LIVE IN THE VINES – (JOHN FARNHAM, JON STEVENS, MELISSA AMIROSI, THE SOUTHERN SONS, ROCKWIZ)
Photos & Review by Julian Neil
It was a very warm start to Zaccaria’s grand event, held at Sandleford Wine’s sprawling estate. I arrived to catch the strains of a Wolfmother tune being belted out by the young band, Tough Crowd. The grassy hills surrounding the large stage were lined with blankets, chairs and perspiring punters, who gave a warm welcome to Southern Sons. They brought everyone’s temperature up a bit more, dancers gathering with drinks raised to the band, as Jack Jones led them through a comprehensive set of classics, such as ‘Always & Ever’, ‘Something More’, ‘Lead Me To Water’, ‘Waiting For That Train’, and ‘Heart In Danger’, to name a few. ‘Hold Me In Your Arms’ went down especially well, even with Jack admitting his voice wasn’t at its peak this afternoon. Big sing-alongs and swoons all round. They had to battle the direct sun at this point in the arvo, but handled it well. Jack admonished everyone with a smile, to “Pace yourselves… It’s dangerous, don’t start too early.” He was greeted with grins and laughter.
In the intermission, a flamboyant figure appeared under a tree to the side of the stage, issuing a call for ‘Rock Experts’ to come forward. More on that later.
Vanessa Amorosi took to the stage with her signature power and energy, backed by a dynamic band and a vibrant backing vocalist. ‘Kiss your Mama!’ was a highlight for me. ‘Have A Look’ and ‘Mr Mysterious’ were lapped up by the crowd. Then there was an intro to one of her most popular songs, ‘Shine’. It is based on losing one of her friends to suicide. She talked about its lyrics, then sung the song in its original form, increasing its impact immensely. There was a poignant moment of clarity as she sang with heart about a painful and very common aspect of modern life, which needs more attention than ever before. There was a brilliant cover of The Eurythmics’ ‘Would I Lie To You’. She followed this with Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’, belting out the opening lyrics with fire. “Sing along, go crazy, it’s your show!” she said, as she kicked off ‘This Is Who I Am’, which became an ocker ‘TNT’ by AC DC, injected with “Aussie! Oi!” and a fair dose of Soul. ‘Absolutely Everybody’ provided a great finish to a powerful set, with Amorosi jumping off stage to do a spirited run and singalong, moving throughout the crowd and stage areas.
It was time for a quiz. A musical quiz.
The flamboyant figure from earlier reappeared, in the guise of Brian Nankervis, surrounded by familiar set-pieces, props and newly minted contestants for an onstage live rendition of Rockwiz.
He danced with everyone, then quickly sorted the wheat from the chaff (musically speaking) before heralding the arrival of his partner in music royalty, Julia Zemiro. These two can hold an audience so well, it’s mesmerising. If you get a chance to see them live, take it.
The show, in its iconic format, got underway, with rapid fire questions, riffs, licks, beats and rhythms. Contestants sweated profusely, not from the heat, but from the gaze and wit of their hosts. Members of the band contributed little musical gems, including a sulty cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son of a Preacher Man’. This was sung by Clio Renner, who was also amazing to witness as part of Killing Heidi, recently in Perth. It was testament to the vibe of the proceedings that Julia, at one point, had to gently and humorously chide the audience, for yelling out the answers to the panels, bless them.
Guests included local stars Carla Geneve, and Jordi Davidson from San Cisco (with a shout out to his Dad in the crowd) as well as Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon fame, another nostalgic blast from my past. This man is a legend. He wrapped up the show with a blistering cover of ‘Let There Be Rock’, backed up by Carla and Jordi. AC/DC featured quite prominently this evening.
I admit, I was hopping from foot to foot, when Jon Stevens hit the stage. Not great when you’re photographing as well. Calm your farm, mate.
As a long time Noiseworks fan, I was more than satisfied with his setlist, which was comprehensive. As well as his own works, he and the band delved deep into the classics of INXS, showing just how good a fit (and tribute) Jon was as a frontman for the band. They started with ‘Suicide Blonde’, followed with ‘Touch’ which sent everyone off the deep end.
‘New Sensation’, ‘Burning Feeling’, ‘Devil Inside’, ‘Miles and Miles’, ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ — “Best song ever written” said Jon — ‘I Need You Tonight’ got a funk and freestyle rhyme injection.
