It’s cold and rainy and The Gov is already atmospherically smoky. The stage is jam packed with instruments and amps and more lights than I’ve ever seen here before. It’s sold out tonight and the back room is full already, everyone securing their spot for what should be a fantastic night of Australian music.
From the moment Deborah Conway walks on stage, you can feel her commanding presence. Super sparkly dress, amazing shoes and a confident air around her, she and husband Willy Zygier open with 1993’s Alive and Brilliant from her highest charting album Bitch Epic. It’s a song I hadn’t realised I loved so much, and hearing it live is, well, it’s brilliant. That rolling guitar line really does feel like one step forward, two steps backward, and Conway’s voice is as iconic and powerful as ever.
In 2016 Conway released Everybody’s Begging, a look at the old testament from an Atheist and Jewish perspective; “As a menopausal woman, I know something of wrath, fury, anger and vengeance”. She smiles wryly to the crowd, half of which are engrossed while the other half are chatting rudely amongst themselves and Deborah Conway is not having it. It’s their last song, a beautiful story about parenting teenagers called Serpent’s Tooth and she wants you to listen. And you should. She deserves your attention.
Alex Lloyd plays most of his set with eyes closed and a concentrating frown. He plays seated to an attentive crowd, has a bit of gravel in his voice and silver in his beard. We’re all older 🙂 He’s very quiet to start with, only a couple of quick, quiet thank you’s between songs, until he relaxes enough to enjoy his own set with the rest of us. Soon he’s getting us to practice backing vocals for a ‘spontaneous, not at all planned’ singalong to Coming Home, and after a cover of Hallelujah I overhear two comments from the audience; ‘That was…. so good’, and, ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’. He certainly put his all into it.
Quite chatty now, though his set has come to an end, with a declaration that he would be finishing with ‘his biggest hit’. There’s a bit of an embarrassed laugh, and a ‘What did you expect?’ before telling a story of having to sit through three hours of Steve Miller just to hear The Joker. He knows we’re all waiting to hear Amazing, and it’s worth the wait.
I’ve seen The Whitlams play many times, and they do not disappoint. The lights go down, we hear the familiar notes of “Look at his face’ by Handsome Boy Modeling School and 4 gentlemen walk out onto the stage and immediately launch into I Will Not Go Quietly (Duffy’s Song). Just as an aside, if anyone has a copy of the TV show that song was written for, ‘Love is a Four Letter Word’, please get in touch.
More favourites follow; Fall For You, Charlie #1, Charlie #3 and one of Tim Freedman’s most loved Stevie Plunder songs, The Ballad of Lester Walker. There are stories between the songs, of meeting fans who say their parents brought them to watch the band when they were nine, and now they need to get home to their own kids, and of the frightening chill that ran through Freedman’s body one time as Christopher Pine and Steven Marshall happened to pass by him.
Tim Freedman is a outstanding songwriter, every song a clear picture with an accessible message. The three other talented musicians are given the spotlight several times through the night. On bass, Adelaide boy Warwick Hornby, who is resting his vocal chords tonight. Terepai Richmond has been drumming since the age of six plays an intelligent mix of simple and intricate beats, and Jak Housden on guitar gets numerous opportunities to showcase his incredible talent through multiple solos and lead vocals on a cover of ELO’s When I Was A Boy.
After a short break to attempt to remove the source of a frog like rattle coming from the lighting rig, the band return to the stage with tracks from their twenty-five year history together; Melbourne, Thank You (For Loving Me At My Worst), Following My Own Tracks, You Sound Like Louis Burdett, Royal In The Afternoon, and the prettiest ‘you up?’ text in song form, Ease of the Midnight Visit.
For No Aphrodisiac and Buy Now, Pay Later (Charlie #2)’ vocal duties are happily taken by the crowd, and they finish up with Gough, and then return with Laugh In Their Faces and I Make Hamburgers as the encore.
Deborah Conway was enchanting, Alex Lloyd was lovely, and The Whitlams were, as always, thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. I wouldn’t mind a night like this every year.
Live Review By Carly Whittaker