The Best Seat In The House - Sunnyboys (Feelpresents/Inertia)
They really are unstoppable and they shouldn’t be. Not at this stage of the game. Their goals might be modest - to have a good time reprising their own past, in the hope that you will too - but that doesn’t underplay how good the reincarnated Sunnyboys are on “Best Seat In The House”.
It’s officially their second live album but really their third (1993’s rough and ready “Shakin’” on Phantom seems to have been disowned) and it perfectly captures the band in all their pop-rock glory, playing the final gig on a mostly sold-out Australian run in March 2015.
This was a fearsomely good show. I was lucky enough to be there. Nostalgia was thick in the air, but it wasn’t a set of note-for-note covers. Left-fielders like “Individuals”, “No Love Around” and “The Stooge” surfaced between the hits. There were rough edges but there was also an astonishing energy and unmistakable vitality up there on the stage. None of it has been lost in the translation to record.
For me, all that was great about this gig was encapsulated in Richard Burgman’s uncontained excitement. As second guitarist to frontman Jeremy Oxley, Burgman often used to take a back seat. Not this night.
Hatted and in every way the epitome of A Happy Man, Burgman exploded out of the wings, bounding all over the stage and wrestling some glorious sounds out of his guitar on songs like a bristling “Show Me Some Discipline”. Jeremy was in fine voice but Richard did almost all the talking between songs. No easy feat because he did it through a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
Enmore Theatre in Sydney was packed. The staging and lighting were superb and sideman Alistair Spence (keys) enhanced the live sound.
Jeremy Oxley is a distinctive guitarist, unconventional in the way he weaves those spidery leads over his songs. There’s plenty of his inventiveness (and the odd bum note) here and the mix separates him and Burgman nicely. There's been no post-production patching. What you hear is what we got. Spence's keyboard parts are wonderful, especially on Peter Oxley's "The Stooge".
Speaking of, Peter’s melodic bass fares especially well in the mix. It’s also worth mentioning Bil Bilson has lost zilch as a drummer. He has power and feel. It’s a Rolls Royce engine room.
You get the full set from go to whoa. Fifteen songs and just under 70 minutes. Punchy and inspiring. Among lots of shining moments, "The Seeker", "Discipline", "The Stooge" and "I'm Shakin' " jump out.
A live album was the obvious place to go. Sunnyboys had exhausted the re-issues reservoir and toured on the back of each offering. There’s the vague hint of some new songs, maybe to be recorded and released as a fan thing, but who really knows? Anything more, like a full album, would be high stakes indeed and might detract from the enjoyment that these four guys so obviously derive.
So sit back and enjoy “Best Seat In The House” for what it is: A vivid snapshot of an electric hour. You should have been there - and if you weren’t, this is the next best thing.