Show Review: Bob Dylan 08.08.18

Published on, Aug 2018

Bob Dylan

Perth Arena

Aug 8

Bob Dylan plays by his own rules. It’s likely why, after 38 studio albums, countless awards and a recent Nobel Prize, the US music icon only filled Perth Arena to half its capacity.

“Is that Family Guy?” one fan asked, pointing to another’s phone in which a cartoon rendition of the headline act was picking a fight with Popeye. Indeed, “Not much is really sacred.”

Said phone was soon secured into the owner’s pocket with a stern voice over the PA warning that any photography would result in eviction.

As promised on the ticket, the show began at 8:00pm sharp, with the crisp plucking of an acoustic guitar echoing throughout the room before the man of the hour strolled out and assumed his position behind the piano for Things Have Changed.

The band navigated its ebbs and flows like they were jamming, as their fearless leader spat its lyrics through his trademark hoarse voice.

With minimal, dimmed lighting around the stage, the band settled into It Ain’t Me Babe, which was almost unrecognisable; its original folk qualities traded in for a blues-rock edge.

During his 2014 theatre tour, Dylan hid behind two big microphones and the brim of his hat the entire show, but his return saw him under the spotlight, rocking out behind the keys, showcasing an infectious energy in Highway 61 Revisited, before slurring it up in Simple Twist Of Fate.

The song’s relaxed pace, slide guitar and soaring harmonica parts were poetic, eventually bouncing into an upright bass-driven shuffle for Duquesne Whistle. It was almost like someone had removed the stage from a small underground jazz bar and placed it within an arena, as the band continued to jam in a casual manner around an increasingly more energised Dylan.

When I Paint My Masterpiece elicited a solo slow clap from the nosebleed section, piercing the dead silence Dylan refused to fill between songs before the band added a surf rock twang to the night with Honest With Me. It’s a shame that Dylan doesn’t dish up anecdotes from his prolific career, as he’d no doubt have some mindblowing stories.

It takes some getting used to the unconventional way in which Dylan pieces together his setlist and structures his songs live, but once you let go of any expectations, the artist’s intentions become more clear, with each song adding different strokes to a bigger picture.

Carefully emphasised guitar parts and piano lines throughout Make You Feel My LoveEarly Roman Kings and Desolation Row added a wealth of emotional depth, while the occasional clear vocal line cut through with more impact; lyrics such as “Life is short and it don’t last long,” during Pay In Blood.

Love Sick was a stompy blues onslaught that opened up into a jam session before another classic reared its head in Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right; a seminal hit that had the crowd cheering loudly for the first time since Dylan came out onstage. It was a welcome addition to the set, but a sad reminder for many the night was coming to an end with only a few classics in the bag.

A wave of chaotic noise washed over the crowd for Thunder On The Mountain, with a flurry of drums smashing head first into a medley of guitars before things pulled back for delicate ballad Soon After Midnight and upbeat tune Gotta Serve Somebody.

Two hours on the stage and Dylan didn’t address the audience once — not even a “hello” or “goodbye” — and the few big singles that did make the cut were reinterpreted in a manner that rendered them nearly unrecognisable; half the audience didn’t identify encore tune Blowin’ In The Wind until its chorus.

Diehard Dylan fans left in awe, while casual listeners were either scratching their heads or disgruntled about the lack of hits and showmanship. Bob Dylan plays for Bob Dylan.


Show Review: Celine Dion 04.08.18

Published on, Aug 2018

Pic by Ted Dana

Celine Dion

Perth Arena

Aug 4

A handful of pop superstars had graced the Perth Arena stage with their presence in the weeks prior to that of Canadian royalty Celine Dion, all of whom brought with them mind-blowing, extravagant production.

The arrival of Dion seemed to have a more chilled out atmosphere surrounding it, and the packed venue suggested it was her renowned voice and not all the bells and whistles usually accompanying an international tour of this size that punters were anxiously awaiting.

The chatter turned to a roar as the lights were killed and a theatrical intro took hold, uplifted by a medley of dramatic strings. It was stadium pop at its finest as booming drums became entangled with heavy harmonies and screeching guitar. The wall of noise finally eased up as Dion casually strolled into the spotlight in a blinding gold suit to the soaring chorus line of The Power Of Love.

Her powerful voice struck like lighting and left a shock that felt like a lifetime of heartbreak kicking you in the chest.

Grinning ear to ear, Dion and co shuffled into uplifting number That’s The Way It Is, reconnecting with Aussie fans after almost a decade apart.

“Tonight, what do you say we make up for that lost time?” she asked, and punters were more than ready to comply as they screamed the lyrics of I’m Alive and Because You Loved Me.

Through a series of shiny, futuristic images, the screens around the stage added another level of depth to the production, without taking away from the songs and Dion, whose lack of big dance moves were compensated by her big personality and mesmerising vocals.