“Wow… I just assume everyone’s a VIP. To me, you are ALL VIPs.” This came after Jon noticed some movement between punters and security in the cordoned off section, centre stage. This sentiment was well received, as the setup, while I’m sure it makes a lot of money, takes away a bit from the whole experience.
He then talked about being in a room at the Sydney Olympics, with INXS, Jimmy Barnes, Midnight Oil, Slim Dusty, Vanessa Amorosi and Kylie Minogue, until their performance In the evening. “Can you imagine being stuck in the one big room with all those people?” Audience roars with laughter. “Yep. They gave us food, and they gave us drink. By the time the show rolled around, well, we were out of our minds. It was a fun day, what I remember of it. This is the song I stuffed up at it,” Jon quipped, as they launch into ‘What You Need’.
‘Don’t Change’ led into ‘No Lies’. It was chaos in the front, everyone singing at the top of their lungs. Following ‘No Lies’ there was an emotional moment, as Stevens talked about the recent loss of his brother, Stuart Fraser, and friend, Greedy Smith, as he introduced his song about a friend’s car accident back in the 80’s, entitled ‘Take Me Back’.
“So you’ve got to understand, we are up here, we are hurting, man, singing songs, that we wrote together. Enjoy every second. I’m a grandfather, so I’m very happy to be alive right now, I can tell a lot of you, are too.” MASSIVE singalong to this. Its cooler now, everyone’s got a bevy and mates around. “And then from the sublime, to the ridiculous,” Stevens grins, launching into ‘Hot Chilli Woman’ with a rock n roll scream. Hell of a way to end his set, with an appreciative ovation from the crowd.
Anticipation builds as twilight falls, the stage is set for The Voice to emerge.
Resplendent in a pinstriped suit, John Farnham greets the audience with a cheeky grin, and a surprising intro, Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ with a vocal quartet, driving bass and soaring electric guitar rhythm. It then drops tempo a little with ‘Hearts on Fire’. “I’ve got to say, I was supposed to be here a year ago, and got crook. Thanks for holding on for me. This next song is the title track of the album, Age of Reason, and it’s called ‘Age of (bloody) Reason’” he said, with his signature wit and grin. ‘Chain Reaction’ fires everyone up with its country vibes; He then talks of Human Nature fondly, singing ‘Everytime You Cry’ with his soulful colleagues. “Ladies and Gentleman, Lindsay Fields!” Lindsay finishes the song with his incredible deep baritone.
Farnham’s co-written song ‘Reasons’ (with Sam See) brought a surge of punters to the front, singing and swaying. Craig Newman, bass guitarist, featured on Whispering Jack track ‘No one Comes Close’. He followed
this with ‘Love to Shine’, ‘A Touch of Paradise’, ‘Talk of the Town’, ‘Two Strong Hearts’, ‘Pressure Down’, ‘That’s Freedom’ (the ENTIRE audience singing every song word for word). Then, earsplitting screams greeted ‘You’re the Voice’, and as this song concluded, the cry for an encore ensued.
“Yeah, yeah, you knew. You know, I didn’t get to finish my bloody beer!” He jokes. “Now, the best rock ‘n’ roll band in the world is AC/DC, am I right?” Mad cheering. “For my money, the best rock ’n’ roll song in the universe is an AC/DC song. If you recognise this one, you’re older than you think you are.” Now, this was easily one of the best renditions of ‘It’s a Long Way to The Top’ I’ve ever heard, John gave it a new energy and I swear I could hear strains of Robert Plant and a touch of Ozzy Osbourne as he wailed and belted out this classic anthem. It also featured screaming bagpipes and shout outs to the masses.
“Well It’s a long, long, BLOODY long, **** wayyy” Farnham sings and muses at the end, much to the crowd’s delight. A great end to a very dynamic event, which had moments of pure rock synergy, tinged with thoughts of loss, mortality, and endurance.
The Sandalford grounds were lined very neatly with row upon row of vehicles, as punters arrived earlier for the event. Very orderly, with clear avenues of potential exit from the venue. Nice in theory. I wish I had a drone with me to send up, get an image of these fields and rows, about 10 minutes after the final song. Nearly every single driver hopped in their car, started their engines, and rolled forward or backward a few metres, creating a mosaic of different car makes and duco. Would’ve made a compelling aerial shot, and demonstrated what a lack of patience can do to groups of people in a heartbeat. Kind of frustrating, but also rather funny.
Oh well. Took about 40 minutes for the jumble to untangle, hope everyone hit the loos before they headed to their cars. Good Times!