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Whoever the brains trust is behind teaming Simple Minds with The B-52’s, Models and Machinations on this latest A Day On The Green sojourn around Australia, they seriously deserve a pay rise!
At the very civilised start time of 3:45pm, Sydney’s Machinations take the Rochford stage to the cheers of those brave enough to venture out into the now seriously oppressive heat. Many of the expensive VIP seats in the area near the stage remain empty as their occupants choose instead to hang back up the hill in the scarce shade offered by the few trees. With energy levels set to 11 for the first gig they have played in months, Fred Loneragan kicks off proceedings with a very old one: ‘Machinations of Dance’.
"Great to have you back mate", one of the audience bellows at the song’s end…
"What did you say? How’s my back?… Fucked mate!"
"The sun is so hot up here, I have to stand way back here in the shade, and you are all so far away from me”.
A punter in the front row sees Fred is struggling in the heat and offers him his hat. It is accepted but with all the dancing, it only stays on for a verse or two before being abandoned.
Although it’s been a while since they played live, they needn’t have worried about the lack of rehearsal – the set was really well paced with all the great song inclusions we could have hoped for. The band comprising Fred Loneragan on vocals, Tim Doyle on Lead Guitar Nick “Nero” Swan on Bass, Wendy Anggerani on keyboards) and new recruit, Fabrizio Omodei on drums, were surprisingly tight and retain all the aural swagger of the Machinations of old.
Machinations of Dance
Got Me Going Again
Execution Of Love
Do To You
Cars and Planes
No Say In It.
Next up – on a stage that seemed to be still getting hotter by the minute – Melbourne’s Models.
Immediately the party vibe kicked up a notch as Sean Kelly, Andrew Duffield, Mark Ferrie and Ash Davis taxied straight into ‘Two Cabs To The Toucan’ – there was a surge to the front on both sides of the general admission area. Sun hats bobbed along while the occasional stubby was raised in a sign of appreciation.
One of my all-time favourites from their later material, ‘Hold On’, followed. The song has an almost cinematic quality ably abetted by Andrew Duffield’s gorgeous keyboard runs. Sean Kelly then handed over vocal duties to Andrew for the next track – a relatively new one called ‘That Guy’ from their latest EP ‘Memo’, featuring fabulous rollicking keyboards and a suitably irate vocal.
‘You know what I like about that guy? NUTHIN!...Don’t like his car, don’t like his clothes, don’t like him looking’ at my girl…I don’t like him…’ Stellar stuff Andrew. He then dedicated his angry performance to ‘a certain US President’.
Continuing the theme it was time for ‘God Bless America’ and then a birthday wish in the form of ‘Happy Birthday IBM’. There is absolutely no argument that the older material is what that the audience hold the greatest fondness for and what they came to hear, with all the crowd fervently bopping along to this one as well.
Slowing things down just a tad now, Sean introduces a new catchy tune written by an old mate of theirs, Peter Lillie, entitled ‘Drive Through Love’ which appeared on a very limited edition release called GTK. It’s a beautifully melodic track and makes me want to try and track down that rare EP.
The one-two knockout punch of ‘Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight’ and the still edgy ‘I Hear Motion’ with its angular keyboard stabs brought back fond memories of seeing the Models support David Bowie at VFL Park on the Serious Moonlight tour. Both tracks have lost none of their power over the decades.
Now approaching the end of their set and with the sun still hammering down, Sean Kelly adjusts the brim of his peaked cap for any skerrick of shade he can muster. There was perhaps only one song they could play that best befitted the searing heat, and, as the perfectly languid reggae strains of ‘Barbados’ peeled across the hillside, there really was nowhere else in the world any of us would rather be.
After walking off stage to huge applause, the guys were encouraged to break from convention and come back to perform an encore. Responding to some audience suggestions, they opt for ‘Atlantic Romantic’ from their ‘Cut Lunch’ EP. A superb choice and it’s the proverbial icing on the cake. This band are playing as well as they ever have and the reverent reception given by the audience to their set today is just testimony to how much they adored as a band. It’s so refreshing to see a 40 year old band not only still performing live but also able to write new material that hits the mark. Nice work Models.
Two Cabs For The Toucan
God Bless America
Happy Birthday IBM
Drive Though Love (Peter Lillie cover)
Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight
I Hear Motion
After a rapid reconstitution of the stage and a brief DJ set from Grand Master Baitz, it was time for the eagerly awaited set by Georgia’s infamous partiers, The B-52’s. Since Cindy Wilson’s brother Ricky passed away in 1985, the band have essentially been a four piece but when on the road, their numbers swell to include David Bowie’s drummer Sterling Campbell, Tracy Wormworth on bass duties (ex Sting and Wayne Shorter, Cyndi Lauper), Nick Lashley on lead guitar (King Swamp, Alanis Morrisette among many others) and James Romanzo on keyboards.
