Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things Of Stone And Wood- The Yearning Tour

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their debut album The Yearning, Things Of Stone And Wood have reunited for a tour around Australia, playing the album in full for the first time. Fran, Kelli and I arrived at the Northcote Social Club tonight for the last few songs of opening act Club Hoy, another early 1990s folk-rock band (although I wasn't aware of them as they were before my time in Australia).

This was the first of two shows in Melbourne, and it was great to see Greg Arnold, Tony Floyd and Michael Allen back together playing live again. For this tour they were joined by multi-instrumentalist James Black from Mondo Rock and Rockwiz fame to round out the sound. You forget how many great songs are on The Yearning, and the crowd was singing and jumping along to "Share This Wine," "Happy Birthday Helen" (which Greg had us sing for the real Helen in Switzerland as it was her birthday today), "Rock This Boat," "Single Perfect Raindrop," "Rain Fell Down" and "Barkly Street." I also loved hearing the slower tracks "In Our Home" and one of my all time favorites "Beg." At the start of the set Tony was doing little factual intros for each song, and I must say that Greg was in very fine voice throughout the show.

For the encore they branched out to their other releases and sang "Churchill's Black Dog" and "Wildflowers" off of Junk Theatre, "Blink" off the underrated Whirligig, and closed the night with "She Will Survive" with Greg on acoustic guitar and Tony and Michael singing harmonies together on the other mike. It's such a special opportunity to get to see them live these days (especially with Greg living overseas), so I was very appreciative of this tour happening.

Here's the video for "Happy Birthday Helen," which was the song that really launched their career:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Evening With Nick Seymour

Tonight Fran, Mary and I met up at Allans Billy Hyde on Bourke Street for an unique opportunity to listen to Nick Seymour of Crowded House talk about his career in music and as an artist. They had rows of chairs set up in the store for the 100 or so people lucky enough to grab a free ticket to this special event.

Nick was his usual lovely and entertaining self as he started the evening by talking about his upbringing, going to art school, and the local Melbourne music scene in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of his early band experiences was with his brother Mark and other housemates in a band called Bam, but it came to a end when Mark took the songs they had worked on to his other band The Jetsonnes (an early version of Hunters & Collectors), which had a bass player so Nick wasn't needed.

Nick was already friends with Paul Hester, so when he and Neil Finn announced they were starting a new band out of the ashes of Split Enz, Nick was determined to get a shot. He crashed the Enz farewell party, cornered a drunk Neil and got him to agree to let Nick audition for the band. The rest is history.

As part of Nick's talk he took us through the bass parts of different Crowded House songs utilising the rehearsal tracks that Neil and his son Elroy put together to help Nick rehearse for Neil's solo festival shows that they played over the past week. We were treated to portions of "Don't Dream It's Over," "It's Only Natural," "Fall At Your Feet," "Sister Madly," and "Pineapple Head" as someone asked a question about it. He also played a bit of "Amsterdam" as an example of a song he was initially unsure about but felt came together in the end, and "Better Be Home Soon" as an example of rises and falls he added to baseline instead of just playing it straight. Nick said that his favorite songs were those where he gets to sing and play bass at the same time.

Nick answered many questions from the audience. He briefly touched on some of his artwork, including the Crowded House album covers and original stage costumes with the painted jackets. He said those came about due to his horror at Neil and Paul turning up to rehearsals in slippers and Neil wearing a cardigan. He discussed the band's input into their earlier videos, where "Don't Dream It's Over" featured rooms representing a space from each of their childhoods, and Nick designed the set for "World Where You Live" as a moving room (which gave Paul motion sickness). A young member of the audience asked about the impact of Paul's death, and Nick spoke quite honestly about his sense of grief and abandonment

He spoke about live shows, including playing the Sydney Opera House both 20 years ago and last November, one of his favorite gigs (Byron Bay Bluesfest) and worst gig (Coachella playing before Rage Against The Machine to a hostile crowd that threw a water bottle that hit Neil's mike stand). Nick also told a very funny tidbit that when Neil feels they've had a really great show he will stand around completely naked while changing in the backstage room and chat away about the gig.

