New numbers win old hearts

Russell Morris

Russell Morris plays Spiegeltent on Southbank forecourt on Sept 10 and 11.

The crowd was of an age that in dictated they had probably bopped along to Russell Morris on their transistor radio in 1969, I know I did, but the chatter in the queue was about his recent songs with their historical bent and blues framing.

When the band came out and started playing the straight blues number Black Dog Blues I worried that we were going to be deprived of the intimate interaction that Der Spiegeltent potentially offers an audience.

I need not have worried. Mr Morris is an accomplished comedian, twisting tales of his grandmother, tales from his grandmother, acid trips, Molly Meldrum allusions and the characters from Australian history into a stage show that goes beyond patter. It is not often you get a belly laugh at a music gig but I enjoyed more than one.

I found myself looking forward to his next little spiele as each song drew to a close.

That is not to detract from the music. The band is tight, accomplished and steady. As a blues dilettante I am not qualified to deconstruct the musicality of the first half of the show, but it provided a solid basis for the historical context and the powerful characters that are the subject matter of his more recent material. Morris delivers neat vignettes of Les Darcey and Squizzy Taylor that in one case is an ode and the other a bitter footnote. Other songs deal with the gigantic historical framing of the Depression, the Gold Rush and our convict past.

I would have been perfectly happy with a concert based on this material alone but the duties of a rock legend insist that – to quote Mr Morris – we enter the tardis and follow the time lord back to 1969.

I am the real thing, set the scene, inspiring four women to shed the years and dance as we all did 44 years ago, helping the rest of us take the time journey.

Lead guitarist Peter Robinson has a Mick Ronson like command of the rock format and the big finish and delivers it with an ease and confidence that is too joyful to be described as cynicism but so accomplished that you want to challenge him to take it a little bit further. Bass player Mitch Cairns and drummer John Creech round out a solid and joyful, blues and rock outfit.

A string of hits and an encore later, Russell had us in the palms of his capable hands.

“I know you all want to hear the old stuff but we are a working band and are making a new record so we want you to hear the new stuff as well. This is something Peter and I wrote six weeks ago and we think it will be the break out song on the new album.” In a final tease they then launched into Sweet Sweet Love as the final number.

Satisfied as the tent full of baby boomers were, I’m not sure I was the only person in the room who would quite liked to have heard a new number written six weeks ago and had the opportunity to turn it into the next real big thing.

If it had any of the resonance of the historical numbers from Sharkmouth, I’d be paying my 99c to download it legally.

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