Dion briefly left the stage while her backing band unleashed an emotionally intense score that wouldn’t seem out of place in a blockbuster film, before she re-emerged in a new outfit and continued the theatrical affair with It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, her voice reaching gritty new heights in its final moments.

The scene was set for Beauty And The Beast, and joined by backing singer Barnev Valsaint, Dion delivered the nostalgic and iconic tune in a unique way that highlighted how much of a theatrical feel her performances have.

It was her first film theme (“a long, long, long time ago”) and one of her most adored, alongside “the one about the big, sinking boat”, but it was another theme and its accompanying anecdote that had everyone on the edge of their seat and laughing. The story began with a letter from fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds and ended with Deadpool 2’s Ashes.

Classical guitar and flute shifted the mood, with Dion and dancer Pepe Munoz channelling the intimacy of Falling Into You into a romantic, calculated Latin dance before punters were transported to another world with Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore, “the biggest song of my French career,” as she noted.

Things took a surprising and local turn with the iconic electronic drum intro of John Farnham’s You’re The Voice, bringing fans to their feet, clapping and screaming along. It was a risky song choice, but one that paid off greatly.

Dion touched on a recent and difficult time in her life, mourning the death of her husband, Rene Angelil, back in 2016. She praised Pink – who had performed the same venue only a few weeks earlier – for a gift in the form of a song that gave her strength during the heartache.

Recovering stripped things back to a delicate piano line for a powerful moment that proved all Dion needed was her voice to stun.

The emotional rollercoaster kept climbing, through the ebbs and flows of All By Myself, and a touching string quartet rendition of Janis Ian’s At SeventeenA New Day Has Come and Unison before soaring through the big choruses of To Love You More.

A medley of disco bridged the gap while Dion disappeared again, and her band led an epic dance party that re-energised the audience. Dion strolled out on a wave of funky bass in an outfit plucked straight from the ’70s, adding pop star flair to a number of hits from the era before paying tribute to Prince with an uplifting version of Purple Rain, the venue illuminated in a colour to match while Kaven Girouard gave the song the guitar shredding it deserved.

The soul-pop onslaught continued with Love Can Move Mountains and River Deep, Mountain High, before the mood shifted again as the haunting vocal melodies of seminal hit My Heart Will Go On floated out from the darkness for the encore; half the room was wiping tears from their eyes while the other watched along through a phone screen.

Promising to return sooner next time, Dion and co left fans with a parting gift in Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. Celine Dion engenders loyalty from fans like few others and after witnessing her live, it’s clear why.

Show Review: Herman’s Hermits 04.08.18

Published on, Aug 2018

Pic by Karen Lowe

Herman’s Hermits

Regal Theatre

Aug 4

A quirky instrumental medley of Herman’s Hermits hits ushered a ’60s Brit-rock invasion to the stage, bang on 6pm as the tour’s flyer promised.

Paul Cornwell slid into the surf rock guitar twang of Silhouettes, which vocalist and bassist Geoff Foot bounced around with a charming vocal nostalgia, backed by infectious harmonies before key player Tony Hancox took lead for Can’t You Feel My Heartbeat.

“Hands up all the people who thought we were dead?” Foot jokingly asked.

Staying true to songs’ original arrangements, things were stripped back (one guitar, one bass, keys and drums), with every instrument occupying its own space with clarity as iconic lyrics took focus.

Love Potion No. 9 and Wonderful World found the ideal balance between quirky guitar twang and uplifting vocals steering the mood.

The main man on stage – “keeping the beat for 54 years” – drummer Barry Whitwam left his throne to address the audience, sharing anecdotes of times with Elvis Presley and touring with The Who, segueing into trivia about Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.

The megahit saw Cornwell wedge a pair of underwear under his guitar bridge, which replicated the short, sharp banjo-like tone the original song had. A song for “the lovers”, the introduction of My Sentimental Friend was met with a collective “aww” as Cornwell’s voice transported punters to a simpler time.

Foot showcased stunning vocal execution in darker hit Jezebel as the band navigated its ebbs and flows in a tight way that only seasoned musicians could, before the title track from the band’s film, Hold On!, had punters synchronised screaming.

With 23 hit single in the ‘60s alone, Herman’s Hermits had a wealth of material to choose from, but it was a medley of covers from the late ’50s/early ’60s – including Poetry In MotionDream LoverWill You Still Love Me Tomorrow – that highlighted the longevity and power of music as punters sung the lyrics to those around them.

Foot’s remarkable vocals stole the show during Listen People before Whitwam grabbed a mic again to introduce Something Happening; a song he claimed was a fan request and had left the charts 52 years ago. Regardless of its chart history, its catchy chorus had the biggest sing-along of the night.

Pulling things back to the root of the band, Whitwam took over for a memorable drum solo before the band rejoined him for soaring ballad The End Of The World, party tune Sea Cruise and Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell.

