NICHOLS - THE FORUM THATRE - 7 MAY 2011
NICHOLS-JASMINE RAE-PETER MCWHIRTER -THE FORUM
The autumnal chill may have been kicking in but the nearby trains were
running on time for the country boys and girls who survived.
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.
Yo, it started in 1929 when bejewelled theatre patrons of historic interwar
years took their seats under the minarets and majestic clock tower.
Tonight it was the turn of Arkansas born and latter day Nashville singer-songwriter
Joe Nichols leading a honky tonk septet through their paces.
by Michael Schack
tall troubadour towered over support acts Peter McWhirter from former
sheep country south of Sydney and diminutive Jasmine Rae from Fawkner
on the northern rim of the Victorian capital.
Unlike the silent custodians there was nothing neo-Gothic about the good
old young boys from the American south treading the boards.
Nichols, 34 and holding, signalled his intentions from rollicking entrée
What's A Guy Gotta Do and the aptly titled Size Matters.
It was jovial Joe's second Australian visit this year - his first was
CMC Rocks The Hunter festival in March - an ambitious reprise of
a 2009 tour that peaked at CMC Rocks The Snowys at Thredbo.
This was traditional mainstream country delivered with a hefty dose of
It drove many patrons to leave the comfort of their plush padded pews
to soak up the action in the vast mosh pit.
The huge Nichols tour promo banner, supremely illuminated behind the stage,
was a fitting accessory for the stately oriel windows and cupola up above.
Also a reminder of why we were here - my last visit was a concert by Los
Lobos where the wall of sound was severely challenged in the instrument
There were no such problems for Nichols sound mixer who ensured the vocals,
pedal steel guitar, piano and mandolin were heard and not just seen.
The only problem - the size of the audience didn't befit the talent of
the artist and creativity of the promoters.
But that didn't the sap the energy of Nichols who segued from embryonic
hit Brokenheartsville to new single Take It Off from his
9th album set for a September release.
AND HANK JR
The singer acknowledged the past of the genre - not just the venue where
Frank Thring reigned in days of yore - paying homage to heroes diverse
as Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr and George Jones.
Okie From Muskogee enabled Nichols to update the locale of the
hippies from San Francisco to Nashville but here - midway between MCG
and Docklands - there was no need to change "football's still the
roughest thing on campus."
"Downtown Modesto" became Melbourne in another Haggard tune
Make Up And Faded Blue Jeans where a young girl in the audience
is a jezebel in disguise.
No, she was definitely not the same honky tonk heroine who inspired the
wry wordplay of She Only Smokes When She Drinks.
Nichols also crossed genres for Z.Z Top tune Nationwide and Nickelback
hit Rockstar - replete with mandolin.
Nichols enriched those deviations with his Hank Williams Jr singalong
Family Tradition - "why do you drink - why do you roll smoke?"
He also slowed the tempo and made the most of the user-friendly sound
with an acoustic version of I'll Wait For You.
It was a brave move in such a large venue but proved the artist was not
just a band front man.
Nichols reached back to 2002 for his first #1 hit The Impossible
and then thanked Blake Shelton for Who Are You When I'm Not Looking.
Joe passed on the song when he was recording his album Real Things
and it recently became a hit for the singing spouse of Grammy winning
Texan Miranda Lambert.
The band then shifted gears for hook heavy Coming Back In A Cadillac.
The Shape I'm In - an evocative story about recent war veterans
was ideal punctuation for another crowd pleaser Let's Get Drunk And
Nichols introduced his stellar road band members including pedal steel
guitarist from Birmingham, Alabama, before reviving It Ain't No Crime
and #1 hit Gimme That Girl.
There was more time to study the distant sky blue ceiling, adorned with
twinkling stars, as the band prepared for the obligatory encore.
A riveting version of George Jones hit One Woman Man segued into
the singalong Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.
With 23 songs by the headliner and two inspired sets by the local support
acts soon to be sated fans who had travelled from as far afield as Koroit
satellite city Yarpturk, wanted more.
Nichols provided it - by post concert autographing of CDs, tee shirts,
hats and other merchandise beneath the ornate staircase in the Forum foyer.
The Flinders street furs and stoles of days of yore had a successor -
jeans boots and hats, maybe from Manly footwear, courtesy of Merle Haggard.
Reviewed by David Dawson
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