“Grandpa's whisky and grandma's bible will/ get you through when it's tent revival hard/ southern by the grace of God.” - Southern By The Grace Of God - Charlie Worsham.

Mississippi minstrel Charlie Worsham's time on stage at this historic theatre may have been short but not as brief as his death cameo in a shallow grave in the Fox TV series Bones.

Worsham's TV character - country singer Colin Haynes - was murdered in the crime show that also featured his song Love Don't Die Easy.

Luckily the singer didn't have to walk the gauntlet of Collingwood and Essendon fans who had done battle earlier on Anzac Day at the nearby MCG.

With delicious irony a sextet of fighting fans, clad in the regulatory choker collars to gain entry to the exclusive MCC members stand, were evicted by security from the Yarra Bank coliseum.

It's not clear if the combatants were fighting over the franchises or recipes for drugs that saw diverse players from both teams suspended from the greatest game of all.

Maybe it was all sparked by gags about Collingwood president Eddie McGuire being victim of a fake news story about his erectile dysfunction potion that reached a climax, so to speak, the next night on The Footy Show.

Yes, everything is bigger in Toorak where Eddie and former Essendon star James Hird bed down in separate digs far from the little people who fertilise their nests.

But here under the gaze of the phalanx of Greco-Roman statues, high above patrons and performers in this stately historic Flinders and Russell St corner coliseum, there was a different opiate of choice - country music with a beer, wine and whisky chaser.

Worsham, raised in tiny delta town Grenada , revealed he had played CMC Rocks Queensland on a previous visit but this was his debut beneath the royal blue theatre ceiling, replete with minaret and cupola sharing the skyline with a majestic clock tower.

Charlie, just 33, may have appeared to be a solitary figure on acoustic guitar but he embellished the power of his persona to reach the capacity crowd with original songs from his first two albums.

It's not clear if he had a pre-concert Yarra bank warm-up run to exhibit his Marty Stuart autograph tattoo as he had on arrival on a harbor-side jog near Sydney Opera House.

But this was his Opry stage as he performed originals diverse as Please People Please, Old Time's Sake, Rich Girl, Cut Your Groove and Deep South staples Mississippi In July and Southern By The Grace Of God.

Worsham vowed to come back sooner than later and urged fans to “see me at the merch stand” where they could buy copies of his two albums that were belatedly released for this tour.

I'm unable to verify sales figures as a kind female security guard saw me stranded on a staircase and offered me shelter from the storm in a lounge seat.

The beatific brunette, replete with AIG Security tee shirt, also rescued a fellow septuagenarian from due west of the sound desk and seated her next to me.

As a Shipwreck Coast born journalist of 53 years indentured labour I asked my fellow country fan where she had travelled from to catch the three musketeers and their bands.

“I have a dickey knee and came from Bacchus Marsh with my daughter and her husband and saw Kip Moore with Little Big Town at Hamer Hall on his last tour,” she revealed with true country pride.

This opened the door to a football flick pass so I added I had taken a Bacchus Marsh born bon vivant, Uncle Ern, to see Geelong play Brisbane at the Gabba for his 80th birthday.

“My brother Wayne Closter played for Geelong” was all we needed to establish that I recalled Wayne wore #1 on his Cats jumper and played in the same stellar teams as Sam Newman, Doug Wade and Gareth Andrews.

Such revelations made the break between artists even shorter when my nocturnal neighbour revealed she lived opposite the Underwood stud at Bacchus Marsh where the late 1910 Melbourne Cup winning trainer Sol Green moved after selling his Shipley stables and Warrnambool dairy farm to my paternal grandfather in 1922.

Luckily South Carolina born singer-songwriter Lee Brice burst on stage before I could reveal my maternal grandpa also played for Geelong in 1905 while still a student at Geelong College.

It was that sort of night, thanks to the security sweetheart of the Forum Rodeo.


“Eighty-nine cents in the ash tray/ half empty bottle of Gatorade rolling in the floorboard/ that dirty Braves cap on the dash/ dog tags hanging from the rear view/ old Skoal can, and cowboy boots and a Go Army Shirt/ folded in the back/ this thing burns gas like crazy, but that's alright/ people got their ways of coping/ oh, and I've got mine.” - I Drive Your Truck - Jesse Alexander-Connie Harrington-Jimmy Yeary.

Mood music is a vibrant vehicle for the ambience of a concert so it appeared the playing of the recently deceased Tom Petty's classic I Won't Back Down over the house P.A. was a perfect choice.

Lee Brice and his quintet didn't need any introduction so they didn't get one as they stormed from the shadows as the capacity crowd of 2,000 erupted with a sonic boom and surge towards the mosh pit.

It seemed fanatical fans, raised on community and regional radio, the recent MMM digital discovery and CMT pay TV and community shows such as Nu Country TV , mushroomed more than the taste tsars had predicted.

They needed little encouragement to sing along to hits from early in his inspired set - entrée Picture Of Me , second album title track Hard 2 Love, That Don't Sound Like You, A Woman Like You, Little Things and Love Like Crazy .

Like the population boom clogging the inner suburbs the more energetic fans chose to reach for the sky with young males providing a shoulder shelter belt and vantage point for their female companions.

It was a vast contrast to the seating and standing arrangements and the equally accessible alt-country sub-genre at the 2017 Out On The Weekend Festival at the Seaworks in Williamstown.

Brice, a burly 38-year-old, emulated the stamina of sporting peers earlier in the day due east of the Forum at the MCG, with a perspiration primed performance.

His choice of sleeveless sweat shirt and head-wear - a back to front cap that has long eluded my visits to clothing chain stores - may have prevented him entrance to the MCC members' enclosure but was perfect for this occasion.

