The Sunnyboys live in Sydney
Photos by Emmy Etie
Enmore Theatre - March 29, 2014
Richard Burgman was adamant when he bounced up to the microphone before a note was played and declared that the Sydney show would be the Sunnyboys' last. Who could blame him if he meant their final gig ever rather than the end of the tour. Informed sources say it's not the case and that the Sunnyboys will live on.
But if they did pack up their tent, the Sunnyboys could do so knowing that shows by re-animated bands don't get any better than this.
It was simply a killer bill. Geelong's Frowning Clouds were first on and didn't deserve to suffer from playing to a sparse crowd due to an early start time. Such is the way of three-band bills in a theatre.
Talk was that the early '60s folk-pop had given way to a psychedelic blooming of sorts but there wasn't one ounce of fat in the Clouds' half-hour set. They play with confidence and stylistic variety but retain their character and deft casualness.
Sydney seems to have become used to the idea of The Stems without Richard Lane. The lack of keyboards puts a different slant on their early poppy songs but Dom Mariani and Ash Naylor's meeting of guitars gives an agreeable hard edge to the set. There's a great "Sad Girl" in their 45 minutes and a soaring "For Always" that isn't trampled in the delivery.
Dom later says there's a renewed energy in the line-up and it's hard to argue. He's just thankful to have been on the same bill as the headliners who are one of his all-time favourites.
The Sydney show of the Sunnyboys' seven-date tour completed a circle of sorts. Enmore Theatre was the room where the band made its return two years ago, and the mood then was emotional and more than a little reverent. Tonight it was more like unbridled love, expressed in most of the capacity crowd singing every word of the "big" songs. "You Need a Friend" was deafening and proof they had ample.
This was a tour to celebrate the re-release of the first album and the set list naturally did lean that way. Of course, the band looks different...greyer... and thicker around the middle...but exudes the same nervous energy that was on display 30-plus years before.
Richard Burgman, second guitarist but principal defender of the band's legacy in media interviews, was apparently anointed chief spokesman tonight. You couldn't keep him away from the mic if you tried.
Like a wiry Energizer Bunny on red cordial, he couldn't keep still and constantly exhorted the crowd to greater heights. He might call Canada home these days but he wore an ear-to-ear grin that would melt a glacier.
Jeremy Oxley seems subdued but says all he needs to with those tightly-coiled guitar solos. Opinion was his voice had been a little frayed at the previous night's second Melbourne show but he sounded right on the money.
"As I Walk" obviously holds a place in Jeremy's heart but remains a curious choice as opener; to this day a lot of the band's original fans wouldn't have heard the album it appeared on (the post classic line-up 1989 LP "Wildcat".) Things are on familiar ground by the second song, "Love To Rule", and "Happy Man" makes an early appearance (to a rabid reception.)
With the Sunnyboys it's almost entirely all about the songs. Tonight, Tim Oxley lends a hand on guitar and percussion throughout and Alister Spence adds keyboard for the last third of the set but with due deference to both, the essence of these tunes would work regardless of trimmings.
Credit where it's due to the engine room. Peter Oxley's been a rock in more ways than musical, but his melodic bass-lines and interplay with Big Bil Bilson on drums have always made the Sunnyboys more than just a 4/4 rock band.
Audience participation reaches a crescendo in "Alone With You" in the encore. "Show Me Some Discipline" is a brutal follow-up. "The Seeker" puts a lid on it. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long for it to be lifted again.
As I Walk
Love to Rule
Tunnel of Love
To the Bone
My Only Friend
Let You Go
Tomorrow Will Be Fine
No Love Around
Love in a Box
What You Need
It's Not Me
You Need a Friend
Trouble in My Brain
Alone With You
Show Me Some Discipline