WILSON - FORUM - 12 MARCH 2014 - CONCERT REVIEW
FORUM - MELBOURNE CBD
A funny thing
happened on the way to The Forum.
The gig by Redneck Woman Gretchen Wilson and Novocastrian Morgan Evans
was transferred from the St Kilda Palais to the even more historic Forum
in the shadows of Federation Square and The Duke Of Wellington where drinkers
can have an ale with the whale - Brian Roberts.
It may be a few long seasons since The Whale pulled on the boots for Richmond
and South Melbourne but his legend looms large in the Flinders St watering
It's also exactly 40 years since the Stephen Sondheim musical opened on
Broadway and much later had an Aussie season with Geoffrey Rush in the
lead role at Her Majesty's - not this roaring twenties locale.
There was no sign of Buster Keaton or Clara Bow underneath the gaze of
a posse of Greco-Roman statues that have long kept an eye on artistic
and theatrical productions in this stately colosseum at the Flinders and
Russell St corner in the Melbourne CBD.
It all started in 1929 when bejewelled theatre patrons of historic interwar
years took their seats under the minarets and majestic clock tower.
it was Evans who kicked the dew off the glass as Gretchen hosted
a meet and greet in the plaster peeling bowels of the once ornate
Young Evans, 28, and quartet were showcasing tunes from his belated
debut album, set for release two days later on March 14 and others
from his previous EPS - Live Each Day produced by Matt Fell
and 2013 disc While We're Young.
While We're Young was produced in Nashville by expat Australian
Jedd Hughes who also has the production duties on his self-titled
Evans kicked off with the bluesy Make You Feel Like A Woman -
one of 11 songs he co-wrote on his album - and new single One
Eye For An Eye penned with fellow Novocastrian Mark Wells.
"The album comes out on Friday so you are ahead of the curve,"
he told his audience as I was led away to the meet and greet.
back in time to hear idealistic new tune All In This Together
and The Best Of Me before he revived Big Skies from
his debut EP.
is the first gig we have all played together," Evans announced as
he introduced his band including younger brother and bassist Thomas Evans.
Evans finished his 45 minute set with guitar driven EP title track While
We're Young - co-written with Jedd and Sarah Buxton who also co-wrote
Keith Urban's hit Put You In A Song.
"We played a lot of songs you've never heard before and some we haven't
played before," the singer announced as he invited fans to stand
by for headliner Wilson.
BUT NO CUP CAKES
It was fitting
that Redneck Woman Gretchen Wilson didn't frock up for her third Australian
tour for her James Gang entrée Funk #49.
Her sleeveless blouse, holey jeans and thigh high boots proved she was
Here For The Party as she revved up her turbo charged country rock
hybrid and segued into There's A Place In The Whiskey.
At 40 she wore more clobber than the glistening nude male statues who
peered down on her from the stately oriel windows up above.
The historic heroes may have clapped at her original songs but for one
small problem - some of them were armless but certainly not legless like
a few patrons down below.
The ghost of Frank Thring may have lurked up near the cupola but this
was not a country cutie with cupcakes.
Wilson and her dual guitar driven band paid homage to their honky tonk
heroes as they revived the title track of her first indie Redneck Records
album I Got Your Country Right Here with frequent references
to Hank Williams Jr, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers and the late Waylon.
She touched on a younger demographic when she told her audience she had
taken daughter Grace, now 14 and guest vocalist on I've Been In Love
Too Long from her seventh album Right On Time, to Sea Life
aquarium during the day and had a pleasant surprise.
"I didn't think we would see penguins," said the single mother,
originally from Pocahontas, 36 miles east of St Louis, and population
of 727, and now living in Wilson County near Nashville.
It's unlikely Gretchen saw penguins at SeaWorld in Florida when she performed
amid controversial allegations made in the film Blackfish.
Country peers Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride and Trace
Adkins cancelled shows because of the docco that highlighted abuse suffered
by whales in captivity.
But Alan Jackson, Kid Rock, Scotty McCreery and Justin Moore performed
there while whales, not in captivity, washed up on beaches near Portland
beyond the Shipwreck Coast.
Meanwhile back at The Forum the singer proudly announced she released
three indie albums last year and revived Home Wrecker from her
embryonic career before showcasing new tune Still Rolling "about
my fans" and co-written with Vicky McGhee - write of some of her
LIGHTS UP BEYOND THE NEON
it was time for a revelation.
"I have my own record label and I can record what I like,"
"Here's a song by a friend of mine - my old record label kept
saying to me 'you can record that.'"
Instead Wilson recorded Grandma - a Jon Nicholson song about
a 92-year-old who belatedly discovers the herb superb in her twilight
years - on Right On Time and performed it to wide applause
She bid farewell to long expired grandma up above the gargoyles
and naked statues and way beyond the cupola.
revived the Faces song Stay With Me from her 2013 rock classic
covers album before extolling the refreshing local ale - not from
the Whale - but James Boag & Sons from Van Diemen's Land.
reinforced her redneck woman persona on Work Hard, Play Harder
as she sang "I'm a good timin' American daughter Redneck, blue collar/
and I party down to my last dollar/ I don't waste my time on manicures
and spray on tans/ and I don't pay no never mind/ to the callouses I've
worn on my hands/ you know that people just can't understand how/ I'm
the first to clock in but the last to pass out."
It was a fitting segue to another blue collar anthem Walk On Water.
But the most spine tingling moment was when the singer did an a capela
refrain from Patsy Cline hit Crazy as she introduced a new song
called Crazy - co-written by McGhee - from Right On Time.
It was a timely reminder of the power of Wilson's voice and, of course,
the original Crazy singer Cline.
The next stanza was polarising for fans wanting to hear more of Wilson's
material - she announced her road band (not session musicians) - played
on her new albums.
So she gave them some rope on Heart cover Barracuda that she recorded
with Alice In Chains and an instrumental medley that enabled the band
to strut their stuff with rock riffs, replete with drum solo, from her
But it was back to traditional Wilson fare when she revived All Jacked
Up before rhetorical question "do we have any rednecks here tonight?"
The fitting finale was her career hit and signature song Redneck Woman
that had the statues perspiring above with the rising heat from the star
down below and Led Zeppelin cover Rock & Roll.
It was a night to remember - sadly paucity of radio airplay reduced the
crowd numbers for a talent who deserved to be seen and heard.
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