Published on theMusic.com.au, Jul 2016
Pic by Ted Dana
Peter Garrett & The Alter Egos
“Mostly I like to write about sex,” local legend Abbe May said after loosening up the room with an intimate, rhythmic rendition of Ginuwine’s My Pony — quick to justify that said topic is political and fitting for the occasion.
It set the tone for a semi-acoustic set driven by electronic drums and playful guitar work.
Having wrapped a full-band headline tour in support of single Are We Flirting? a week previous, May not only proved the diversity of her stage presence, but showed a different side to her songwriting. Bring on Bitchcraft.
Much like the artwork surrounding ArtBar, Peter Garrett‘s career can be viewed in multiple ways, so while an art gallery foyer may seem an unorthodox choice of venue for the singer to end his 15-year musical draught, there really couldn’t have been a better fit for the first date on his A Version Of Now album tour.
The man of the hour casually strolled onto the stage with a quaint hello, acknowledging the traditional land owners before his aptly titled backing band, The Alter Egos, kicked off proceedings with the steady beat of Kangaroo Tail. The unmistakable and iconic vocals of the muso-turned-political-turned-muso echoed throughout the room and it was clear it was going to be a special evening.
The intensity began to build with fellow Midnight Oil star Martin Rotsey’s bold intro to No Placebo, and when chunky bass from Jet’s Mark Wilson and a beat from seasoned drummer Peter Luscombe kicked in, punters were temporarily transported to a different era.
May, back on stage and playing guitar, added endless depth to other songs with sweeping harmonies, and when Rosa Morgan of Red Ghost fame added another level, they were unstoppable.
A Version Of Now, as Garrett explained, was the result of creative impulses after he had completed his memoir, Big Blue Sky, and an exercise that saw him return to his roots; a journey he relayed to the crowd through an eclectic mix of covers that gave truth to the title of Muddy Waters’ I’ve Got My Mojo Working.
Garrett’s Ego Is Not A Dirty Word was in check as he jittered around the stage to the Skyhooks’ classic, thrusting nonsensical hand gestures and unpredictable steps to the delight of everyone.
Reminiscing fondly on his 10 years in Parliament, he gave a shout-out to former colleague Stephen Smith in the crowd, continuing the hometown love with Divinyls’ Back To The Wall; a tribute that gave an insight into why Garrett is such an engaging frontman. His dance moves mightn’t be the best and his vocal abilities limited, but there’s an authenticity surrounding what he does, and that shone through boldly during his triumphant return to the stage.
“I’m back,” he sung over and over in radio rock number Tall Trees, showing more of those trademark dance ticks and vocal quirks, before uniting the room for a spine-tingling singalong to Midnight Oil’s The Dead Heart.