It has to be said, as an eight piece, The B-52’s can kick serious arse. The classics are all performed 120% faithfully to the originals and from where I was standing, there was not one bum on a seat once they cranked into the first song for the evening, ‘Cosmic Thing’.
Fred is tonight’s witty MC...“Now it’s time to lift the curtain of history… and see who’s necking behind it!”
It’s ‘Mesopotamia’, the title track of their third album.
Kate Pierson’s dulcet tones invite us to all take a quick history lesson…
“Turn your watch, turn your watch back, about a hundred thousand years. A hundred thousand years.
I’ll meet you by the third pyramid
I’ll meet you by the third pyramid
Ah come on, that’s what I want, we’ll meet
As the song ends, the band slip in a few bars of Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’… a lovely little tip of the hat to the late great Purple One.
Next up is ‘Lava’ from their debut album. It’s a stomper and this is the band at their metaphorical best...
“I’m gonna let it go
Let it flow like Pompeii or Herculaneum
Let it sizzle, let it rise
Don’t let your lava love flow turn to stone
Keep it burnin’
Keep it burnin’ here at home…
I’m gonna jump in a crater –
See ya later”
We get ‘Is That You Mo-Dean?’, a quick ode to the wonders of alien abduction and the consequent side benefits – space travel!
“Movin’ through the spheres, faster than light
On our way to some planets that were outta sight
We said space driver, give it a spin
And take us to some places we ain’t never been”
And then it’s headlong into one of my all-time faves, ‘Private Idaho’.
After following this band since the very beginning – and never having had the opportunity to see them in the flesh – I have to pinch myself that this is actually happening at all. It’s mind-blowing to witness these classics performed live at last. The trio of Kate, Fred and Cindy obviously love to perform – their enthusiasm for the material is infectious and these songs are all infused in their muscle memory…the crossfire vocal call and responses, the three piece harmonies and the choreographed dance moves just happen.
‘Idaho’ is an absolute belter, with very idiosyncratic drum fills, and it is here Sterling Campbell proves he is definitely the man for the job as he effortlessly keeps the song pumping along – whilst at the same time chatting with his drum tech to resolve some troublesome high hat issues AND an audio fault – all of this without missing a beat. What a champion.
‘Deadbeat Club’ is next up - a song written about the band’s early days in Athens, Georgia when they would hang around in cafes drinking coffee. Because they didn’t work or do anything, their parents nicknamed them “Deadbeats”. Old mate REM’s Michael Stipe appeared in the video for the track and that later prompted the reciprocal involvement of Kate Pierson in REM’s track ‘Shiny Happy People’.
The track’s romantic poppy melody evokes a sense of reminiscence and its slick production with all the angularities knocked off it, definitely places it in the later half of the group’s catalog, along with tracks like ‘Roam' and ’She Brakes For Rainbows’.
After the relative respite of ‘Deadbeat Club’, the band push the pedal to the metal and it’s a solid stream of hits all the way to the finish line. We get ‘Roam’, the tongue-in-cheek ’52 Girls’ and a funky ‘Channel Z’ before the band really get down to ‘Dance This Mess Around’. ‘Party Out Of Bounds’ revs up those of us who still have the dancing legs and then the familiar strains of ‘Love Shack’ ring out across the paddock and at all at once Rochford are on their feet. Not one person misses their vocal cue when it comes time for the call and response:
“Bang Bang, on the door baby, bang bang! ...You’re what?
After a quick break for a drink, they return for their encore. Synthy drones echo across the stage and Fred stands motionless in his Raybans at the mike, holding a toy Walkie Talkie. Sterling counts the band in and we are rocketed to ‘Planet Claire’, where all the trees are red... Pierson’s vocals are nothing short of revelatory. Some amongst us had always assumed that these high register runs we hear on the original track had to have been ‘manufactured’ but here she was, in the flesh, looking unbelievably gorgeous at 68, reproducing them effortlessly live – with absolutely no trickery. I was floored. This was certainly a personal highlight of the day. Unbelievably huge cheers as she finished.
As Fred Schneider reached for the cowbell, there were no doubts what was about to happen… “Let’s all go down to the BEACH everyone!”. ‘Rock Lobster’, the song that broke the B52s in Australia, had us all up doing the boogaloo, and wishing we had ‘matching towels’. What an absolute classic of a song. As I watched them wind up what had been a gig for the ages, I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we were to have witnessed such an individually iconic band perform a set like this. It’ll definitely go down as a huge bucket list tick for many who were there.
