“I'll be the last one standing/ two hands in the air, I'm a champion/ you'll be looking up at me when it's over /I live for the battle, I'm a soldier, yeah/ I'm a fighter like Rocky/ put you flat on your back like Ali/ yeah, I'm the greatest, I'm stronger/ paid my dues, can't lose/ I've been working my whole life/ and now it's do or die /I am invincible, unbreakable/ Unstoppable, unshakeable/ they knock me down, I get up again/ I am the champion.” - The Champion - Carrie Underwood-Brett James-Chris DeStefano-Christopher Bridges.

It was just on dusk as the far queue snaked up an alley way due west of the historic Forum in Flinders Street near where the in-demand mobile shower van was open for the homeless.

None of this younger demographic was likely to need nocturnal sprucing up for the return of expat Novocastrian nouveau singer-songwriter and chart-topper Morgan Evans, just 34.

The singing spouse of Knoxville girl Kelsea Ballerini was born Morgan John Evans in Newcastle with two siblings who also became musicians at Warners Bay High School .

Tonight, was a bitter-sweet return for Evans without Kelsea and his late mentor-manager and promoter Rob Potts who died on October 27, 2017, in a motor-cycle accident in Tasmania.

But the singer had two guardian angels on this Ruby Tuesday - Potts son and promoter Jeremy Dylan and Grammy Award winning entrée support singer-songwriter Chris DeStefano.

When the pre-concert P.A. sound faded and bright lights illuminated the stage there was no M.C. introduction for the opening artist.

We'll offer a short Chris CV here.

Christopher Michael DeStefano, not to be mistaken for a comedian with a similar monicker, is a prolific singer-songwriter-record producer-multi-instrumentalist, raised in Mt. Laurel , New Jersey , and living in Nashville.

It was his pleasure to showcase some chart-topping hits he wrote for international stars and preview Evans who shared his smashes.

It was clear from his entree - the Luke Bryan #1 hit Kick The Dust Up and Brett Eldredge's chart-peak Don't Ya this CMC and community TV and radio reared audience knew his music.

DeStefano explored a well-practiced spiel to welcome the Tuesday music lovers who rushed to the front to glimpse the face of the man behind the hits.

It was no surprise his song recipients were well known from their recent Australian tours to this audience who arrived safely from way beyond the big smoke to survive the subterranean station boring works.

The singer ensured that boring was not one of his trademarks with brief backgrounds of his songs.

“I've written many songs with Morgan and Carrie Underwood,” the singer revealed as he declared it was his fourth Australian sojourn.

“I was living in L.A. in 2012 when I pitched this song to Carrie. It was my first #1 hit.”

The artist performed Good Girl before another #1 hit Eyes On You that he penned for 2019 Gympie Muster headliner Chase Rice.

Next was That's My Kind of Night - another 2012 #1 hit for Georgian Luke Bryan who played nearby Rod Laver Arena after headlining the 2018 CMC Rocks Queensland festival.

The singer followed with 2106 hit From The Ground Up that he penned with Dan & Shay who are now touring here with Shawn Mendes.

Next was Hey Girl - a #1 hit for another Georgian Billy Currington.

The singer then boomeranged to another smash hit The Champion that he penned with and for 2018 Deni Ute Muster headliner - Oklahoma born belle Carrie Underwood.

It was his salient segue to his homecoming hero client Evans waiting in the wings.


“Gonna raise up a tall glass/ tonight as we look back/ back on all the life that we lived through/ Yeah, the things that we drink to/ roads that we choose, friends that we make/ turns that we miss and the hearts that we break/ the words that we say and the ones that we don't/ lines that we cross and the ones that we won't/ tears that we cried, the dreams that we dreamed/ stars that burnt out and the stars that we reached/ the pictures we take, the stories they tell/ and the moments we keep for ourselves.” - Things That We Drink To - Morgan Evans-Chris DeStefano-Josh Osborne.

Evans concert may have been advertised as a solo show but thanks to his penchant for looping, his band in absentia physically, were there in sonic splendour.

It was never destined to be a subdued singer-songwriter soiree with pipes and slippers.

The only pipes were of the Gothic variety high above the stage and audience or those deep in Evans throat as his rhetoric question hung in the air - “Melbourne, how are you doing?”

It was quite clear the resounding response indicated they were not Demons supporters or evacuees of champion ruckman Max Gawn's East End wine bar at Camberwell Junction.

Instead this well beyond capacity quorum for the Forum was keen to hang on each of Evans 11 songs from his breakthrough second album Things That We Drink To that followed several home-grown indie EPS.

“I kicked off this tour in the U.K. and was asked the same question in every interview - ‘did you grow up on any music from here?', the singer joked as he uttered a snatch of Hey Jude that echoed like a Brexit exit for expat Poms in the Forum .

This enabled Evans to credit opening act DeStefano for being producer and co-writer of his entire album.

“This is a beautiful theatre, I wrote this song seven years ago,” Evans confessed as he reached back for his embryonic hit All In This Together .

“It's a trip down memory lane.”

Evans also detailed the fruits of his more recent romance with his wife that began when they met as judges at a CMC talent quest in Queensland.

Those Kelsea inspired songs included Kiss Somebody, I Do (about their marriage) and Dance With Me - recorded as a duet with her - and Everything Changes.

His memory lane stroll included 2007 debut single Big Skies - featuring a guest duet with latter day country singer and cystic fibrosis survivor Mark Wells, 37, from his favourite Newcastle bands in days of yore - Revolver and Supersonic.

Evans also revived Like A Tornado from his self-titled debut album and snatches of Crowded House hit Better Be Home Soon and the late Tom Petty's Free Fallin'.

The singer swapped guitar for piano after his latest album final track Young Again and then told the story of learning of the death of his long-time manager and mentor Rob Potts.

“Rob took me to America for the first time and believed in me,” Evans recalled.

“I wanted to come home and he said go back and do it. Thanks to him I followed his advice. When I learned of his death I wrote and recorded the next song Things That We Drink Too .”

Evans followed his album title track with the disc entrée American and announced “mum and dad are here tonight” before he performed Kiss Somebody and Day Drunk , both accompanied by video clips on Nu Country TV , and tee shirts.

The psychedelic light show, perhaps aided and abetted by promoter Jeremy Dylan, was illustrated by a flotilla of balloons and mobile phone swaying.

“Ever since I was first at school I dreamed of playing guitar and writing songs,” Evans confessed as he introduced his celebratory finale We Dream .

“When we toured Glasgow the airline lost our bags. All we had left was acoustic guitars.”

It was Evans cue to introduce his North Carolina raised guitar technician who also improvised at the Glasgow gig for a bluegrass breakdown.

This time the bluegrass belter, aided and abetted by the inner city's latest and loudest loop, had the audience hollering and hooting like an Appalachian choir, more akin to that of recent tourist Tyler Childers.

It seemed a fitting encore for a multi-talented musician and singer-songwriter who dared to dream and act out his former mentor Rob's tuition and beliefs.


Review By David Dawson

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