Pure Gold Live @ The Palais Theatre

Pure Gold Live @ The Palais Theatre

It's a buoyant and expectant crowd of music-loving prospectors that gather under an amber moon on Friday 13th – for what is being billed as one of the biggest lineups so far in the history of Pure Gold Live.

The list of artists reads like a veritable who's who of Australian Music from the 80's and 90's and it's obviously an attractive proposition – tonight it's a packed out theatre – testimony to the combined appeal of this lineup.

It's also refreshing to see that nobody in tonight's audience seems in the least bit self-conscious – just witness the couple a few seats along from me who sing along loudly to Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap your face'…

Tonight's house band begin proceedings with a tribute to Australian Guitar Gold... ripping out an extended medley that effortlessly shape-shifts from one classic to the next... Every song is performed flawlessly – a great indicator that tonight's backing band constitute some pretty talented session musicians.
We hear: Easybeats/ Sorry / Masters Apprentices / Turn up Radio Daddy Cool Eagle Rock/Skyhooks Horror Movie/Men At Work Downunder/Jo Jo Zep Hit and Run/AC/DC Shook Me All Night Long/Icehouse We Can Get Together/The Church Unguarded Moment/Divinyls Boys In Town/Midnight Oil Power & The Passion/Hoodoo Gurus Like Wow Wipeout...
As the medley comes to a close with an extended snippet of INXS anthemic 'Don't Change', tonight's first artist is introduced.

It's the legendary Swanee who tonight is channeling his best Barnesy as he growls out his perennial classic 'If I was a Carpenter'. Encouraging the audience to join him, he bellows some singing advice: "Sing it Up!... Sing it with the BALLS!"

Always one to engage the audience, it is merely seconds before this veteran of the circuit decides he's not getting close enough to the audience being up that high, and in a flash is down off the stage and balancing perilously on the pit railing running along the front of the crowd. A few punters just in front of him. extend a steadying hand and help him negotiate his way safely down into the aisle... he seems genuinely happy to be down amongst these music loving fans once again and he greets me with a smile and a friendly hand on my shoulder as he passes my aisle seat. Security aren't keen for him to try and climb his way back up onto stage and insistently herd him back through a side door.

The beauty of artists being wirelessly miked these days – is that although we can no longer see Swanee as he scurries back along the Palais' rabbit warren to the stage – we can still hear him, and he sings flawlessly. It's a great start to the evening and the warmed up audience applaud appreciatively as he finishes.

He effusively introduces the next artist for the evening and it's obvious he's a massive fan... "Sharon O'Neill is one of the nicest ladies you'll ever meet in Rock'n'roll... We're blessed to have her here... we're all backstage telling each other lies... it seems everybody's better than they were before..."

Sharon, who looks positively radiant and thrilled to be back on stage, is here to play only one track tonight – the classic 'Maxine' – her gorgeous ode to a young prostitute. With it's lilting sax lines, it's a song that has stood the test of time brilliantly, and for me personally, to hear this played live after waiting almost *four* decades is quite unreal. It's also heartening to realise that all those years have not diminished any of the silkiness of her voice. I'm not the only one who thinks so, as the audience seem equally rapt in her performance.

Dave Sterry, lead singer and chief songwriter of 80's synth legends Real Life is up next… As soon as the opening chords of 'Send Me An Angel' kick in and the cheesy red and yellow graphics light up the back screen, we are transported back to the heady heights of 1984. It is a testament to Sterry that the song still holds up so well... the synth lines are so ethereal as they carry the high backing vocals. To Dave's credit, he sounds exactly the same.

He introduces the next act saying, "The next band is an act that I actually use to love to hate back in the day but I've got to know them very well over the years and unfortunately, they are all really nice guys... please welcome Wa Wa Nee"

Paul Gray, Wa Wa Nee's lead singer and songwriter, who incidentally is also one of two keyboardist's in tonight's backing band, appears from side of stage with a red Keytar lazily strung across his back, to resultant screams from female members of the audience. Yep... Not much has changed has it? He leads the band in a funked up, very Prince influenced version of 'Stimulation' that has the girls immediately running down the aisle to the front to get the obligatory selfie – and of course, a closer look. "Want one more?", he rhetorically shouts... The next track is the even more hyped up 'Sugar Free'. Again the band nail it. Every act so far has been perfectly on point in their performances and gradually the audience is loosening up.