The B-52's setlist:
Is That You MoDean?
Dance This Mess Around
Party Out Of Bounds
As the day’s last searing rays at last begun to falter, with the sun now ebbing just below the tree line, the audience seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Not surprisingly, the ’tree people' now gravitate back to the shady seats close to the stage. Almost on cue, the iconic synth lines of ‘Theme for Great Cities’ pumps out of the PA – signalling the time has at last come for the return of Simple Minds. Incredibly, they were last here on the same stage with Devo, The Church and the Models five years ago. Those who attended will remember they played a barnstormer back then as well.
Never a band to stand still for too long, or rest on their laurels, between visits the Minds have been busy – with full schedules. After revisiting their first five albums and touring a show that played only material from this era, they’ve released a live album of that tour. They’ve also released another critically acclaimed studio album called ‘Big Music’, a Live album and DVD of the same tour and teamed up with punk compatriots ’The Stranglers’ on a joint tour. Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill have assembled a special acoustic lineup of the band and reappraised their back catalog (even teaming up with K.T. Tunstall on one track) to record ‘Simple Minds: Acoustic’. They have just come off a tour for that acoustic album.
However, tonights set is a little different. Simple Minds are here in Australia with the full rock lineup, seeing the welcome return of keyboardist Andy Gillespie and drummer extraordinaire Mel Gaynor back into the fold. From all accounts, an enjoyable few days rehearsal in Perth was all it took to get themselves back into the right head space of the original arrangements and for the band to fully gel again.
It’s still a warm night, and the band walk on casually, plug in and ready themselves. As Jim adjusts his mic stand and Mel counts in the intro to ‘Waterfront’, the frontman’s charm offensive is dialled up to 11… “Blessed are we to be in this beautiful part of the world… thanks to The B-52’s, thanks to the Models and the Machinations and thanks to you for coming to see the show…let me see your hands!… Come on!...let’s go”.
We’re only seconds in but Jim Kerr has already disarmed us and we’re in the palm of his hand… We are encouraged to sing along… “Ah … beautiful!”
As the familiar intro to ‘Love Song’ kicks in Jim puffs, “I’m knackered already… getting too old for this malarkey…play some guitar Charlie…!” Jim drapes his arm around the shoulders of his stalwart childhood mate, Charlie Burchill and while pointing out Charlie’s flailing finger work on the fretboard, mouths: “He’s pretty bloody good, inn he?”
‘Blindfolded’ from ‘Big Music’ is up next and it surprises me just how powerful a song it is when played live – immense, muscular and in the hands of this lineup, so damned self-assured.
As the song draws to its conclusion, Jim disappears for a quick change and a breather while Sarah Brown takes the vocal intro in what transpires to be quite a regal rendition of ‘Book Of Brilliant Things’. It’s a revelation to hear it sung by her and when Jim returns in a fresh shirt and scarf, he rightly applauds her performance. ‘Book’ has always traditionally been a showcase for Mel Gaynor’s iconic drumming prowess and tonight it’s no different, as he effortlessly builds more (and yet even more) fills into every bar. The fans love their Mel and a huge cheers goes up.
The band slow things down a tad now with a sublime version of 1982’s opening track from ’New Gold Dream', ‘Someone, Somewhere In Summertime’. Gorgeous blue and yellow spots bathe the set and as Jim crouches on the lip of the stage, the gentle becalming rhythm of this track is almost hymnal…
“Moments burn, slow burning golden nights,
once more see city lights, holding candles to the flame
Brilliant days, wake up on brilliant days,
shadows of brilliant ways will change me all the time”
Sticking with New Gold Dream era material for one more song, it’s ‘Hunter and the Hunted’. Its rolling rhythms again power the track ever onward. To hear a song written so long ago, still remain so timeless in its delivery is blissful. ‘Hunted’ is a track the band still adore to perform and it seems to almost seduce Jim with its languid synth lines… he just gets progressively more and more into it until he just can’t help himself... and I smile as he loses himself in a little swaying dance during that glorious Herbie Hancock bridge… all the grand gestures of that youthful Jim Kerr still remain and it’s great to see that while some things may change – others, including that awesome voice, stay VERY much the same.
The band then trot out the title track from 1991’s ‘Real Life’, this time with the latest recruit to the band, multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Catherine Anne Davies aka The Anchoress, taking the second vocal part with Jim. She possesses a real stage presence oozing with great self confidence, some spunky poses and most importantly of all, has an amazing voice that really suits the song.
