– by Tom Munday
Icehouse, Mental As Anything, Diesel, James Reyne, Zarm, Sunday 25 January, Redhill Auditorium
I had never been to Red Hill Auditorium before. After the long drive up Reid Highway and Toodyay Road (yes, it’s THAT far away!), I chugged my Toyota steadily up the wind-y path to meet a gaggle of parking attendants. Looking into the distance, I was instantly swept up by the shimmering sight of Perth City, the surrounding suburbs, and thick bushland vistas. The Auditorium, comprised of a strong limestone seating area and gargantuan stage area, is one of WA music’s best-kept secrets.
Canned alcoholic beverages flowed from bar areas and eskies. Overpriced food and coffee vendors formed unending lines. The scorching sun guided large groups toward shaded areas. The opening act, Zarm, amped-up the crowd thanks its undeniably charming reggae-pop style. The group’s easy-going renditions of ‘Here We Go’ and ‘Can’t Get Enough’ engaged the steadily increasing masses. Its thumping kick-drum beats and smooth rhythms suited the ultra-casual occasion. Lead singer Luke Hutcheson’s soft-spoken persona humanised the ensemble’s wondrous aura. Back-up vocalist Flex’s undying charisma and gritty vocals lured everyone in. The group, delivering everything from a spirited cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Valerie’ to EP hits ‘Corby’ and ‘Everywhere’, made something of a mark amidst the starry seceding acts.
Mental As Anything, oddly enough, took to the stage first. Officially launching the event, the group’s rendition of ‘Too Many Times’ got life-long fans cheering for more. The mosh pit hurriedly filled up while lead singer/keyboardist Andrew “Grredy” Smith regaled everyone with witty comments. Smith, sipping tea from a tin cup, was a red-jacketed, silver-haired ball of energy. Speaking his own special language, the die-hard ‘Mentals’ lapped up the group’s tough-as-nails aura. The group, marching around the stage, is still as manic and unpredictable as ever. Its most famous hits – including ‘Come Around’, ‘Live it Up’, and ‘If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too’ – were applauded mercilessly by the baby boomer audience. The group’s final song, ‘These Nips Are Getting Bigger’, was amplified by Smith’s laugh-out-loud persona.
Rock-blues demi-god Johnny Diesel stepped out on stag to thunderous applause. As the sun set over Red Hill, beams reflected off the musician’s shiny, slick acoustic guitar. Everyone’s eyes shot straight Diesel, launching into a scintillating rendition of ‘One More Time’. The American-Australian’s silky riffs and engaging stage presence illuminated his unquestionable allure. Switching from sleek acoustic guitar to a sparkly, silver electric beast, Diesel’s textured performance style showcased an entire career in just 45 minutes. ‘Man Alive’ and ‘Don’t Need Love’ sent the packed-out into overdrive. Diesel’s intricate solos and kooky antics punctuated each extensive 4/5-minute rendition. Leaping towards the crowd, jazz-rock style roused the front few rows. He rounded out his flawless set with smash hits ‘Tip of My Tongue’ and ‘Cry in Shame’.
Australian rock-star James Reyne relished in the grand occasion’s true-blue, patriotic spirit. As the sky turned pitch black, he and his band waltzed on stage to the roar of ‘excitable’ crowd members. Launching into ‘Fall of Rome’, the singer’s approachable presence and impactful vocals wooed everyone into his warm embrace. Boosted by a large artistic background, depicting Australia’s surf-and-sand culture, Reyne’s renditions of ‘Slave’ and ‘Australian Crawl’ gave off a distinctive, jam-session-between-friends vibe. Supported by bloke-ish band mates, Reyne delivered a soulful and layered performance of ‘Reckless’. The hit kick-started a soaring chorus from the manic amphitheatre-spanning audience. ‘Motor’s Too Fast’, ‘Lay Your Weary Head Down’, and ‘Oh No Not You Again’ were well received by fans. Reyne’s ‘Boys Light Up’ finale further amped-up the Icehouse anticipation levels.
Icehouse, given a grand entrance and warm audience welcome, solidified its immaculate, hall-of-fame reputation. The group’s opening number, Walls, kick-started its event-defining style. The bright colours and flashing lights bolstered the band’s elliptical and entertaining performances. Its rendition of ‘Mr. Big’ peppered the background with dollar bills. Meanwhile, ‘Love in Motion’ and ‘Crazy; were bolstered by the group’s catchy lyrics and charming rhythms. The event switched tempos unexpectedly, delivering soulful and harmonic versions of ‘Hey Little Girl’ and ‘Electric Blue’. ‘Electric Blue’, a powerful and miasmic love ballad, accentuated lead singer Iva Davies’ fun stage presence.
Davies, one of Australia’s most memorable musicians, had a great time keeping everyone entertained as the clock ticked towards midnight. His enthusiastic guitar riffs and stage moves never stopped. ‘Street Café’ and ‘Man of Colours’, featuring young musician Michael Paynter, became show-stopping, harmonic blues numbers. The group’s climactic renditions of ‘Great Southern Land’ and ‘We Can Get Together’, lit up by red and orange hues, got everyone up and dancing. Coming back out for an encore, the group’s all-out performances of ‘Man of Colours’, ‘Nothing too Serious’, and ‘Sister’ succinctly capped off a rousing Red Hill spectacular.
Photo Credit: Matthew Picken