Jo Stanley, resident breakfaster on Gold FM fills in for a few moments while the stage is quickly readied for the next band. It's obviously a whole new band rather than just a singer switch-a-roo...

"How the fuck are you?... You feel like singing? What about you at the top?", shouts Alex Smith of Moving Pictures, before unleashing their epic '80's #1 'What About Me?'. .. Of course the audience are right with him on the chorus... "He gets to his knees and he saaaaays..." It's a firm favourite on Gold FM and it's fair to say pretty much the whole Palais sing along in unison. His vocals are probably the strongest we've heard so far tonight and when the sax joins in, the roof fairly lifts off the place. They choose to back that up with 'Bustin' Loose' which, although is a very Springsteen-styled rockier number, doesn't seem to have the same immediate cut-through as 'What about me?'. That is soon rectified with some rollicking piano runs from 'Chucky' and a mean sax solo.

Jo Stanley is back briefly to introduce the quietly spoken Shane Howard from Goanna who softly strums the intro to his golden oldie, 'Razor's Edge'. The melancholy in his voice is palpable and as I gaze around the theatre, I see face after face, completely lost in the sentimentality of the lyric... This song is one that just seems to take one back to 'that time' and the vibe is instantly sentimental and heart-warming. At song's end he winds the band right down until it is just him on a beautiful acoustic. Classic move Shane.

"Ahhh, this old song... It's carried me around a lot of the country... Just keep in your heart that the prosperity that we all enjoy comes on the back of a lot of aboriginal misery... Would you please make welcome Don Murray..."
The whipping didge intro to 'Solid Rock' effortlessly gets the Palais crowd to their feet for the first time this evening.

It's a tough act to follow, but the organisers know their 'Pure Gold' like the back of their hand and have planned the evening out perfectly. That gorgeous chanteuse Deborah Conway is welcomed to the stage next and introduces her first song of the evening.

"It is a pleasure for me to be playing the favourite form of conception for one of this countries most successful female athletes...Makybe Diva...she loved... and I do mean LOVED this song... It's Conway's big solo hit 'It's Only the Beginning' and everyone is up and dancing for this one too. Conway spends a lot of the time singing well away from the mic, such is the strength and power of her voice. It's a riveting performance.

She has one more song and everyone senses what might come next...

"We're only here to think about lovely things tonight... Like beautiful nostalgic memories... Where were you when you first heard this song?... Sleeping in... making love to your boyfriend? ...girlfriend?... any friend? – not such a great friend back in those days...!"

The pulsing jerky intro to Do-Ré-Mi's hit 'Man Overboard' sends the crowd into raptures. The muscular bass line, sparse backwards guitar and propulsive percussion proving once again that less is often way more... It's a blisteringly acidic delivery from Conway who musters every ounce of disdain. 'I'm bored of staring at the ceiling why you point out my flaws...I've watched the wallpaper peeling from slamming doors, You talk about penis envy, Your friends applaud...What am I expected to do? Shout man overboard?"... What a classic.

Next up is the much anticipated first live appearance of Kids in the Kitchen since 1987. The intro of 'Bitter Desire' rings out and people are revelling in it... Scott Carne doesn't appear for about a minute as the song builds and then, there he is... All mirrored shades and perhaps a tad over zealous on the black hair dye.
Like the other vocalists before him, despite the intervening years, he's been very active on the live circuit in 'Absolutely Eighties' with Brian Mannix and his other 80's cohorts (Dale Ryder (Boom Crash Opera), Sean Kelly (Models) and Fred Loneragan (Machinations)) and as a result, his voice is still as strong as it was back in the day.
The guys follow 'Bitter Desire' with 'Current Stand', another Gold FM staple, which goes down a treat, before ramping things up to full on party mode with the one that kicked off their career...'Change In Mood'... As the intro tape kicks in, I notice the horrified look on guitarist Claude Carranza's face... It's too fast mate!!! They just go with it and it is a glorious testament to their professionalism that not a note is dropped. Their short three song set is flawless and bodes very well for their support slots for the upcoming Australian Culture Club gigs in early June. (Speaking with Scott Carne after the show, he excitedly tells us they have an 11 song set planned for this support slot which will cover 75% of 'Shine' plus some of the later hits like 'Say it'... so that sounds unmissable!)

