& DUNN-DIERKS BENTLEY-ADAM HARVEY ROD LAVER ARENA - 4 MAY 2009
HATS AND BOVINE BEAUTIES
have been enough to flood myopic moats protecting metropolitan corporate
radio chains housing hits and memories mausoleums.
Dusk was closing in on the banks above the muddy waters of the slow flowing
Yarra as a neon moon hovered over the southern capital's sports and music
A flotilla of pick-up trucks and Utes, replete with bull bars, horns and
turbo aerials, fought for parking spots with bush buses, bikes and family
The big hand was on six and so was the little hand on old-fashioned chronometers
still favoured by folks off the land.
The invasion moved into top gear as this vast cast headed to upper extremities
of the tennis stadium that bore the name of a Queensland racket slinger
So what was wrong with this picture?
The demographic droogs who program commercial radio and TV should have
taken a short trip from their city offices.
Here was an audience aged from seven to 70 with hefty quota of the all-important
18-35 big spenders.
They were here to soak up rocking country music despite absolute apathy
from radio, TV and mainstream print media.
This was an audience drawn like moths from suburbia and the bush to the
flame of a genre that grows without the sales stimulus of an even media
A crowd of 10,000 plus hit town because of Pay TV channel CMC, community
radio and TV, street press, the Internet and word of mouth.
Sadly, that's the major exposure in this unlucky radio country for Brooks
& Dunn, Dierks Bentley, local star Adam Harvey and peers.
This is not the populous U.S. with 2,000 plus commercial country radio
stations, TV, rapidly growing satellite radio and a voracious mainstream
Despite that Brooks & Dunn promoters Rob Potts and Michael Chugg loaded
the dice and brought the superstar duo back for their second national
tour within 14 months.
This time there was a bonus - Arizona born chart-topper Dierks Bentley
- and Harvey on a ticket price that reflected their tour costs.
It was a calculated and courageous risk that should be applauded by all
mainstream country starved fans.
So what about the music?
Well the geographical challenges of enabling rural fans to reach home
by dawn meant the show started at ABC-TV news time - 7 p m - and finished
shortly before 11 pm as Boston Legal and Footy Classified battled for
nocturnal viewers with a penchant for humour of diverse shades.
HAPPY HALF HOUR
kicked the dew off the glass at happy hour as punctual punters took
seats with or without an alcoholic appetiser.
Fags were banned from the tennis court but not the civilized consumption
of glowing cocktails, mixed drinks, beer, wine and confectionery.
The singer, latterly of hillbilly HQ on the NSW Central Coast, injected
his 30-minute set with an energetic mix of humour and humility as
he showcased songs from his seven albums.
Seven discs in almost two decades is a testament to Harvey's talent
and tenacity in a hostile media market.
So the laconic Leopold born lad worked the huge room with genuine
warmth denied to flavour of the month pop peers.
But half an hour - like the quarter it took for Harvey's Geelong footy
team to lose the 2008 AFL Premiership - was a reminder that he was
a worthy curtain raiser.
he was destined to enjoy the career longevity of namesake Robert in the
other leather laced southern religion.
It was perhaps
fitting that the first mainstream media exposure for Harvey's on stage
successor Dierks Bentley was when Carlton star Andrew Walker named him
as one of his favourite singers in a Herald Sun sporting profile.
So what did Walker know that the paper's music gatekeepers missed - read
FEELS THAT FIRE
hails from Phoenix, Arizona, where he was raised on the outlaw roots
music of the late Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr before adding
slices of bluegrass to his repertoire and records.
But this was his Australian debut and it was clear from entrée
hit Lot Of Leavin' Left To Do he would exercise familiarity
in his even dozen songs.
Bentley, just 33, proved as fit as the tennis titans as he mounted
the drum riser to strut his stuff.
He urged the audience to soak up the pedal steel, yes, audible, on
the title track of fifth album Feel That Fire before cutting
loose on new hedonistic anthem Sideways.
The singer recounted his Sabbath night on the town - Fitzroy and Brunswick
- and subsequent redemption in either St Patrick's or St Paul's (he
couldn't remember) after his ruptured romance requiem How Am I
Bentley's salient sequencing and pacing were impeccable.
He kept patter
to a minimum and followed his evocative Settle For A Slowdown with
rollicking Feel That Fire entrée song Life On The Run.
Pedal steel player Tim Sergent indulged in an aborted banjo cameo before
reverting to his instrument of choice and slowing the pace again with
Come A Little Closer.
