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Friday, 20 November 2015 |
The Age Music Victoria Awards Hall Of Fame Concert
It’s another busy night at the Palais Theatre and the burgeoning crowd, many of whom have been held up in city traffic from hell, struggle to be seated by the prescribed time of 8pm. Luckily the organisers kindly delay showtime by another half an hour for everyone to get inside and get settled.
Held up in traffic myself, I find that as I enter the Palais the show is already underway. Phil Jamieson and Vika Bull are performing The Rolling Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ in tribute to the Palais Theatre itself, recalling the seven incredible shows The Stones performed over just three days – on the very same stage – way back in 1965. It was a tour presciently promoted by Harry M. Miller – also on the same bill was Roy Orbison, The Newbeats and Ray Columbus and the Invaders of ”She's A Mod” fame. Seven shows for one city sounds an immense undertaking – but is later put into context when I discover that The Rolling Stones full set was only eight songs long. Tonight the band’s version of ‘Gimme Shelter’ we hear is a real humdinger and I am blown away by the resonance and power of Vika Bull’s voice.
All too soon the song reaches it’s heady climax and they are gone… with tonight’s lineup featuring so many performers, there’s certainly no time to muck around. With no delay, it’s time to welcome Melbourne’s very first King Of Pop, Normie Rowe – who, in honour of friend and legendary producer Bill Armstrong of Armstrong Studios, strides confidently on stage to perform a gutsy, quite musclebound version of his classic, ‘Shakin’ All Over’.
By way of self introduction, Normie quips ”Just to prove that an old guy can make new music…my new EP!” …. he hurls a copy of said EP into the audience which is gleefully snapped up by someone in the first few rows. We are all encouraged to sing and clap along to the ”Everybody shake…shake” refrain and the vibe he generates in the crowd so early in the evening is terrific.
It’s now the turn of Mark Seymour to honour the great Stan "The Man" Rofe with a solid cover of The Loved Ones classic, ‘The Loved One’. James Black’s keys faithfully carry the spirit of the song and it is a refreshing vision to see Seymour out the front of The EG Allstars (featuring Bill McDonald (musical director), James Black, Ash Naylor and Ben Weisner on drums) and performing in a totally different headspace from Hunters & Collectors. As he hisses and snarls the verses with boyish glee, he genuinely looks to be having a ball.
Brian Nankervis is on fire tonight as MC. He introduces The Sunbury Music Festival in his own inimitable style: ‘Where Skyhooks got booed… where the roadies from Deep Purple started blueing with the roadies from AC/DC… (and guess who won…) and where Queen were greeted with ‘Piss off ya pommie poofters’.
He confesses: “I have Sunbury envy… There is one dear, dear friend of mine and I’ve got a few things over him… I always say, “Ya know, I went to Morrocco… I saw the Stones at Knebworth, I shook Bob Dylan’s hand…”, and he always says ‘…yeah, but you never went to Sunbury!’…and it hurts.”
When the final performer of the first section is invited on stage this time to specifically honour the Sunbury Music Festival, it’s a true thrill… From The Groop and Axiom, it’s Brian Cadd who takes his place centre stage and rips out a stellar version of ‘A Little Ray Of Sunshine’. All around me I can hear punters singing and clapping along. Cadd currently sports a long flowing white mane and he jokes about it when he reaches the line in the song about “did you notice…his hair was much darker?” Chuckles all round. It’s really a sunny feel-good vibe in the Palais tonight and quite admirably, it’s all about tonight’s honourees, with not a hint of ego or attitude from anyone.
A video package is then shown featuring potted histories of The Thunderbirds, The Seekers, Olivia Newton-John, Archie Roach and AC/DC. What’s immediately transparent is just how impossible it is to understate the contributions these five nominees have made to the Australian Music scene over their stellar careers.
It’s nothing short of mind-blowing to hear some of the old anecdotes and the old sales statistics. Who could have foreseen that this humble folk quartet called The Seekers would become the giant killers they did? We learn that not only were they were the first Australian group ever to score number ones in the US Charts with ‘Georgy Girl’. They were the first group ever to reach number one on the UK charts with their first three singles (not even Michael Jackson or Madonna achieved that). Incredibly they were the first Australian act to depose both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones from their number one billboard spots, selling in excess of 60 million records over their career. Not only all that, but they are the only band from the 60’s to still have all their original members and to still be performing, scoring hits over FIVE decades. It’s revelatory and heady stuff indeed.
One of Melbourne’s leading saxophonists, Paul Williamson, is then invited onstage to perform The Thunderbirds' ‘Wild Weekend’. The song was released in 1961 and was to become the most successful Australian instrumental single of all time. In 1979, one of the first ever singles releases on the independent Missing Link Records, the instrumental became the basis for Peter Lillie & The Leisuremasters popular ockerbilly b-side, 'Holiday House'.
After the performance, what followed was a heartfelt and affectionate induction speech by Marcie Jones from Marcie and The Cookies, who originally sang as a teenager with The Thunderbirds. As she finishes, five of the original band members make their way gingerly up onto the stage. They’re all the far side of 75 these days, so it is a very slow walk to the lectern.