Source: Fan footage from YouTube

Second Half:

After a 15 minute break the show kicks off its second half with the debut performance of Gold FM's Build a Band competition. Up until 12 days ago, all the successful contestants, whilst clearly musicians who'd played their instruments before, hadn't played a note together as a group. It makes for an interesting concept. The band – dubbed rather unimaginatively 'Band of Gold' – were given just a few days to learn a song and perform it live on the Palais stage. Jo Stanley, in all her excitement to explain the concept and introduce all the newly formed band but forgets poor Joel, the Didge player... thankfully Lemho was onto it and prompted her...

So we have Band of Gold consisting of:

Bass guitar: Brendan
'Hot Rock chick' on drums: Rikkie
Lead Guitar: James
Lead Vocals: Steve
Didgeridoo: Joel

The song they were tasked with was 'Better' by The Screaming Jets – which in itself proves to be a good choice – it's competently rendered by the band, who all look to be having an absolute ball up on stage and each get the opportunity to showcase their chops during the song's big accelerated finish. The audience are very receptive and give them a well deserved thumbs up!

Sean Kelly from the Models is the first artist proper for the second half. His choice is 'I Hear Motion' which is inspired. I find it strange to see an artist who only ever gigs behind their instrument, suddenly freed from the constraints... Some find it a challenge but not Sean who jerkily dances back and forth over the monitor divide. Chris Beckham on bass is eerily on point and the song seems to possess even more swagger than when I saw it performed by the Models back in the day.

Source: Fan footage from YouTube

Sean welcomes an old sparring partner of his, Paul Norton who is here tonight to perform his #2 solo hit, 1989's 'Stuck On You'... he points out it was released in the very same year Taylor Swift was born... it romps along with all the verve it had back in the day.

He then introduces his old band mate Wendy Stapleton whom he briefly performed with in Wendy & The Rocketts... Their song is 'Play the Game' which certainly takes me back. It was never one of my faves personally, but there are plenty in the audience who appreciate it.

1927 are up next and they certainly kick things up a notch with 'That's When I Think Of You'. From the first chorus, the audience are matching them line for line with the call and responses. They follow it with 'If I Could' which, although a slower power ballad, seems to strike a real chord with the crowd. "Darlin' can't you see... what you mean to me...anything I could do... I do it for youuuu."

At the song's end, you really feel like the crowd would've loved another from them but with so many artists on the bill, there is just not the time...

Lehmo introduces another legend.. It's Steve Kilbey of The Church who, like Sean Kelly before him is unfettered from his bass and is free to galavant around the stage. For Kilbey, normally saddled with captaining the Church, it's almost a new found freedom.. which is a joy to behold. The house band's rendition of 'Unguarded Moment' is extremely faithful and it's great to see Steve relaxed enough within the band's performance to lose himself in his own.

He strides from one side of the stage to the other punctuating the song with grandiose arm gestures, sometimes marching along to the beat, at other times kicking an invisible footy. Although completely nonsensical and even ludicrous at times, these mimes merely serve as timekeepers - something to keep him occupied until it's time for THAT voice to come back in. Everything seems right with the world as the opening chords of 'Under the Milky Way' ring out. The track is truly majestic tonight and full marks to the keyboardist... the synth work is outstanding. I've heard it performed many times with The Church, but something about the performance tonight is so uplifting and invigorating that I think I hear Steve actually 'Whoop' at a couple of points in the track... By the song's end, I'm thinking this performance will now take some beating...

