You know what’s ace about the Zoo Twilights 2020 series aside from the obvious allure of packing a picnic to share with mates while being entertained by fabulous acts in a gorgeous, open-air environment? All proceeds go towards Zoos Victoria’s efforts to support the fight for Australia’s only hibernating marsupial, the critically endangered mountain pygmy possum.
For this Australia Day concert, Even’s band leader Ash Naylor sports an Australian Aboriginal flag t-shirt, and his guitar chops are undeniable. “I think the ‘90s were like the ‘60s for us,” he jokes, while introducing the rollicking Stop And Go Man, which came out in 1996. A little champ is welcomed to the stage for extra guitar duty on a couple of songs, during which he chews chewing gum and is full of rockstar ‘tude. Then a very rock’n’roll-looking guest we’re told was once a member of The Sports arrives on stage to play flute during Shining Star. Even contains no passengers, with Wally Kempton slaying on electric bass/BVs and Matt Cotter smashing his kit with aplomb. This trio was “established in 1994”, Naylor points out, and there’s lots of rhythmic head-nodding going on while punters tuck into their picnic hampers.
There’s a mad scramble to secure barrier posis for Icehouse, and when a stagehand stands centre-stage in crucifix pose for a lighting test, a front-row superfan who also attended last night’s show excitedly points out Don’t Believe Anymore will obviously be included in tonight’s set, since that’s the song during which Iva Davies strikes aforementioned pose.
“It’s always cold inside the icehouse…” – Icehouse’s song Icehouse is the perfect intro/opener as atmospheric synths underscore Davies’ haunting vocal, which immediately draws us in. He completely destroys us for the first time via the superb Hey, Little Girl sax solo, but every single time keyboardist/saxophonist Glenn Reither wanders out to take the spotlight we’re left completely gobsmacked. After remarking that we lost a lot of legends in the last decade, Davies leads a round of applause to honour the recently deceased Greedy Smith. He then dedicates the undeniably sexy Love In Motion to Chrissy Amphlett, who featured on a version of this song, which can be found on Icehouse’s compilation album Masterfile and was also released as a CD-single. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we score the Amphlett version tonight and, as such, get to admire Amphlett’s vocals while the song’s clip graces the giant screen.
Davies’ son Evan is then welcomed to the stage to supply extra guitar on Street Cafe and he’s a dead ringer for his old man with cheekbones to die for. OMG, Dusty Pages; we’d forgotten all about that one. What a wonderfully plaintive chorus melody! The intensifying pathos of Don’t Believe Anymore (that sax again, Reither – we’re truly not worthy!) proves as irresistible as ever and Davies’ vocal performance is pure perfection. Sans guitar, Davies delivers the heartbreaking majesty of No Promises from the front of stage, sitting on his haunches as fans fumble for their smartphones to capture this Kodak moment.
The swoon-worthy melodies and complex arrangements continue with Crazy. “‘Cause you’re the one sure thing when I get lost in the game/ Once again…” – that pre-chorus gets us every time! And Great Southern Land (which was added to the National Film and Sound Archive in 2014) provides an opportunity to reflect – on this particular day, especially – while admiring the glory of this unofficial national anthem, which shimmers like a desert mirage. Our collective “OH!” BVs probably wake up every single zoo animal (sorry!) throughout Can’t Help Myself, during which Davies’ guitar work is exemplary (as always).
The guitar interplay – and banter – between Paul Gildea and Davies is top-notch, the rhythm section of bassist Steve Bull and drummer Paul Wheeler harnesses the band’s groove, and that special guest filling in for Michael Paynter this evening does a smashing job.
For tonight’s encore, we’re treated a couple of covers – the boisterous Pretty Vacant by Sex Pistols and Bowie’s The Jean Genie (both of which are too bloody good!) – before Nothing Too Serious provides punters with one last chance to dance.
Icehouse’s songs are timeless. One could never tire of catching them live.