Someone asked about the chances of Crowded House recording again, and Nick felt that it will happen eventually - both by revisiting sessions they did with Nick Launay a few years ago and doing new material. After the talk Nick was kind enough to stick around and sign autographs for people. I got him to sign my Chris Bourke Crowded House: Something So Strong book. He even wrote a line to rhyme with one Paul had previously written. Now all I need is Neil's signature. Nick was so gracious with everyone and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to listen to him speak for a couple of hours.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Mexrrissey- Mexico Goes Morrissey

Morrissey has a massive Mexican following, so it should be no surprise that a group of Mexican musicians from various bands have joined together under the moniker Mexrrissey to play Spanish versions of songs by Morrissey and The Smiths. Tonight Belinda and I attended the first date of their Australian tour at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Opening up the evening was another tribute act: The Thin White Ukes. This three piece band played David Bowie songs on the ukulele, including "Ashes To Ashes," "Space Oddity," "Golden Years," "Let's Dance," "Heroes" and "The Man Who Sold The World." The female member also wore an amazing silver jumpsuit.

Mexrrissey emerged on the stage in all black and launched into "First Of The Gang To Die." It's very interesting knowing all these songs and wanting to sing along, but not necessarily knowing the Spanish lyrical translations. Members took turns singing lead, which included the Morrissey tracks "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get," "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and "The Last Of The Famous International Playboys." Considering how conservative a venue like the Melbourne Recital Centre is, it was great that a few songs in the band got the majority of the crowd to stand up and dance along.

The band had some stunning visuals on the large screen behind them, which gave the show a bit of a pop art feel. One of the best was Morrissey hitting a Trump piƱata with gladioli while they played The Smiths track "Panic." Other Smiths songs in the set were "Still Ill," "Girlfriend In A Coma,""Ask" and "Bigmouth Strikes Again," which closed the main set. For the encore they started with "Mexico" on trumpet and guitar, and were then joined by the rest of the band for "Suedehead" and "How Soon Is Now?" to close out the night. This show was so much fun and great to hear a different take on these songs I've known for years.

Here is Mexrrissey doing "Estuvo Bien" ("Suedehead"):

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Living End- Twangin' At Twilight

The Living End are back together in Australia for their Staring Down The Highway regional tour, but to kick things off they are playing a few Zoo Twilights shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Billed as Twangin' At Twilight, tonight was the first of two nights at Melbourne Zoo. Danny and I found a spot on the lawn and had some Mr Burger for dinner as Gabriella Cohen and her band played a bluesy/indie set of music.

The Living End began the evening with an acoustic set, which included members of The String Sirens providing backing string arrangements to many of the songs. They played stripped back versions of "Moment In The Sun," "Raise The Alarm," "For Another Day" and a reggae version of "West End Riot." They also did covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down On The Corner" and The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."

After a short break the electric version of the set started as Chris invited everyone to stand up for the rest of the show. Off their latest album Shift they played "Monkey," "Staring Down The Barrel" and "Keep On Running" with The String Sirens. We also got the classics "Second Solution," "Roll On," "All Torn Down," and "Who's Gonna Save Us?" Highlights of the night for me were an amazing version of "How Do We Know?" with The String Sirens, and someone throwing a bra on stage during "Hold Up," which Andy proceeded to put on his head after the song (and then promptly took off when Chris reminded him that his daughter was in the audience).

For each of the Zoo Twilights shows the band have a special guest on the bill, and we were lucky to have Dan Sultan grace the stage for the Melbourne dates. They played Dan's song "Fear Of Flying," and then Dan sang lead on The Living End track "White Noise." Together they did a cover of Bill Haley's "Rock The Joint" accompanied by a couple friends of Scott on trumpet and saxophone. To finish off the night they ripped through "Prisoner of Society," which had everyone singing along. This was such a special and unique show and probably the first and last time I will ever see The Living End while standing barefoot on a picnic blanket.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

White Night Melbourne 2017

Last night through this morning was the fifth year of White Night Melbourne, which runs from 7pm to 7am around the CBD and surrounds. This year featured some interesting pieces and light projections spread across the various precincts in the city. I began my evening/early morning at the NGV where they had the special projections Viktor&Rolf - Inside Out by the Electric Canvas on the facade in honor of the current Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists exhibition.

White Night Melbourne

My next stop was the Alexandra Gardens, which had some fantastic installations, including Love This Way by Carla O'Brien, and the whimsical garden wonderland with giant white inflatable rabbits called Intrude by Amanda Parer, along with the plants Peony and Herbum Follus by Tilt.

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

Also located in the Alexandra Gardens and other locations around the CBD was a fantastic series called The Secret Life Of Statues by Mitch Gow and Eloise Kent, where Melbourne's famous statues such as the Pathfinder, Matthew Flinders, the Three Businessmen and Francis Ormond revealed different sides of their personalities.

