Sex Tips from Rock Stars a few years prior to that, so I knew what to expect from their live show that always brings a cool ambiance.
Opening with “Godless” from their biggest-selling album Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, I happened to be positioned in front of Zia McCabe, who switched between playing keyboards, bass, and tambourine as their set progressed. Zia heartily bounced, swayed and danced to the psychedelic rock and synthpop tunes she was creating with her bandmates, while hitting the tambourine on her hip as a fan gently blew the back of her long hair up, adding to her rock Goddess aura. I couldn’t help but keep smiling at her, and she smiled back.
“We Used to Be Friends” was a crowd favourite, as centre stage drummer Brent DeBoer played his kit that featured the peeled banana artwork from the cover of their Welcome to the Monkey House album that the song featured on back in 2003 (and was produced by Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes.) Most of the crowd were probably unaware that for some years now, Brent has lived in Melbourne with his wife and kids. I’m sure this contributes to the band playing this country regularly, which fans appreciate.
Peter Holmström played his guitar from under his big black hat in his trademark shoegaze style that oozes cool… or maybe he was just admiring his own brothel creepers, as I was.
With two loose plaits framing his face, Courtney Taylor-Taylor delayered as his body warmed up against the 12-degree temperature that felt like 9. The stand in front of him was adorned with two microphones to alternate between – one for his soft and breathy baritone vocals and the other for delivering his higher and falsetto lyrics. The two mics did make me think he’s probably a guy likely to order a double ice cream cone rather than a single, but I’m easily distracted by thoughts of ice cream in any weather.
The Dandies’ set peaked with their hit “Bohemian Like You” that featured in a popular Vodaphone TV ad back in the day and propelled its single re-release to #5 on the charts (that also included a B-side cover of “Hell’s Bells” from AC/DC’s Back in Black album… and AC/DC played their Melbourne show of that tour on the very same stage as tonight.)
The crowd had swelled with a couple of thousand now occupying the stalls, plus all the lawn punters, and everyone was ready for the main attraction and to celebrate the Hoodoo Gurus’ 40th Anniversary.
“That’s the way it all started; first song, first album,” said front man Dave Faulkner, after they finished their opening song, the rally call of the frenetic “(Let’s All) Turn On” that namedrops so many of the band’s musical influences.
New song “Answered Prayers” from their latest and tenth studio album Chariot of the Gods released six months ago was up next, and indicated we were going to hear their first and last material, plus everything in between.
After “The Right Time,” they launched into “Death Defying” that exhibited Dave’s country influences in his songwriting (that one was written during the mid-‘80s HIV/AIDS crisis), and it showcased the beautiful harmonies of his voice combined with that of guitarist Brad Shepherd.
Sixty-four-year-old Faulkner still has a strong voice with great range; it seems like he hasn’t lost anything over the years… except his teased, long hair. He doesn’t sing the songs exactly the same as on the albums though, especially in verses, but that difference is a beauty of their live show. Sit at home and listen to the songs if you want to hear them exactly the same. I think it probably does make it a little uncomfortable for some audience members wanting to sing along with him though, but I feel it encourages one to listen more instead and just be in the moment.
A song about Dave’s life was next in “Don’t Try to Save My Soul,” as the spotlight shone on his shimmering silver shirt while he belted out the chorus. Under his guitar were his trademark black skinny jeans with pointed black Chelsea boots.
He then addressed the crowd and thanked us for celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary Tour with them, especially after enduring false starts during recent pandemic years. This meant it was now a 41st anniversary, but with Brad Shepherd joining in September ’82, he felt it was perhaps bang-on for a celebration of that key moment in the band’s line-up four decades ago.
After asking the crowd if there was a song they wanted to hear, the Hoodoo’s launched into the garage stomper “Dig It Up” with newest member Nik Reith thumping the drum skins. At the end of the song, Dave said, “More Stoneage Romeos, let’s do it now!” and they moved into “I Want You Back.” It took me right back to the first time I saw them as a paisley-shirt wearing teenager in the mid-‘80s at Perth’s Canterbury Court. I absolutely loved that album then, and it has easily stood the test of time, regarded as one of the best debut albums by an Australian artist, ever! Rightly so.
After playing the title track of their new album, it was back to the first album with “My Girl” – a song Dave said he wrote when 21 years old, and he still likes it – then “Tojo.” How many songs do you know that mention the city of Darwin? Dave is one of the great Australian story-telling songwriters.
Following “Come Anytime,” it was time for Brad Shepherd to swap his guitar for a harmonica and microphone. The quintessential Aussie rock star guitarist with his handsome looks is still in great shape and he proved he can still play a mean harp too during “Poison Pen.”
The spotlight remained on him as he sang lead vocals on “I Come from Your Future,” a new song he said was about conquering advanced civilisations, without being intellectual. The band’s tribal tom drumming stomp again came to the fore as a part of their signature garage pop rock sound.
With every night’s setlist being different and somewhat random, according to Dave, “Bittersweet” from their second album Mars Needs Guitars! was up next. They then moved into “Miss Freelove ‘69” and “Good Times” from what Dave said is their much-maligned third album, Blow Your Cool! Bassist Richard Grossman certainly looked cool as he moved around in his black Western shirt embroidered with thorny roses and skulls.
I feel Dave’s greatest lyrics (aside from “Television Addict” by his old Perth punk band The Victims) are heard in the poignant Gurus’ song “1,000 Miles Away,” so I was bummed when Brad ran into guitar trouble as the song got underway and Dave decided to not continue with the rest of it.
The crowd responded loudly upon then recognising the beginning of “What’s My Scene,” another hit with great lyrics and melody, and indeed where the name of this very publication comes from – such a special song here at this site!
A ripping rendition of “I Was a Kamikaze Pilot” was belted out next, before the band exited the stage. Returning for an encore, Dave again thanked the huge crowd for sharing in the band’s birthday of sorts, that segued into, “our theme song from way back when” – the song “Be My Guru.”
To my delight, they had another go at “1,000 Miles Away” and nailed it this time, before the crowd’s biggest response of the night came for “Like Wow – Wipeout.” How many great songs does this band have in their catalogue? And what’s more, they play them all authentically with no backing tracks and no distracting production; it’s just the band playing their instruments with a decent light show. It’s very real, honest and down-to-earth.
The band came back for one more quick encore song of “Leilani,” which was their first single ever released, when they were still named Le Hoodoo Gurus. Members of The Dandy Warhols didn’t join in on this song tonight as they have done at other shows, but the audience then filed out of the venue with smiles on their faces regardless. Perhaps it was also because that rain managed to hold off all night for a better time.
Congratulations on 40 years to the Hoodoo Gurus. May we all enjoy many more years of your performances!