JULY 26 – 2018.





The back window decal on the first of a flotilla of Aussie Utes parked near the entrance of this muscular music venue and gateway to Gippsland said it all - “ Does My Neck Look Red In This?”

It's not clear if the driver's damsel in waiting had a matching decal for her cossie inside the packed venue that was a curtain raiser of sorts for the 20 th Deni Ute Muster in September.

The famed Village Green hosted rock legends as diverse at Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Daddy Cool, Mondo Rock, Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Skyhooks and Johnny O'Keefe in days of yore.

But tonight it was a queue stretching like an elongated crocodile convention from all corners of the pokies palace to the auditorium entrance that heralded a different demographic.

There were plenty of hats, tatts and plaits - and that was just the fanatical females of the species.

These babes and boys from the bush had downed tools and teat cups as the sun faded in the west and headed to greener pastures - sorry, the Village Green.

Unlike the cloistered clubs at the Paris , Texas end of Collins Street there was no dreary dress code here in the eastern suburban heartland.

Western wear jackets and tee shirts emblazoned with Victorian Hunting Supplies , plumbing companies, meatworks, quarries and country music heroes such as fellow Texan Cody Jinks were still in style at manly footwear.

So too were the well fitted John Deere Green tractor caps.

It was not exactly a Merle Haggard musical meal but the sentiments were similar as patrons swamped those illuminated Granger Smith Stubby bars with delicacies diverse as Johnny Walker, Jack Daniels and Smirnoff at $12 plus a pop with Corona a more accessible $9.50, replete with limes and lemons.

The only balancing act necessary was the capacity to carry longnecks, bottles, cans, glasses and cups without undue spillage.

Best dressed belle of the ball was opening act Jasmine Rae, raised north of the Yarra at Fawkner beyond the metaphoric tombstone territory, and existential exit to the high country.

Yes, that's where hordes of Melbourne fans found snow relief after Irishman Zach Tuohy's Geelong goal after the siren sentenced them to a fate worse than Billy Snedden.

Jasmine may have been the smallest siren in the house but she proved from her energised entrée she was not the quietest.

“Granger Smith is the man and I'm Your Girl ”, Jasmine joked as she followed her 2015 Heartbeat album title track with I'm Your Girl and her 2013 album anchor If I Want To.

The pint-sized princess may have been dwarfed by her boisterous band but she held her own with her vocal prowess.

“This song is about being proud of your family,” Jasmine declared as she introduced My Daddy's Name - a song inspired by her late panel beater father who died of bowel cancer at 56.

It was a vast contrast to her rebel cry on Bad Boys Get Me Good - originally recorded as a duet with North Carolina chanteuse Kellie Pickler.

Jasmine also introduced her big hit When I Found You with an explanation that it was about a friend, whom she had known since she was aged five, who found true love.

Rae, now 30, surprised her friend Amber and husband Nathan by performing the song at their wedding.

Jasmine's patter petered in the mix so it was hard to say if she thanked Ed Sheeran for borrowing that song's melody and theme for his Tim McGraw and Faith Hill hit and 15 th album title track The Rest Of Our Life.

That could be a publishing royalties double shot repeater for Jasmine and her Aussie co-writers.

The singer picked up acoustic guitar for her recent hit I Faked It and fuelled her 2013 hit Why'd You Tie The Knot with fiery harmonica licks.

Jasmine and her band finished on a high note by thanking their Dallas born tour partner Granger Smith for sharing the Village Green venue with her.


Texan Granger Smith did his time performing for troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan desert storms while he followed his musical dreams as a singer-songwriter in Nashville before returning to the Lone Star state.

But tonight was his baptism in the vastly different unlucky radio country where local terrorists confined their plots to darkened on-line offal, hostage horrors, knife and machete home invasions and car-jackings.

There were no sign of violence here in the village where the closest contact with such extremities was a peep or two at Inspector Barnaby solving Midsomer Murders from the comfort of lounges and bedrooms.

Smith hinted at why his beacon was lit by CMC Pay TV channel and Nu Country TV exposure with a little help from ABC and community radio.

Granger proved he was no mere Smith or Jones from his dynamic entrée Gimme Something and Back Road Song.

It was clear this sonic storm was aimed at an avid audience whose singalong and cheers would drown out any Allahu Akbar chanters who penetrated the venue's supreme security.

When Smith's punchy posse ignited Alabama hit I'm In A Hurry (And I Don't Know Why) and Tom Petty's Free Falling the only cliff hangers, who tumbled, had soft landings.

The potent practice of propelling a partner of either gender to strong shoulders, popularised at Woodstock and Sunbury, stood the test of time here in the green.

It was unclear from my vantage point whether any of the female shoulder climbers chose to remove their western shirts, blouses and bras as one busty blonde practised to perfection as a tabloid treat when she met former Melbourne footy champion winger Brian Dixon at Sunbury when he was the aptly titled Minister for Youth, Sport, Education and Sport.

But there was no shortage of Yee Yee number plates and diverse flags representing many cultures being displayed for the artist and his hot band.

It seemed appropriate that Smith, 38 and father of three, twirled a huge Australian flag as he performed another crowd favourite It Still Holds Up.

Granger, not content with working both extremities of the stage, ventured into the audience and mounted the mid-venue sound desk after mastering tunes such as Silverado Bench Seat, We Do It In A Field, Good Guys, Stutter and Happens Like That.

Smith slowed the tempo with evocative eighth album title track Remington and another ballad Everybody Lives from his ninth album When The Good Guys Win.

He ignited inter-city revival by revealing he had played at the aptly named sin city Rooty Hill RSL venue in Sydney the night before but it did not extend to football teams.

It was no surprise fans emulated Texas arena audiences in Smith's video for If The Boot Fits by taking off their boots and waving them at the star as they threw him chilled cans of choice.

Smith emulated his alter ego Earl Dibbles Jr and reciprocated by filling a boot or two with whiskey chasers.

It was unclear from my vantage point whether Granger emulated Australian racing ace Daniel Riccardo by drinking his fill but he gave front row audience members a healthy soaking.

Well, it was his first game in a winning team in this town.

So it was no surprise Smith finished his pyro - not Poirot performance - with a marathon melange of Oklahoma superstar Garth Brooks hit A in't Going Down Until The Sun Comes Up.

It was a hard act to follow but Smith, who also played CMC Rocks Queensland at Ipswich in March, is likely to emulate Keith Urban with return tours.

Review - David Dawson

Granger Smith - Concert Photos - Karen Black Warner Music

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