White Night Melbourne

This year saw the welcome return of the light projections along Flinders Street. More Than 1 Nation, a collaboration between The Electric Canvas and Pitcha Makin Fellas, had projections on Flinders Street Train Station about the many nations of Indigenous Australia and the impact of colonisation.

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

The buildings along Flinders Street across from Federation Square were lit up by projections by The Electric Canvas which told various Fractured Fairytales in a comic strip style.

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

Up at the State Library they once again had projections outside and inside the building. On the exterior was The Night Garden by Lisa Greenaway, Nick Azidis and Rose Staff, with projections inspired by the medieval poem "The Romance Of The Rose" by Guillaume de Loris.

White Night Melbourne

Inside the dome of the La Trobe Reading Room was Seadragon's Lair by Sheree Marris, Lisa Greenway and John Power, which showcased what lives underwater in Port Phillip Bay.

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

The Carlton Gardens site was expanded this year and had quite a few interesting pieces. Pixel Fruit by Tim Newman had LED lanterns hanging from the branches of a large tree. The Sonic Light Bubble by Eness was an interactive piece that responded to touch. The mesmerising Nebulous by Alex Sanson was a kinetic sculpture that slowly expanded and contracted.

White Night Melbourne

The large expanse of the Royal Exhibition Building was once again utilised to great effect with the projection Rhythms Of The Night by Artists in Motion, which explored the four stages of sleep.

White Night Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

The final piece I checked out was the 5:30 am performance of The Pyrophone Juggernaut by Hubbub Music in association with Strut and Fret. The ship-shaped structure is the largest hand-operated, multi-octive fire organ in the world and it was amazing to watch the group of musicians play the pipes by lighting the gas flowing through the pipes with blow torches. It was an unique way to end my White Night experience for 2017.

White Night Melbourne

Thursday, February 16, 2017

JLT Community Series- Essendon v Collingwood

It's hard to believe but we have reached the start of the AFL pre-season, this year represented by the JLT Community Series over the next few weeks around Australia. Tonight Belinda and I headed to Etihad Stadium to watch the first game of 2017 between arch-rivals Essendon and Collingwood. There was a large turn out of Essendon supporters to welcome back our players who were suspended by WADA last year over the 2012 supplements scandal.

It was great to have new captain Dyson Heppell playing again, along with former captain Jobe Watson, Michael Hurley, Ben Howlett, Travis Colyer and David Myers. We also had the debut of our number one draft pick Andrew McGrath tonight. The game itself was quite enjoyable and free flowing at times, and Essendon led for the majority of the match. We had quite a few goal kickers, which was an encouraging sign considering last year's scoring issues. The moment of the night for me was in the second quarter when Jobe took a mark and had a shot at goal and the crowd erupted in cheers for him (unfortunately he only kicked a behind).

We went into the fourth quarter with a 23 point lead, but a combination of our veteran players coming off the ground for the night and two super goals by Collingwood sparked the Magpies to make a comeback and ultimately win the game. Although I didn't get my birthday wish of a win, there were a lot of positives to take out of the match for the Bombers, including the fact we played competitively and everyone got through the first match injury free.

Final Score
Essendon: 0.14.10 (94)
Collingwood: 2.13.9 (105)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists

The latest international fashion exhibition at the NGV is Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists. It features the avant-garde creations of the famous Dutch designers, showcasing over 40 pieces from their haute couture and ready-to-wear collections, as well as videos of their runway shows over the years. In addition, the exhibition contains 21 handmade porcelain dolls that are dressed in a miniature key piece to represent each of their major collections since 2008.

Viktor&Rolf are known for the sculptural elements of their designs, with pieces from some of their key collections such as Cutting Edge Couture, The Fashion Show, Wearable Art and Performance of Sculptures on display in the exhibition.

For Viktor&Rolf the theater of the fashion shows can be just as important as the clothes themselves. Two examples of this were one of their first shows, Russian Doll, where model Maggie Rizer was on a rotating platform as they kept adding layers of clothing one on top of another until she was wearing all nine outfits at once. Another key show was Flowerbomb, where the first part of the collection was all in black, and then the stage rotated to reveal another group of models all in pink (this show also went along with the launch of the Flowerbomb perfume, which is one of my favorites).

The exhibition is an amazing opportunity to get to see the construction of these complex designs up close. It runs until 26 February 2017 at the NGV.
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