Sunnyboys bring the magic
Murray Bennett photo
I set out this afternoon towards the Enmore Theatre with every intention of taking some notes, keeping a rundown of the songs, and trying to come up with the sort of review that some people actually get paid to write.
Unfortunately, this grand plan fell apart by the time I’d been at the Warren View Hotel for an hour and met 26 (yes, I counted them) people I knew and ended up in more shouts than it was feasible to manage. Coopers Red is a great beer but a lousy friend when you’re trying to make a plan come together.
By the time I got to Phoenix (or at least the Enmore) it was 7.15pm, the Shy Impostors had just come on stage, and I was carrying enough Red on board to ensure that an in-depth profound analysis of the gig was as unlikely as AC/DC inviting Dave Evans back into the fold. So you’ll have to put up with this instead.
Shy Impostors: Richard Buirgman, Peter Oxley, Penny Ward and Michael Charles
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, February 4, 2017
Like, I suspect, a lot of people there, I knew precisely two Shy Impostors songs (disclaimer – I haven’t ticked off the half century yet so didn’t see any of these bands the first time around), being the A and B sides of their one and only single. Well, they were just two highlights of a thoroughly entertaining set, two thumbs up from me.
Obviously Pete Oxley and Richard Burgman went on to bigger and better things with the Sunnyboys, and drummer Michael Charles has an impressive resume, but gee frontwoman Penny Ward has an amazing voice and a great stage presence. Just another example of a talented musician who didn’t get the recognition and rewards she deserves – aside from the several hundred people in the Enmore at the ungodly hour of 7.15pm that is.
Flaming Hands. Ian Amos photo
Murray Bennett photo
I have to confess I missed a lot of the Flaming Hands, having to go and see a man about a dog, but what I did see was great and the general consensus was very positive, so I am sorry guys I would love to say more but can’t, other than Warwick Gilbert on bass was a mighty force and Julienne Mostyn’s voice remains incredible. Hopefully others can and will do you justice. I did however catch a glimpse of celebrity roadie Peter “Rossy” Ross motoring across the stage.
Now, to the Sunnyboys. I’m going to do that annoying bit where it’s all about me, you can skip it if you like. I was 12 when they released their debut album, but at that age it was all about singles on the radio and Countdown. “Alone With You”, “Happy Man”, “Love In A Box”, “Show Me Some Discipline”, “You Need A Friend” – loved them all.
But I went in a metal, punk, and classic rock direction in my teens and it wasn’t until I was 17 and had a job that I remember, distinctly, going into a record store in Parramatta Westfield and spending my entire fortnight’s pay on records, including the Sunnyboys’ eponymous debut. It blew my mind like only the best albums do – and 30 years later it still does. There is not a dud second on it, and it would be in any top ten list I could name – best debuts, best Australian albums, favourite albums.
I have played that record until it has nearly disintegrated. In 1991 they did a brief reformation tour, decades before that became fashionable, and I saw three of the four Sydney shows. I remember standing up the front at Temptations in Mount Druitt with my jaw on the ground, astounded at just how good their guitar sound was and how many amazing songs they had. I literally ran out the next day and bought everything they had released (all on CD by that point) and was stoked that later that year they released a live album from the tour – unfortunately recorded in Melbourne, so my backing vocals weren’t to be heard – but it was a terrific document of a band that I now understood all the fuss about. Their show at the Annandale Hotel was perhaps the most crowded and sweaty I’d ever been to by any band not called the Ramones.
Of course, Jeremy Oxley’s now well-documented mental health issues weren’t known at the time, so they just seemed like one of those comet kind of bands that burned your retinas out before fading away.
Fast forward to 2012 and the worst-kept secret in Australian music was that “Kids In Dust” at Dig It Up were in fact the Sunnyboys doing their first show in two decades. I have never experienced the sort of vibe from a crowd that I did that day when they walked on stage, in the mid-afternoon mind you – even Radio Birdman’s mid-1990s shows didn’t get the emotional response that the Sunnyboys prompted that afternoon. I swear to God that 1500 people had tears rolling down their faces while dancing their arses off and singing along to every word of every song.
Since then I’ve seen every NSW show bar one, and they have never ever failed to blow the audience away. To the best of my recollection though they have never ever played “I Can’t Talk To You” live, one of my favourites and track one side one of the debut. So to go along tonight knowing they were going to play the debut in its entirety had the extra excitement factor of finally getting to hear a song I’ve loved for 30 years.
What to say about their performance – well, it was stellar. Not saying it was their best ever but it was just superb from go to whoa. Bil Bilson was his rock solid, thundering self on drums, Peter Oxley on bass, backing vocals and lead vox on one song laid the foundations, and Richard Burgman maintained his reputation as the happiest looking man in Australian rock and roll, while cranking out the tight rhythm and the occasional lead break. (ED: Dean Ertl's phto at right captures that grin.)
Jeremy Oxley nailed everything he touched whether vocally or on guitar. Alister Spence on keys filled out the sound without ever taking over from what is essentially a two guitar, bass and drums rock and roll machine. They played side one of the album, I jumped around like a bloody idiot (apologies to my nearest and dearest nearby) and finally got to hear “I Can’t Talk To You” live. “Tell Me What You Say” split the gap between sides, and when you start side two of an album with “Alone With You”, nobody’s going home disappointed.
My personal favourite off the album (if I had to pick just one) is “Let You Go”, and they kicked it out of the park, as they have at every gig since 2012. As I said earlier I was going to take some notes and tell you exactly what they played afterwards…but I was too busy enjoying myself and singing and dancing and rocking out with dear friends and total strangers to manage it. Thankfully I saw photographic evidence of the set list in the early hours of the morning, so it appears below.
Needless to say that after they closed the album with “I Can’t Talk To You (reprise)” they continued to blow people’s minds with other early classics – their cover of The Remains’ “Why Do I Cry” was a highlight, and the closing bracket of “Guts Of Iron”, “What You Need”, “You Need A Friend”, and “The Seeker” blew the house down too. The house lights finally came up, and a full Enmore Theatre was left to reflect on an amazing night. Some of us reflected our way back to the Warren View. But here I am now at home penning this before the magic wears off.
I must admit I am kind of spewing that Sydney didn’t get the Qld lineup of Sunnyboys/Celibate Rifles/Ed Kuepper, so any promoters out there take note – that lineup will fill any decent venue you care to book – but overall it was one of the best musical nights out you could wish for, and surely to God nobody went home without a smile on their face and a chorus or two stuck in their head. Thanks Jeremy, Pete, Richard and Bil, as always you totally delivered the goods.
I Can’t Talk To You
My Only Friend
Trouble In My Brain
It’s Not Me
Tell Me What You Say
Alone With You
Tunnel Of My Love
Let You Go
I Can’t Talk To You (reprise)
Tomorrow Will Be Fine
Why Do I Cry
Love To Rule
Guts Of Iron
What You Need
You Need A Friend