Billed by Silverback Touring as “an intimate Sunday session with Melbourne icons The Casanovas,” this event certainly delivered the promised festive rock’n’roll vibes to help put the city’s lockdown behind us.
Local rockers The Crookeds began proceedings, providing the right ingredients to kickstart a good time: classic guitar-driven rock led by black-Les Paul-wielding lead guitarist and singer Sonny James Falsone, long hair flinging and flying as the boys in the band moved around the stage, and a very healthy portion of the crowd dancing along with smiles on their faces.
Sydney band Wicked Things were scheduled to play next, but 2020’s pandemic threw yet another spanner in the works with more state border closures taking place. So, we went straight into the night’s headlining act, The Casanovas. Bang!
It was the perfect mix of old and new material from these seasoned rock’n’rollers, as they started with the song “Nasty” from their very first EP, then moved right into this year’s new album Reptilian Overlord and the song “Outlaw” that contains the autobiographical lyric, “I never suck, and I never schmooze. I’m a cheese and Vegemite eating man with tattoos.” These Aussies clearly understand that rock’n’roll should always be tongue in cheek.
Perhaps their career’s biggest single to date “Shake It” was up next with new drummer Brett “Wolfie” Wolfenden driving its great groove, before the three-piece fed us another ‘70s-inspired rock song “I Thank You,” taken from their 2006 album All Night Long and led by bassist Damo Campbell on vocals.
The Casanovas’ always-excellent vocal harmonies shone on “Hollywood Riot,” the opening track and first single released from Reptilian Overlord, which then took them into the latest single from the record, “Lost & Lonely Dream,” and its third track “Cold Day in Hell.” The album was produced by legendary Aussie sound man Mark Opitz (who has previously done the same for The Angels, Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel, Rose Tattoo, INXS, and Divinyls) and they transferred the sonics flawlessly from their green vinyl into the live setting.
Timeless classic “Livin’ in the City” then got the crowd moving even more, before they ripped into my current favourite from the new album “Red Hot,” followed by another couple from All Night Long (“Heartbreaker” and “Born to Run.”)
The northside crowd then enjoyed the band’s forlorn ode to the gentrification of one of Melbourne’s greatest suburbs with “St. Kilda is Fucked,” in which they declare, “There was a time we used to go down and run amok. Those days are over; it’s official: St Kilda is fucked! Where are the freaks and the musicians? Something’s come unstuck. It’s all cashed up bogans now, honey.” At the end of the song, the band’s founder-guitarist-vocalist Tommy Boyce stood in his Bach t-shirt, jeans and boots and shared a further example of how far the suburb has fallen from grace, recounting how he very recently ordered a Japanese ramen soup from an establishment there, and subsequently walked out after slurping just one mouthful – it was THAT bad. Righteous!
A fun cover of the ZZ Top classic “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” was next, which has been covered by many before, including Motörhead, with whom The Casanovas toured Australia with on Mötley Crüe’s huge 2005 tour.
To close out the night, they played their debut anthem “10 Outta 10” from the Y2K. This festive season marks 20 years since I moved to Melbourne, and The Casanovas were one of the first local bands I saw here back then, so it was a full-circle cherry on top of the band’s set for me – and one that had the crowd singing along one last time.
Rock’n’roll tales continued with the band in their dressing room after the show until venue staff finally pulled the pin, at which point members of Airbourne and Black Aces jumped in my car and we continued on to a late-night bar for more livin’ in the city.
It may look and feel different to its glorious heyday, but Australian pub rock and the Sunday sess rides on. Get amongst it and follow The Casanovas now to catch them on a home ground in 2021 while you can, for I’m sure they’ll be off to play for their growing European fanbase as soon as the pandemic permits.