Published on theMusic.com.au, Apr 2016
Injecting fresh blood into the line-up, Thirsty Merc weren’t going to let the turn in weather dampen anyone’s sprit, with ironic singalong number In The Summertime rendering a fine set closer as people unfolded picnic blankets and disassembled eskies for A Day On The Green.
Sydney singer-songwriter Richard Clapton kicked things off with a sales pitch about his new record, The House Of Orange, which dropped only a couple of weeks earlier.
Its lead single, Something About You, set the tone for what would follow and proved Clapton, accompanied by band members half his age, was still riding the pub rock train; every now and then delving into country pop and easy-going numbers. Although hits like Ace Of Hearts and crowd favourite Girls On The Avenue garnered more energy from the audience, the set needed more excitement like that delivered when A Day On The Green promoter and MC Michael Newton and DJ Master Bates joined them during the finale for backing vocals and tomfoolery.
With slicked-back hair and a baby-blue sparkling suit that made him look like a “figure skater”, Chris Isaak was up for some Dancin’ from the get go. All class and oozing charisma, he pulled things back forSomebody’s Crying, and there was likely more than a few scattered across the botanic garden, with shrieks of praise echoing down the grassy banks.
It was during those more intimate numbers that Isaak utilised the ‘less is more’ approach; a tactic that had punters learning in with eager anticipation for falsetto-driven choruses. Some earnest gratitude for punters supporting live music evolved into what felt like an extract from a stand-up routine that also praised his band of 30 years, Silvertone.
The “semi-professional” performance continued and Isaak grabbed a wireless mic to strut through the crowd, making it all the way to the back of the venue halfway into Don’t Leave Me On My Own. There was no chance of that happening, especially after dedicating Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman to half the venue.
Isaak had a loose game plan as far as a setlist was concerned, producing half-songs and throwing curve balls to his band, from Boogie Woogie to Running Down The Road. There was a number a genre leaps that saw them roll through country, pop, rock’n’roll, blues and soul; a mixture only someone with a voice as diverse, powerful and soothing as Isaak could pull off.
Part of what made him so genuine was the light-hearted nature in which he presented himself; delivering pop soul hits in a casual and fun way, often messing around with band members mid-song and thrusting goofy gestures towards the audience. Isaak said he wasn’t sure when he’d be back now his stint on X-Factor was over, but if the crowd’s response toWicked Game, Great Balls Of Fire and Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing were any indication, he’ll be back proudly waving his “freak flag” before we know it.