cherie bombGrowing up in Sydney in the ‘80s,  we were spoiled. The amorphous thing called Pub Rock spawned an explosion of live music and it was literally everywhere. The one thing all those bands had in common is still hard to put your finger on but you could term it The Pub Contract.

From the audience side, the Contract read like this: “Don’t give us any airs and graces. If you aren’t any good, we’re going to put shit on you. Due to us consuming social lubricants in prodigious proportions, you need to play hard to get our attention.”

Those days are gone and only a few people care anymore. The ones who might be keen are buried deep under mortgages, families and adulthood.

Maybe it was the lack of a crowd, skewed expectations or the fact that The Runaways were never mandated high rotation listening in my own world, but Friday night’s Cherie Currie show at the Manning Bar in Sydney fell flatter than a soufflé in a bricklayers’ pie oven.

It wasn’t entirely the fault of the headliner.

The Runaways’ place in history is notable if slightly perverse. On one hand, as an all-girl band in a man’s world, they provided inspiration for a later generation of Riot Grrrls and (Punk Rock) Sisters Doing It For Themselves. On the other hand, they were shamelessly objectified, used and abused and have become a cautionary object lesson in exploitation.

Cherie Currie
+ Vanity Riots + The Hot Sweets
Manning Bar, Sydney
Friday, May 27, 2016
Photos by Shona Ross 

carrie hot sweets

Two band-mates, Lita Ford and Joan Jett, went on to have high profile careers of their own. Cherrie had a good shot at it too and branched out to acting and family life. These days she’s a part-time rocker with her other creative outlet being chainsaw sculptures.    

Taking all of that on board, the paltry Sydney turn-out of a couple of hundred (at best) in an 800-plus capacity room has to make you wonder what the fuck has happened to rock and roll in this town. The tour was well publicised. Saturation publicity, by Sydney's modest standards. Melbourne apparently had no problems producing respectable houses on the Saturday and Sunday nights that followed.

The Hot Sweets started the night with a short but enjoyable set, crammed into a small space at the front of the stage. Coupling the classy vocal talents of Carrie Phillis (pictured right) with stellar guitarist Stewart Cunningham is inspired. Stew’s melodic playing never crowds out Carrie’s singing and the rhythm section of Craig Jackson (drums) and Wayne Stokes sits just right.

I don’t know their originals but their cover of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” was worth hanging their hats on. A band to be seen in a smaller room over a full set. 

Vanity Riots are up next and presented a set that didn’t match the online hype that’s accompanied their extensive gigging around Sydney and a tour to South-East Asia.

They are young kids with a powerful vocalist in Monica Strut, their songs lacked bottom end drive and swing (and that double kick is just annoying.) They should take time off to write some songs.

Cherie Currie tried hard and has great presence, but was held back by her band. Competent rather than compelling, they have a drummer with feel and drive but the band lacks balls.

They weren’t awful. They were tame. They were what you’d expect to see in any L.A. club on a Tuesday night. They know how to make shapes. They wouldn’t have cut it in an Aussie pub of the mid-‘80s. They’d have failed to meet their part of The Contract.

The mid-set acoustic tribute to David Bowie seemed ill-timed in terms of momentum although Cherrie’s tears seemed real. There were a couple of off-hand comments about Lita Ford that probably would have told a story. “Cherry Bomb” got the expected reaction. The audience sang most of it. The band got off-stage soon after and wasn’t answering the scattered calls for an encore. 

Too harsh? Maybe if you were one of the faithful who paid the big bucks to get up close and personal with Cherie in the pre-gig meet-and-greet you’d think so. By all accounts, the lady was personable and genuine. I actually felt sorry for Cherie. I can’t help thinking that if she’d arrived in Australia a few days earlier, done a couple of days rehearsal with a local band with a bit of hunger, it could have been so much better.

cherie eyes closed