The thing that has prompted this reminiscing is that I saw Seal last week. I have been a fan of this UK vocalist and songwriter since his hit Crazy. It is difficult to describe his sound but I have settled on ambient soul. I am happy the gig I saw at the Palais in St Kilda involved a lot of his original songs, rather than just his more recent work in covering soul classics of the 70s and 60s. I enjoyed having a familiar recorded voice emenating from a human body on the stage. It was also fascinating to hear Seal talk to the audience between songs and, suddenly, the Transatlantic accent of popular music would fall away to be replaced by his own London speech patterns. I enjoyed the performance of both him and his band but I was a bit miffed by much of the audience. Some of us were fans and keen on getting into it but many seemed to just be there to observe the work of a popular artist and politely applaud.
Vicka And Linda
Okay now some of you may say "who?" The Bull Sisters came to fame as vocalists with the Black Sorrows but then went onto record their own albums. They are of Polynesian origin and they draw on that background in some of their music. But in the performance I saw at the Melbourne Zoo they were focusing on the soul music they listened to on the radio in their teens. It was a bit like seeing two Aretha Franklins coming at you with volumes of attitude.
Some years ago I saw a re-formed Crowded House at Rod Laver Arena. We were far away from the band and yet we still had an excellent time getting drawn in by (here I go with my invented sub-genres) the ambient rock of this seminal Australasian band. It is impressive for a handful of players on a faraway platform to somehow encompass a big crowd with the emotional connection produced by music.
I had a chance to see the Oils round the time of their Red Neck Wonderland album. I saw them at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. A small and packed venue full of fans of this hugely successful group (in Australian terms) was an awesome thing to experience. They had a wheel-of-fortune with songs named on it and that would determine what they would play - sometimes to amusing effect as they were given a song they were very rusty in performing. It was also interesting in terms of the kind of mixed audience Oils get - both the bogan element that love rock and the political element that enjoy the message of Hirst-Monginie songs. At one moment Peter Garrett noticed some yobby giving another audience member a difficult time and he admonished the shit with how uncool his behaviour was and refused to perform till he behaved.
This was another time I went to the Palais. Had dinner on Ackland Street with some friends then we went to see these British eccentrics fronted by sing-songwriter flautist Ian Anderson. Anderson was losing his voice but his flautistry was in top form and the band as a whole transported us to a world that is somewhat displaced in reality from the ordinary. The ageing Anderson, however, kept his standing-on-one-leg antics to a minimum, thankfully, as such stuff had caused a previous tour of theirs to be cancelled.
B B King
I remember - way back in the late 90s - thinking that I had to see B B King while I got the chance because the blues legend was elderly and who knew how long he would last. Well the irony is that he is still touring to this day. And back then he looked old and spent most of his gig (at a venue in the Crown Complex) sitting. It was still an awesome night as King and his band presented his more polished brand of the blues. And then it was something to see King kissing spare guitar plectrums and throwing them into the audience for the keenest of his young white fans to snatch.
Faith No More
This gig was at Festival Hall and it was one of the few times I have been close to a mosh-pit. I made sure to stay back from the ever-shifting line that separated mere audience from writhing amorphous mass of human flesh. I enjoyed the show but remember wishing the band had chosen more songs from the album they were supposed to be promoting - Album Of The Year - rather than all the songs they performed from the preceding album (King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime). I think FNM are best as innovators of musical fusion (such as the blending of funk and metal) and I feel the gig lacked that.
This is a band that play folk music with contemporary instruments (including electric violin) and they were a lot of fun to see in a pokey venue above a bar in Prahran. Both vocalists Maddie Prior and Gay Woods sang well and got well sloshed as the night wore on and they regularly took sips of wine. It was one of those intimate gigs in which one felt a part of something very primal and human - the telling of tall tales set to music for a gathered throng.
Glen Miller Reunion Band
This is the oldest and in some ways most unusual recollection I have of seeing a well-known act live. Glenn Miller was killed in World War II but his jazz band has formed and reformed many times since. The incarnation I saw was fifteen strong, of which seven musicians had performed with Glenn Miller. The show was held at the Glasshouse and included space for the audience to dance if they so wished. I was definitely one of the younger audience members there but it was a lot of fun nonetheless and, as with many of these other anecdotes, a chance to feel a sense of history. The brass was hot, the reeds were cool, and I even got a chance to swing someone round the dance floor.
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I was thinking of making this entry a bit more technically rich with, confirmed years in which I saw each act, and links and things. But bugger that. These are just my words and I hope they give some sense of what the experiences were like. Music in its many forms is amazing.... whether recorded or live... whether made by the famous or the obscure... whether absorbed alone or shared with friends. Can anyone remember seeing these with me?