Kate Ceberano honours The Seekers with a gorgeous rendition of “I’ll Never Find Another You”. Her voice is radiant and as always, the performance she turns in is empathetic and respectful to the original. David Mann then accepts on behalf of The Seekers who sadly are not able to be present tonight due to rehearsals for their upcoming biographical ‘Georgy Girl’ Musical – whose run opens in just a few weeks.
Angie Hart from Frente is welcomed to the stage to pay tribute to Olivia Newton-John. She chooses to perform a plaintive and yet sultry version of Olivia Newton-John’s ‘A Little More Love’. Her voice shares a similar range to Olivia’s and when backed by The EG Allstars and the four backing vocalists, it comes across as a particularly faithful rendition.
The video screen then lowers and we watch as long time friend and only remaining member of The Bee Gees, Barry Gibb presents Olivia Newton-John with her Hall Of Fame Award. Olivia is as warm and gracious as ever in acceptance.
Switching back to the stage now, we witness the first of the evenings true highlights: Paul Kelly and Archie Roach are invited to the stage. Both men settle themselves on stools – Paul sitting very close to Archie and his supportive glances across at the great man convey his total admiration. With a sad and lonely harmonica intro, he introduces Archie’s anthem for the Stolen Generation ‘Took The Children Away’. It is obvious that this is an extremely moving moment for Archie. His voice cracks in places under the weight of the emotion, which simply heightens the affecting message of the song. A standing ovation ensues. The men do one more song, ‘We Won’t Cry’ before old friend Uncle Jack Charles takes the stage for a long and moving tribute to his friend and spiritual comrade. We learn of the shared journey of pain and spiritual growth these two men – both victims of the stolen generation – have endured together.
“When we left the homes, many of us here in Victoria gravitated towards Fitzroy and that’s where we found our roots – our connection to country, kinship, community and I often saw Archie Roach there. I never drank with him. I went another path… But however, I did a lot of jail time, and every time Archie was due to come in I was champing at the bit to see him in action. Our eyes would look at each other when we’d meet somewhere in the jail and he doesn’t seem to say anything but his eyes bored into me as if to say “you still doing this shit??”… And it took a long time for the penny to drop for the likes of me...you know... and now here we are! Bunjil, our great creator, the big wedge-tailed eagle – had decided that one time Archie Roach would ask me to join him on his tour around the country – ‘In The Bloodstream’ tour – and it was the highlight of my life to be in the choir with Archie Roach, travelling around with him, witnessing the throngs of people coming to fill the auditoriums with this man, and I was lucky enough to ride on the back of that and it just blew me away, to experience singing along with the great legend.”
About the only way to follow such a moving moment is to switch back into the hardest rock we can find and so it is that we are now joined by Fergus Linacre of Kingswood and Vika Bull for an incendiary cover of AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’. Sung as a duet, Linacre does an admirable job of trying to match the power of Bull’s vocals but when this girl unleashes and puts her foot down, she is truly untouchable.
Patrick Donovan, the CEO of Music Victoria and former chief music writer at The Age now inducts AC/DC who are unable to be here due to their current tour being in Adelaide and presents the award to David Albert of Albert Records.
A 30 minute interval follows during which those who choose to stay seated – instead of heading to the bar – are treated to vintage footage from Sunbury Pop Festival, which is fantastic in all it’s political incorrectness. Revellers at Sunbury truly let it all hang out.
Then it’s on to the final home stretch with John Farhnam’s induction. Denis Handlin, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music is on hand to pay a moving tribute to his mate. He jokingly promises a 30 minute version of ‘Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)’ which draws an appreciative applause. We hear about John’s big heart, legendary stubbornness and his undying faithfulness to his family, friends and fans. John is gracious in acceptance, vowing to get Denis back for his jibe but importantly thanks everyone whose had anything to do with his career – good, bad, indifferent – even those who have hated his music – for their contribution to his journey, saying that they have all brought him here to this moment. He sounds truly humbled by the Award.
John Farnham then rolls out a hits set that includes Age Of Reason, Reasons, Everytime You Cry, Playing To Win, Pressure Down, That’s Freedom, You’re The Voice (including a cameo appearance by dual bagpipers) before closing out official proceedings with a ripper cover version of AC/DC’s ‘It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)’.
Source: YouTube fan footage.
A few audience members take this as a sign that the night is over and begin to file out but Farnham has other ideas and surprises everyone by returning to the stage one more time, instructing the house lights remain up so he can recognise anyone else that leaves early. He chooses to thank and farewell the faithful here tonight with an unrehearsed and impromptu version of his first solo single ‘Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)’. Obviously tonight nothing is off the table. It seems that on a night like this, no matter our misdemeanours, we all deserve to get kissed, once or twice.
An emotional, educational and quite brilliant night out.
Our complete photo gallery of The Age Music Victoria Hall Of Fame Concert is available at the following link:
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