They then serve us a double helping from their UK #1 ‘Once Upon A Time’ album. We get the title track and the magnificent ‘All The Things She Said’. These two tracks run so well together because they share a similar no holds barred energy. Again Sarah Brown does a stellar job of the vocal phrasing – originally made so famous back in the day by the gorgeous Robin Clarke.
The warm descending baseline of ‘See The Lights’ signals a shift in energy again and the band then peel off a couple more New Gold Dream tracks. Kerr: “You may remember the words to the next couple of songs… if you do… don’t be shy… join in!” They are ‘Promised You A Miracle’ and ‘Glittering Prize’. Both hum along with plenty of the audience joining Jim on both the verses and the choruses.
A Simple Minds crowd is a passionate and devoted bunch. For the most part, they know all the words and all the idiosyncrasies of ‘their’ band and delight in them. They probably hear Jim Kerr say “Everything OK?” and “Let Me See Your Hands” about a dozen times a night and incredibly they NEVER tire of it.
Something else they never tire of is singing along to ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, probably Simple Minds' most well known song. For the duration of this one, everyone is in full voice, blissfully la-la-la-la-ing along. “It’s not an easy song to sing” Kerr jokes. He then asks us whether we can sing it in French?…. mmmm… YES!… “la-la-la-la-la-la…” You get the general idea. “Thanks for all singing along and making us feel like Rockstars”.
After a quiet lull while the band play ‘Let It All Come Down” we are well pleased when Charlie launches into ‘Sanctify Yourself'. Its high powered energy is completely infectious and when Mel goes double time at its crescendo, again the fans absolutely eat the performance up.
It’s now time for a couple of minutes quick break to towel down and refresh before returning for the encore. The band kick off with ‘Big Music’, which, although relatively new on the scene, sounds like it bears all the classic Simple Minds hallmarks: great guitar lines, fab vocal phrasing – judging by the crowd reaction it’s destined to become another regular setlist inclusion.
The telltale keyboard intro to ‘Alive & Kicking’ chimes in and the crowd are away again…
“Now it’s all or nothing ‘Cause you say you’ll follow through…
You follow me, and I, I, I follow you…”
The crowd drown Jim out at several points in the song. He smiles knowingly and just defers to the greater force, turning his mic around and offering it to the crowd… “You’ll put me out of a job…sing it for me… For the last time tonight… let me see your hands!”
Just when we think we’ve got to the end, Simple Minds have one more ace up their collective sleeve. A pumping dance beat erupts from the speakers and the tall Ged Grimes hunches over, riffing out a very familiar bass line…it's 'New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’. The crowd go nuts, sensing this is 'Big Music’s' big finish. During the track, Charlie, Ged and Jim criss-cross the stage to acknowledge as much of this wonderfully appreciative crowd as they can. It’s been a fabulous night. The band know it, the crowd know it, the promoters know it.
In a final gesture of acknowledgement to the icon who was both a boyhood hero to Jim and Charlie and also the inspiration for Simple Minds name ('He’s so simple-minded, he can’t drive his module’) Jim and band hang for a brief moment clapping along to the strains of Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’ over the PA before waving thank you and walking off stage… it’s a simple gesture but so appreciated by those who comprehend the significance.
What an amazing afternoon and evening of music and what a blessing to be here to witness it. I think I now have to agree with Jim Kerr’s proclamation earlier in the day..."Blessed are we to be in this beautiful part of the world”… especially tonight!
I feel truly fortunate to have a second chance to see this great lineup when Simple Minds play Margaret Court Arena with The B-52’s on Tuesday the 7th of February. If you get a chance to catch a show on this tour, jump on it. You'll be so thankful you did!
Simple Minds setlist:
Book Of Brilliant Things
Someone, Somewhere In Summertime
Hunter And The Hunted
Once Upon A Time/All The Things She Said
See The Lights
I Promised You A Miracle/Glittering Prize
Don't You Forget About Me
Let It All Come Down
Alive And Kicking
New Gold Dream
Setlist photo credit: Harry Williams
A Day On The Green shows
Simple Minds, The B-52's, Models and Machinations
Thurs 2 February Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth WA (*Machinations not playing Perth)
Sat 4 February Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley VIC
Sun 5 February Leconfield Wines, McLaren Vale SA
Sat 11 February Bimbadgen, Hunter Valley NSW
Sun 12 February Sirromet Wines, Mt Cotton QLD
Tickets from ticketmaster.com.au & 136 100
All event info: www.adayonthegreen.com.au
Indoor shows (Frontier Touring)
Simple Minds and The B-52's
Tues 7 February Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Thur 9 February Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Tickets from ticketek.com.au & 132 849
All event info: www.frontiertouring.com
More photographs are available on our sister music website, GigBill.
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