Sunnyboys with the Riptides and New Christs in Sydney

sunny sideof stage

And so the return, and rise, of the Sunnyboys continues. If you said they could top this one, you’d need to back it up.

They billed themselves as Kids in Dust when they stepped back onto a stage for the first time in 21 years at the Dig It Up festival in Sydney on April 24, 2012. The nom de plume was supposedly to avoid performance anxiety or to ramp down expectations, maybe both. It didn’t matter; any tentativeness was swamped by a roomful of love.

Nor were there any misgivings in evidence at the same packed venue, the Enmore Theatre, last Saturday night. Just an irresistible king-tide of energy and good spirit.

Enmore Theatre
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Photos by Judi Dransfield Kuepper

“Love to Rule” kicks the ball into play and it’s a frenetic game from the opening whistle. “Tunnel of Love” is second song in and raises the energy with its irresistible push. Jeremy Oxley‘s wiry guitar is all over songs like “My Only Friend” and the incandescent “Love in The Box” and makes up for his lack of chatter. It’s the best I’ve heard him play in the handful of reunion shows I’ve seen.

With Jeremy not talking it’s left to Richard Burgman to enunciate. It might be odd to walk onto a stage and introduce your bandmates before a note’s been played but they’re the Sunnyboys, it’s their show, in front of very much their crowd, and rulebooks are for shredding.

The staging is first-class with strategic spots throwing sunflower installations into colourful relief. Did the Sydney Opera House show look this good? I didn’t go. The light show’s only visual competition tonight is the matching ensemble tops worn by the Oxley brothers. Only Big Bil Bilson on his towering drum riser has a better view. 

sunny judi backdrop

A fellow punter observed that you can approach this sort of gig as an exercise in nostalgia or you can judge it as it comes and entirely on its merits. There’s a bit of both going on. The dance floor of the Enmore is packed – and I mean jam-packed – to the point of being a seething mass of 55-year-olds that’s completely in tune with each song. They sing in all the right places. They are all Happy Men and Women. 

Last year’s line-up was supplemented by Tim Oxley playing guitar in the shadows. This time out it’s just Alastair Spence adding colour on keys.

The set was familiar. The band makes no allusions that this isn’t anything but a trip through the time tunnel so new material shouldn't be expected. There’s enough in the way it’s put over, and in the sprinkling of “new” oldies, to make that largely irrelevant. Jeremy and Richard defer to Peter who takes lead vocals on one of the fresh inclusions, “The Stooge”. “I’m Shakin’” and “Thrill” bring the set-proper to a sweaty conclusion before the five-song encore.

Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. While new recordings don’t seem a priority, who knows? Neither was a full-blown national tour two years ago.

Opening band the New Christs fired (as the New Christs usually do) in a brutal 30-minute set. Their bracket, not unexpectedly, leant towards “Incarnations”, with notable oldies, “I Swear” and “Coming Apart”, appended. While the band originally throught they were going on a little later, they had about a thousand people watching after hitting the stage at 7.30. 

I thought their sound was muddy, even in a brief stint up-front, but was later chided that the band had its usual guy mixing and any sludginess was down to my eventual vantage point.

I admit to not being a big Riptides fan but their 45-minute set was 42 minutes too long – and that’s only down to the fact that they played the infectious “77 Sunset Strip”. They might have always been a bit of a floating cast around Mark Callaghan, the one original member who’s still there, and comparisons to the headliner may be unfair, but their lightweight skanking pop seemed forced.

All that jumping up and down to rock-steady rhythms put me in mind of a Mental as Anything corporate gig I was force-fed a couple of lifetimes ago. The PA blew up but nobody in the audience noticed; the band played on to fulfil its contractual obligations - and not for one minute more. I’m not saying the Riptides were as bad as that or they were going through the motions, but they had the look, if not the smell, of accountancy about them.

Two final thoughts: If I was a former member brought on stage for the last few numbers, I wouldn’t be happy to just play the tambourine. How would you feel? “I used to play keyboards in The Riptides and all I got to do when I got up was to hit this silly thing.” Silly thing being the tambourine and not the current keyboardist.

Lastly, lots of people lapped them up. No, loved them. If you were one, you can tell me to get fucked in the comments section. Freedom of speech. That’s my gift to you.