The legendary Richard Clapton is up next, and like your favourite teddy bear – complete with bedroom hair and the world's widest smile – he jovially makes his way to centre stage. The crowd is amped for this act and the men whoop and holler once again... "Good evening Melbourne... How sweet it is! If you know this one, please sing along" The opening chords of his classic 'Deep Water' are slightly marred by the band's lead guitarist whose axe seems to be tuned incorrectly for the song... (perhaps an oversight from having just de-tuned as a result of the previous Kilbey track.) No matter...in a flash he's over to the roadie and has a replacement on well in time to come in for the first verse. He locks back into Claptons groove, and the song is up and away... The dreamy middle section of the track is glorious... it just wallows lazily for a few lines and then powerfully lifts and lifts.

"For Auld Lang Syne... so if you know this song, sing it with me"... It's another Australian nugget, 'Girls on the Avenue'. The audience can't help themselves, joining in on the "Don't you slip, NOOO... don't you slip, in love with the girls ...on the Avenue".

More whoops and hollers greet Dale Ryder from Boom Crash Opera as he takes the stage. From the very first line of ‘Dancing in the Storm’ the audience in front of me are singing every line back to him. A fantastic vocalist in his own right, in Ryder’s consummate command the track propels itself along as a joyous celebration that has everyone jumping on for the ride. He follows this with an invitation to dance... as an uber synthesized Kraftwerkian voice sounds out the intro: "Boooom, Craaaaash, Op-er-raaaah…" and then everyone is bopping along to ‘Onion Skin’. I'd forgotten just how catchy it is.

A surprise band for the evening was promised, with the only clue being that they originally formed in 1992 and that they were reforming especially for this gig. Turns out it's Chocolate Starfish. Vocalist Adam Thompson appears from side of stage with a wicked smile and looks like he’s ready for some fun…“There are only two positions I want you in tonight… one is flat on your back and the other is standing up. But seated is not an option, so come on....” The song choice for tonight is their muscly cover of Carly Simon’s "You’re So Vain”. Thompson's voice is epic in the context of this song, and when he segues into the Rocky Horror ‘Sweet Transvestite” it’s on for young and old…

Pseudo Echo are up next and unfortunately experience some technical difficulties (having not being able to soundcheck). Due to the tight schedule Brian Canham doesn't delay and forges ahead on his own on solo electric guitar, hammering out a quick edit of 'A Beat for You'. As soon as he senses the rest of the band have their act together, we're off into a full band version of 'Listening' which goes down really well... Of course the song everyone is waiting for is 'Funkytown' and when Brian mentions '1986', it is a fait accompli. The version they pull out tonight includes a nifty couple of pertinent segues. Check it out...

Source: Fan footage from YouTube

The final band of the night is those 80 icons of Australian pop, The Eurogliders. They bestow us with a faithful rendition of 'We Will Together'. Bernie Lynch and Grace Night look very happy to be here and joke around a lot as they perform. Grace looks resplendent in the funkiest red Dali inspired suit and tshirt combo. The red suit is very special and is replete with dozens of wide eyes which seem to perpetually peer out over the audience – begging the pun that is on everyone's lips... she eventually concedes... "I've got my eye on yoooooooooooou"

Those heavenly descending chimes ring out...and inevitably their crown jewel, 'Heaven (Must Be There)' manifests itself... to which everyone swoons. Full marks again to the program directors of Pure Gold... It is an absolutely brilliant way to see the evening out and the Eurogliders are met with wild cheers from everyone...

As those few punters who are worried about their waiting babysitters (or parking fines or some such nonsense) begin to file out early, the show has one more surprise in store for us. It's Stevie Wright's 'Evie'... Parts 1,2 and 3 no less! And sung by the night's biggest voices: Scotty Carne and Dale Ryder take 1, Moving Pictures' Alex Smith takes 2 and the big rollicking finish required by 3 is ably seen to by Chocolate Starfish's Adam Thompson. It's epic. Check it out.

Reflecting on the non-stop smorgasbord of 'Pure Gold' hits originally programmed by Gold 104.3 FM team... and then to have the rare opportunity to hear them impeccably served up live tonight by the ***original*** vocalists – I have to rate it a 24 carat evening... as a night of nostalgia and golden pop hits, it does not get any purer. Highly, highly recommended night out.

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