The legends then rounded things out with quintessential ’60s Brit-rock classics No Milk TodayI’m Into Something GoodThere’s A Kind Of Hush and I’m Henry VIII, highlighting just how historically significant their back catalogue is.

INTERVIEW: BIGSOUND 2018 Might Make You Question Your Place In The Music Industry

Published in The Music (NSW & VIC) on, Aug 2018

Attending BIGSOUND 2018 might change the way you not only view the music industry but your place within it, as QMusic CEO Joel Edmondson and Executive Programmer Maggie Collins tell Daniel Cribb.

It’s not a stretch to call Brisbane-based music conference BIGSOUND more of a community than an event. Now in its 17th year, it’s become the go-to on Australia’s music calendar, largely due to the fact that organisers are on point with both the conference and live music programming.

In 2018, the conference welcomes more changes that will see it push the boundaries and stay ahead of the game.

Instead of analysing the symptoms of certain issues within the industry, BIGSOUND will increasingly address the causes, with a focus placed on cultural issues, gender diversity, mental health discussions and more.

“Philosophical-based discussions is something that I’m more personally interested in,” Executive Programmer Maggie Collins tells. “That and professional development workshops and ways of working smarter and increasing the personal and work health of everyone in our industry. That’s the kind of stuff I think that separates BIGSOUND apart from other discussion events.”

As QMusic CEO Joel Edmondson says, there are sometimes people in the audience with more expertise than those on the stage, which is why they feel it’s important to open up the discussion more. “We’re trying to evolve the conference into something that’s much more about the sharing of skills and reminding everyone that the expertise is within the group,” he tells.

“If people buy a pass to [BIGSOUND], we want them to leave feeling like their skills and mindset have been enhanced in some way by coming to the event.”

To help facilitate that, BIGSOUND have four different forums as the “centrepiece” of this year’s program that they’ve labelled “must-attend” events. One of the forums will blow apart the myths and rules of the industry and look at new and innovative ways certain individuals are working, while others focus on Indigenous cultural terms of reference, the psychology of change and trying to get people to look outwards.

In looking at the big picture, BIGSOUND is focusing on longterm goals for a vibrant industry, moving further away from the basics of how to get a label or agent – although that information will still be on offer via workshops. “It’s almost like internal reflection; a lot of those questions in the past have been about ‘how’, and now we’re moving more towards ‘why’,” Collins explains. “‘Why do you want to be in the industry?’ ‘Why do you want to be doing what you’re doing?’

“Because once you get a really confident idea of who you are, what you do [in the] industry and what your identity is, then it doesn’t really matter how things happen for you, because you’re going to find a way.”

The questions posed by BIGSOUND continue to change as the industry rapidly evolves, and the scene is almost unrecognisable from the one the conference was first established in. “I first started going to BIGSOUND because there wasn’t much information readily available online to teach myself, so it was really imperative,” Collins explains.

“Now its role within our industry – considering there’s so much out there to consume anyway – is really to be a place where we share ideas and make connections with each other and try and inspire each other to do better.”

One of the aforementioned forums will touch on how many within the industry use the internet to try and initiate change, sometimes in an unproductive way. “It concerns me at the moment that a lot of that change plays out in a fairly combative way on social media,” Edmondson says. “I think we’re all often inclined to just become outraged about things and think that’s actually going to change something but it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

With so much noise on the internet, it’s refreshing to have one time of year when the industry comes together and interacts face to face. It’s also surprising how much of an impact word of mouth has on the ground, with certain bands developing a cult-like industry following if one of their first showcases goes well.

Every year, without fail, BIGSOUND produces a music line-up with a handful of buzz bands on the cusp of great things, and a lot of them end up signing deals, travelling the world and more from their showcases. In recent years, Stella Donnelly, Middle Kids, Flume and more all left lasting impressions and went on to epic things.

“Sometimes there’s just magic that happens,” Collins laughs. “It sounds kind of corny but you can’t really describe it any other way.

“Perhaps there’s no other platform other than BIGSOUND for word of mouth to spread so quickly.

“It’s Fortitude Valley, it’s a physical place and maybe it’s the last remnants of an old time that can still exist, whereby people are physically seeing each other, talking to each other in person and talking about what acts they love, rather than everything being online. BIGSOUND is that physical space where the old school word of mouth can still get around.”

Those types of interactions are how BIGSOUND plans on separating itself from others. “With the saturation of music industry conferences in Australia now, we’re wanting to position this opportunity for people as an experience they can share with others,” Edmondson explains.

“It’s really about trying to find the things we all need to learn about together, rather than breaking us up into groups. That’s important in the culture that we’re in, because we’re kind of in a climate where everyone is increasingly breaking themselves into tribes and BIGSOUND is about bringing people together.”