Tags: live, new, sydney, sunnyboys, jeremy, oxley, peter, richard, burgman, enmore, bil bilson, christs, new christs, riptides

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  • Guest - Michael Wellham

    Agree about Sunnyboys - best they've played that I've seen since Dig It Up. They do good pop songs arranged as rock songs. Disagree with your comments about Riptides - not great, but good pop songs played as pop songs. New Christs - muddy sound down the front, played well nonetheless, but the songs aren't memorable in the way that Sunnyboys and Riptides songs are.

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  • Guest - Lisa

    Seriously?what gig were you at? Everyone is at least 25 years older. The music is about memories, love, fun, growing up. Riptides made me just as happy as they did 30 years ago. My bridal waltz was sensational. Loved it. My kids loved it too.

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  • Guest - Ian

    You old Curmudgeon / Shit Stirrer. You really, really wanted Peter Ross to be the sound guy so you could slag him off and say "Told you so". Even Laurie Oakes is trying to save you from yourself.

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  • Guest - Angela

    I thought the Riptides were absolutely fantastic. Loved every minute of them. They could have played another 45 minutes for me and I would have been like a pig in mud through the whole set. But, I am a proud Queenslander and they took me right back to my long, slow uni days. If I had a choice, The Riptides would be the soundtrack to my life.

    I've seen the Sunnyboys 4 times since they reformed and agree this is the best they have been, except for when they played at the Opera House. That was Bl$$dy amazing.

    And I'm nothing like 55 either!!

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  • Guest - Chris Ryder

    I thought the Riptides were great. I was right at the front with my youngest son (11 years old) working up a sweat. Brought back loads of happy memories. I loved the Sunnyboys as well and saw them dozens of times but the Riptides were always my favourite back in the day.
    I suppose if the Riptides were never your cup of tea you would have seen nothing that would have changed your mind but for me and the followers of old they were exactly as I hoped they would be. Shame they didn't play Magic Moments though, under the circumstances it would have been a good fit for the occasion.

    from Penrith NSW, Australia
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  • Guest - Keith Claringbold

    I'm a bit surprised that people are surprised at the Riptides having a ska beat on some songs..hello? They had that when they first moved here in 1980!!! They aren't bunging it on for effect!

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  • Guest - Rocco

    Sunnyboys were excellent again! I've seen three of their comeback shows and all have been great. Tho I actually opt for the Factory Theatre gig late last year as my favo - I thought their delivery that night was a beat faster in some songs and that they just seemed to have a bit more energy overall in the set. I also favoured the setlist that night over Saturdays show. But hell, why the nitpicking, it was another amazing show. And I agree with the Barman on Jeremy's guitaring being the best I've seen and heard since their return to the stage.
    Riptides were a tad twee for my tastes - even 77 Sunset Strip seemed lacking. But their tunes were nice and it was fun to hear some of those songs again.
    Loved New Christs - they never disappoint me and I thought they sounded great down the front at the right.

    from Sydney NSW, Australia
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  • Guest - Radio Bradman

    Wow, I've never heard a band illicit such strong love/hate comments from an audience in years.
    I wholeheartedly agree with the 1st poster, a Mr K Claringbold's review of the Riptides. If you didn't get it 'back in the day' you are unlikely to be swayed in the present. I think they deserved to be on the bill, & were an integral part of the Sydney live scene back in 80/81. I wish it could have been the 1980 lineup ,as perhaps the band Mark Callaghan put together for the show were too studied in their approach & didn't attack the songs hard enough. But what great POP songs they are. Yes there is a ska/two tone feel to the rhythms - just they same as they played them in 1980. Their set bought back great memories of seeing them at the Rock Garden,Mosman, & especially supporting the Sunnyboys at the Paddington Green Hotel back in the day.
    My take on the show is this:
    he New Christs are a well oiled machine who bought the ROCK
    Riptides delivered the POP
    Sunyboys found the perfect blend between ROCK/POP to close the night.
    I went home with a HUGE smile on my face.
    Mission accomplished

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  • Guest - Andrew

    Get Fucked.

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  • Guest - Andrew

    And the guy banging the tambourine was the former drummer who no longer plays. Buzz Bidstrup a fair replacement.

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