Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Go-Betweens gig [15th July 2005 @ The Forum]

It's been ages since my last post...sorry for being so slack but I've been flat out at work recently and haven't had time to post anything for a long time.

Once I finish my top 10 years for album releases list, I have lots of ideas for other posts, so please stay tuned. Only one year left, and then I think I'll focus on shorter posts so I can post more regularly without having the overhead of having to write a HUGE blog posting.

In the meantime, I've been meaning to post about the last gig I went to. I saw legendary Brisbane band The Go-Betweens a few Friday evenings ago, at The Forum in Flinders St.

For those who don't know the history behind this band, they had an underground following in the 80's even though they sadly never found commercial success. They have many celebrity fans, including Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian (who wrote their B-side Shoot the sexual athlete about them) and the creator of hit series 24 who named the firm McLennan-Forster after Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, the founding members of The Go-Betweens.

They were critically lauded despite their lack of commercial success. Their most critically acclaimed album is 16 Lovers Lane from 1988, which has become one of my favourite albums of all time. They famously broke up after 16LL, and when they reunited in 2000 with The Friends of Rachel Worth, many probably thought it was going to be a short-lived reunion. Since then they released the disappointing Bright yellow bright orange in 2003, and their new album Oceans apart was released this year to critical acclaim. Mojo magazine in the UK even awarded it Instant Mojo Classic status. It is a great album, although unfortunately it is copy controlled in Australia; luckily I was able to find a real version of it in Vancouver when I was there earlier this year.

Which brings me to the gig...

After a support stint from Sophie Koh where Pete and I wisely decided to rest our legs at the back of The Forum while downing a few Coronas, we made out way to the front of the great venue. It was a very low-key opening for a very modest band. Grant McLennan (the Paul McCartney to Robert Forster's John Lennon, if we have to make such an obvious Beatles comparison) came out for a single-song solo set, just him with an acoustic guitar singing Black Mule from the various-artist compilation Money is not the answer. I didn't know the song, and it was pleasant but not particularly memorable. Certainly not the sort of opener I was expecting. It actually took a few seconds for people to start applauding when he took to the stage. The gig had a real relaxed feel to it.

After this, the rest of The Go-Betweens [2005 lineup] joined Grant on stage. There was Robert Forster (on lead guitar), and newer members Adele Pickvance (on bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and Glenn Thompson (on drums and backing vocals). The next song was Clouds from 16 Lovers Lane. On 16LL, Robert sung this with Amanda Brown who was one of the band members at the time. At this gig, Robert and Grant sung it as a duet and it was a nice interpretation of the song. I've always considered this to be one of the most dated songs on 16LL (an album which has generally aged really well), so it was nice hearing a modern interpretation of it.

Next we had Robert singing He lives my life (from 2000's Rachel Worth) and Grant singing Boundary rider which was the first entry from their new album Oceans apart, and one of the highlights of the album. It was a nice rendition of the song which stayed pretty true to the original. Another new song followed, the Robert-led ditty Born to a family. I had never really been a fan of this song up to this point, but it really worked as a live track, and it gave me an appreciation for it enough that I actually enjoy it when listening to the album now.

A couple of Grant-led numbers followed. We had Magic in here which was a faster version of Rachel Worth's opener. Then we had Streets of your town, another classic 16LL number that worked really well in a live setting. We then followed with a trilogy of Robert's songs: there was Make her day, one of the tracks from the 2nd half of Bright yellow bright orange; Here comes a city, the energetic opener from Oceans apart (and one of the highlights of the gig) and Draining the pool for you, the first pre-16LL song of the gig. This slow burner was one of the highlights from Spring Hill Fair, their underrated 1984 album.

After a small Grant-led intermission with Finding you (another gig highlight), Robert introduced new song Darlinghurst nights from the new album by saying something along the lines of "this song takes on new meaning when we play it here". Not sure if he thought he was in Sydney, but it did strike Pete and myself as a little odd. The first set ended with This night's for you (thankfully without the distortion that is present on the studio version), Spring rain (the opener from their superb 1986 album Liberty Belle and The Black Diamond Express), Was there anything I could do? (another 16LL cut) and another Rachel Worth cut, Surfing magazines, which was dedicated to a few famous Australian surfers from history.

The band definitely like to give their fans value for money, and they did so with three (!) encores. The first encore included The Devil's Eye (the beautiful Side-A closer of 16LL), the Dylan-esque Too much of one thing from Bright yellow bright orange (which is unique in being the only Go-Betweens cut I know where Robert and Grant take turns on lead vocals) and their Australiana epic classic Cattle and cane from their 2nd album Before Hollywood. I must be one of the few Go-Betweens fans who isn't blown away by this song, but I could definitely feel the enthusiasm from the crowd after the strumming of the famous opening chords.

The second encore was a short one. It opened with Baby stones, the opening cut from Robert Forster's Danger in the past album from 1990. I can't say I knew the song, but it certainly rounded their gig off in a nice symmetrical way (1 Grant solo number, 1 Robert solo number, many Go-Betweens numbers). [For those who don't know, every Go-Between album release is quite predictable. There are always 10 tracks*, and they always include 5 Robert written/sung numbers, and 5 Grant written/sung numbers. And with a few exceptions, they are always under 40 minutes.] Okay, I'm rambling. The second encore concluded with The clock, a highlight from Rachel Worth.

And now we get to the third encore. They opened with People say, from The Lost Album. This was a song neither Pete or I knew, but it had a certain familiarity to it that made us think it was a cover. A bit of research afterwards proved this wrong. They finally ended the gig with the opening cut from one of the greatest albums of all time, Love goes on! from 16 Lovers Lane. What a great way to end a very enjoyable gig.

Robert managed to break 2 guitar strings right near the end of the gig (I'm pretty sure it was during the last song). After searching the stage for something else he could play, he ended up picking up a tambourine and in true Liam Gallagher fashion, played that for the rest of the song.

And a few observations...

Grant definitely seemed like the "quiet one" in the band, Robert Forster handling all of the talking duties. Robert (or "Bobby" as one enthusiastic audience member called him) seemed to be the more popular of the two -- even though I was never into them in the 80's (I was only 9 when 16LL came out), I take it that Robert had more of a cult following that has held up over the years. He was certainly the more eccentric of the two of the them, often wearing make-up and dresses on stage during their peak in the 80's. It's interesting that out of the two of them, Robert has become the one who has settled down with a wife and kids.

Here's to a very enjoyable gig!

* Okay, their debut album Send me a lullaby has 12 tracks. I don't actually have that album yet. Sue me.

[Sorry, I did say this was going to be a short post!]


  1. Jiggy, very nice (and thorough) review -- must agree with you, a very enjoyable gig, good crowd, but not too crowded, and a bit of ganja floating our way from those two stoners in front of us! Must pick you up on something -- I did know the song "People Say" before the gig, it features on the second (live) disc to Oceans Apart. That disc is worth a listen -- also features a classic track, "When people are dead," which is a Tallulah b-side. Interestingly, this gig featured no Tallulah cuts -- does that tell you anything about the way in which they look at their back catalogue? Also, I really enjoyed Cattle and Cane, but always have. I liked the way Grant took the microphone, and more or less proceeded to rap this way through it like a regular hip hop gansta. Even had the hand movements down! Good to hear half of 16LL played live, classic stuff.

  2. Oops, it seems I got People say and Baby stones mixed up. So Baby stones was the track that we thought was the cover, but it was actually a Robert Forster solo number. Might be worth checking out some of their solo stuff.


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