Australian radio may be musically challenged but not the audience who
sang along to chart toppers Every Mile A Memory, also featured
in acclaimed TV show, The Wire, and What Was I Thinking.
Bentley's road band complimented his high-energy stage gymnastics - the
catwalk strut and drum riser leaps - as a seasoned support cast.
"I would never have dreamed a guy from Arizona would one day be singing
country music in Australia," Bentley confessed in his entrée
for his finale Free And Easy.
This time steel guitarist Sergent drove the train on banjo from the start
of the encore and proved why it became a car commercial in the nation
where the industry is on its knees.
Bentley exuded warmth and maximised his support time with a tight set
that delivered all it promised.
And, unlike the chagrin of many U.S. peers, he has arrived here as his
career soars on seven #1 U.S. country hits - long before his star fades.
Now how about some commercial radio exposure to ensure his rapid return?
BROOKS & DUNN IN COWBOY TOWN
between international artists was a welcome respite for the well-lubricated
audience whose cocktail glass glows competed with the sweet sheen off
mobile phone cameras.
By now the
covers of the huge above stage video screen had been removed to ensure
maximum impact when Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn hit the stage to debut
with the riveting title track of their 10th album Cowboy Town.
This was, as expected, another high-energy set with a seven-piece band
and tight trio of female harmony singers.
The guitar army fuelled the rocking You Can't Take The Honky Tonk Out
Of The Girl and Rock My World (Little Country Girl.)
Older fans may have suffered acid flashbacks with the psychedelic animation
for the video of the latter and audible fiddle breaks as Brooks indulged
in a brief cameo as a rocket launcher.
It was a comedic kaleidoscope but not as funny as appearances by former
Lord Mayor John So in the video backdrop for Proud Of The House We
Built on their 2008 tour.
Maybe mayoral incumbent Robert Doyle's cross-dressing as old Bogan Bob
is still a celluloid work in progress.
Anyway we were treated to pedal steel and banjo as Ronnie Dunn led the
audience singalong in historic Nu Country FM relic Neon Moon as
Brooks took a seat at stage left and autographed everything thrust at
Neither band nor audience suffered from climate change or swine flu paranoia
in the interaction as they stepped up a gear in Put A Girl In It
and She Likes To Get Out Of Town when their female choral trio
Pacing has long been Brooks & Dunn's strong suit so lights were dimmed
as they two stepped down the catwalk to their stools for the romance interlude
as Dunn took lead vocal on Getting Better All The Time.
The lanky lad observed neither singer had to suffer short stools like
their Perth concert the night before.
Then it was Brooks turn for humour as he told his familiar anecdote about
a recently decamped wife making a pre-emptive strike after the male's
night on the town as his prelude for his truncated Lost And Found In
A Border Town.
The stage-front four play concluded with more ballads - When I'm Gone
Then it was back to the video screen for the rollicking Red Dirt Road
and tear-jerking ballad Cowgirls Don't Cry with Reba McEntire making
a visual but not audio cameo.
Still no sign of swine flu as Brooks pitched his half empty water bottle
high and long into the crowd to launch Mama Don't Get Dressed Up For
Nothing, replete with twin guitar strut, and balladic Nothing About
This was a take no prisoners show as they lifted tempo with Play Something
Country and their historic hit of the late B W Stevenson's My Maria.
Yes, there was a streamer shower from the stage and more on stage merchandise
and boots and hats autographing from the duo.
With a pre-announced show close at 10.30 pm there were no surprises when
the cast left stage briefly and rapidly responded to audience applause
for their encore.
The encore was equally energetic - dynamic cuts of embryonic hits Brand
New Man and smash career tune Boot Scooting Boogie.
But there was more - Brooks plucked a cowgirl from the audience and turned
their on-stage dance into a whirling dervish routine.
Luckily for Kix she was more a young heifer than old chopper and neither
suffered terminal injuries or flu - even as Kix frisbeed his black cowboy
hat into the audience at the show finale.
So are any there any criticisms from a cynical and seasoned reviewer?
Well, actually no.
The superb sound - separation of instruments - meant we heard the pedal
steel, fiddles and cowbells in the guitar and drum driven wall of sound.
Dunn's superior vocals enabled him to lead and cover vocal imperfections
of Brooks whose humor, guitar playing and songwriting haven't been tarnished
by the passing of the years.
And, at their ages Brooks (53) and Dunn (55), there was no diminution
of energy in their presentation.
I suspect their next tour won't be soon - Cowboy Town is still
producing singles but a new album is needed for their homeland and international
Review By David Dawson.
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