The dazzling light show - even more blinding than that experienced by rabbits, foxes and other imported vermin from some audience members on spotlighting nights on their farms and environs - added to the fervor.

Yes, even more dazzling than when the TV cameras flashed on Collingwood cheer quad boss Joffa's gold lame jacket earlier on Anzac Day.

But Brice is no one trick pony.

The father of three slowed the tempo for hit ballad Boy , inspired by his recent offspring, and solo delivery of another tune.

“This song came about because of a girlfriend when I was in college,” Brice revealed with sardonic humour, “I was in college a long time. She was my second girlfriend.”

The droll delivery was not lost on the crowd who again found voice when he announced that his song Crazy Girl, penned with Liz Rose , has also been covered by the Texan Eli Young Band, who toured here in 2102 with singing actor Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Brice connected with crowd pleasers Drinking Class and Good Man .

The singer magnified the Anzac spirit when he introduced another riveting hit I Drive Your Truck.

“No celebration is better than a party made possible by our freedom provided by our protective services,” added Brice whose song peaked with an energetic extended drum solo by Donnie Marple who retained suffice strength to lob a paper dart almost 30 metres to the sound desk at the end of the set.

It was no surprise for fans who caught Brice on his previous tours that he finished his set with I Don't Dance and Parking Lot Party - something that was not possible in the shadows of The Forum , built in 1929 and once home away from Toorak home for the late Frank Thring after his Ben Hur baptism.

Hopefully, Lee's self-titled 2017 fourth album will be released here in the aftermath of his tour.


“Between the sloe gin fizz and fast women/ I'm stuck in a place my Mama's King James calls sinning/ but it feels so good where I'm sitting / between the sloe gin fizz and fast women.” - Fast Women - Kip Moore-Blair Daly-Westin Davis-Troy Verges.

It may be a long journey from the red dirt farms of Georgia to the tram tracks, train lines, ornate cathedrals and green playing fields of Melbourne but Kip Moore has made the trip a time or two in his colourful career.

Tonight was no exception for the singer whose mum Bonnie played organ in the local Tifton Baptist church before he debuted at the Mellow Mushroom restaurant in Valdosta - also hometown of Rhett Akins and chart topping son Thomas Rhett.

On his last trip Kip played as support for Grammy winners Little Big Town across the Yarra at Hamer Hall.

This time Kip's quintet were headliners in a marathon show that stretched close to the midnight hour beside the mean streets where crazed killers were hopefully not out on bail, protected by name suppressions.

It was apt that Moore's entrée tunes Fast Women and Sunburn from his third album Slowheart were followed by vintage hits Beer Money and (We're The) Wild Ones that was enriched with “we're the Aussies.”

No doubt that Moore 's headlining appearance at the $25 million rebuild of the Waltzing Matilda Centre way out west at Winton in Queensland recharged his GPS.

It was a tribute to our country roots radio and TV that fans sang along to the impassioned pleas of new song Plead The Fifth with older staples Girl In A Song, I'm To Blame and the sensual Come And Get It and Backseat .

More Girls Like You , one of Moore 's 11 original co-writes on his 13 song Slowheart album, segued into the clever, hook heavy Jon Randall-Luke Dick penned The Bull whose video enjoyed exposure on Nu Country TV .

Moore stimulated the sensuality quotient with That Was Us and balanced it with new ruptured romance requiem

Bittersweet Company that also enjoyed Nu Country exposure and poignant querulous love song Heart's Desire.

The 38-year-old singer had no need to introduce another historic hit Something About A Truck - an embryonic love song dating back to his Tifton teen years.

Equally familiar was Moore ' acoustic delivery of his pathos primed Last Shot whose video impacted here because of four friends bringing the bright lights of Paris to a young woman on a premature death bed.

It segued into a revamp of local lad Daryl Braithwaite's sporting anthem The Horses , now earning the former Sherbet singer healthy royalties down the home straight and beyond the stables to ensure career longevity.

Moore preceded his encore with Hey Pretty Girl before heartbreak homage Fly Again that he described as a “song of recognition” driven by a harmonica.

The fitting finale was evocative eulogy Guitar Man - also the final track on Slowheart .

Moore explained the autobiographical song reached back to the birth of his career and death of a romance.

“She's long gone but I'm here with you tonight,” was an epitaph of sorts to that Georgian girl who broke Moore 's heart but not his spirit.

I'm sure she wasn't born when I mistook the Hampton , Atlanta , speedway chopper pad for a parking area as I drove my hire car onto the arena at Willie Nelson's 1983 July 4 picnic.

The haste to catch Merle Haggard, Waylon & Willie, Jessi Colter, Hank Williams Jr, David Allan Coe, The Stray Cats and Linda Ronstadt in 100 degrees heat among 30,000 country fans may have been a distraction for a country boy far from the Hopkins River banks.

I had flown south from New York City after attending Willie's July 3 picnic in Meadowlands, New Jersey , and lost my compass.

Tonight I avoided the temptation of a ride on one of Braithwaite's horse drawn CBD carts for a tram trip east to the ferny dale in the glen.


1 - Fast Women

2 - Sunburn

3 - Beer Money

4 - Wild Ones

5 - Plead the Fifth

6 - Girl in a Song

7 - I'm to Blame

8 - Come and Get It

9 - Backseat

10 - More Girls Like You

11 – The Bull

12 - That Was Us

13 - Bittersweet Company

14 - Heart's Desire

15 - Somethin' 'Bout a Truck

16 - Last Shot/The Horses

17 - Hey Pretty Girl


18. - Fly Again

19 - Guitar Man

Review by David Dawson 2018

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