When your ears are ringing and your head is numb 12 hours after a gig, it is generally a sign that you have just had a great night out. This was indeed the result for all of those lucky enough to witness this stellar line-up of Australian rock legends, performing together under the same roof at The Gov.
Kim Salmon (late of seminal bands the Scientists and the Surrealists), opened the show in solo mode. In recent times the singer has played to Adelaide fans at smaller venues, but tonight he was able to remind a larger audience that he’s still alive and kicking. His short and mostly unremarkable performance was enhanced by electronic effects drawn from a small recording device clipped to his chest. While blatantly promoting recently reissued albums, he playfully teased those down the front who kept looking at – and stealing – his setlist.
The tour’s co-headliners themselves have been taking turns as to who closes each night and this time Died Pretty drew the short straw, playing the role of “support act” – albeit with an encore set. The band’s output in the 1990s was amazing and at the time saw them tour with the likes of R.E.M. Their inclusion as a double-bill with Radio Birdman was a masterstroke – and to my ears (or what’s left of them), they almost stole the show.
Singer Ron Peno still has an incredible stage presence all these years later and is one of the most enigmatic frontmen you’ll encounter – picture a less manic version of Iggy Pop. Although short in stature he commands the audience’s attention and his voice has lost none of its power over the last 30-plus years. Guitarist Brett Myers also appeared to be revelling in the opportunity to play these songs again.
The material was mostly drawn from Died Pretty’s classic 1991 album Doughboy Hollow as well as follow-ups Trace and Sold – all of which stood the test of time incredibly well. It was fantastic to hear Headaround, Sweatheart, Godbless and D.C. again.
Radio Birdman took to the stage at the ungodly hour of 10:30 pm (the band and much of the crowd looked not far off retirement age) and unleashed an ear-blistering 60-minute opening set. It was incredible to see a bunch of guys in their 60’s sounding as tight as a bunch of hungry teenagers. While at first, the crowd seemed a little unresponsive – and singer Rob Younger mumbled his apologies for some minor technical difficulties – the band soon found their stride and the fans reacted with gusto. Before long, the floor was a raging mosh pit of (mostly) sweaty old men, gyrating to crowd pleasers like I-94 and New Race.
Despite the crowd’s fervour, the calls for an encore were surprisingly muted, prompting Younger to quip upon the band’s return to the stage, “I couldn’t hear you from back there, so we came back to see if you were still here”. The classic Aloha Steve & Danno made its mandatory appearance before our eardrums finally gave out.
Adelaide has always had a special place in its hearts for the band – twenty years ago, a musical mentor told me of his attendance at the historic concert at the Marryatville Hotel twenty years beforehand, an event that is now part of the city’s folklore. I must confess to being a newcomer to the Radio Birdman stable (better late than never, eh), which came about upon hearing a compilation CD that was ‘forced’ upon me by a colleague. It’s amazing how well the band’s output stands up 40 years after it was put to tape. The forthcoming documentary on the band – Descent into the Maelstrom – should be worth a look.