Sounds By The River @ Mary Ann Reserve

A live review of the Red Hot Summer Tour gig in Mannum, South Australia.

Author: Stephen Munchenberg, The Music.

Date: 11 January 2020.

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“[O]ne of the best-run festivals in theSounds By The River @ Mary Ann Reserve country.”

Sounds By The River is held about an hour’s drive east of Adelaide, in Mannum’s Mary Ann Reserve, on the bank of the Murray River. It’s a stunning venue for a day’s entertainment, with today’s Red Hot Summer tour headliners Hunters & Collectors matched by a who’s who of Australian rock from the last 40 years.

The MC kept everyone on their toes – literally – by inviting everyone to stand for the first act’s first song. A dance area in front of the stage was available for those who wished to stand up close, while the majority seemed happy to sit back in their deckchairs and soak it all in. Boom Crash Opera kicked off proceedings just after 2pm with singer Dale Ryder back in the band after quitting in 2016. Their 1986 debut single Great Wall was up first – a classic that brought a flood of nostalgia. For Hands Up In The Air Ryder joked that it was probably too early in the day to have our hands up. The hits kept on coming with Get Out Of The House, Dancing In The Storm and The Best Thing. The refrain from Onion Skin rang true 30 years after its release – these here are indeed crazy times. The sold-out show was mostly full by this time and most present would have recognised every song.

Killing Heidi were up next opening with Calm Down. While the set was full of energy, with singer Ella Hooper bouncing around the stage, it was marred by a few sound issues. Much of the material was also unfamiliar to some sections of the crowd, drawing little response from the back half of the venue. Hooper is a highly charismatic frontwoman, expressing her admiration for the huge gum trees that were located throughout the venue. Those enjoying their shade would have agreed. The band ended strongly with better-known songs Superman Supergirl, Mascara and Weir.

The sun had moved into a less favourable position by the time Baby Animals took to the stage, their set opening with classics Rush You and One Word. Suze DeMarchi’s voice sounded as good as ever and the band were electrifying. Painless was dedicated to those premium ticketholders on the paddle steamer docked by the reserve, with DeMarchi pointing out that the vessel was leaning heavily to port due to the weight of fans on one side. Early Warning had many fists pumping in the air and the set was over all too soon.

A quick Nutbush City Limits dance competition in between acts saw one lucky punter win $2,500. Legendary band The Angels then turned things up a notch, with a huge crowd response to their set. Dave Gleeson from The Screaming Jets was the perfect replacement for singer Doc Neeson – big shoes to fill, but he did so well. After 1978’s After The Rain, the crowd sang along to No Secrets and joined in heartily with the iconic refrain of Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again (to the delight of the numerous young children present). Face The Day was less familiar, but highlighted the guitar skills of the Brewster brothers, the heart and soul of this band, with its brilliant guitar solo. Coming Down was another crowd favourite with many punters singing along. Shadow Boxer and Take A Long Line were the perfect finish. Still a class act “and more South Australian than FruChocs”, according to Gleeson.

The Living End took up the challenge of following on from such icons brilliantly, opening with a rousing version of Second Solution. Singer-guitarist Chris Cheney, as always, encouraged crowd involvement and was not afraid to tell us, “That was fucking pathetic,” when our vocals weren’t up to scratch, before changing guitars effortlessly mid-song. The band wasted not one second of their 45-minute set and Cheney packed in an amazing amount of fret-work. It was impressive to watch this trio punch out such a fast-paced sound. The classic Roll On was huge, while newer material Don’t Lose It (based on a “shit year” the singer said he had in 2017) thundered along brilliantly. All Torn Down featured a delicious guitar intro, while the slower cover of Tainted Love had heads bopping along. Prisoner Of Society and West End Riot had everyone down the front dancing wildly, including a few small children up on their parents’ shoulders. They finished with White Noise and were arguably the highlight of the day so far.

The Living End are always a hard act to follow, and the first half of James Reyne’s set seemed very subdued in comparison. Songs like Beautiful People, Daughters Of The Northern Coast and even Hammerhead fell a little flat. Introducing Downhearted about a trip to Bali in 1975, Reyne advised, “This is an old song… well they’re all old songs.” The latter half of the set picked up, thankfully, with Reckless getting the crowd engaged and fitting the audience demographic perfectly. Motor’s Too Fast, Errol, Oh No Not You Again and The Boys Light Up ended the set well. Reyne has a relentless tour schedule each year, but seems to perform better in smaller venues.

Hunters & Collectors may have broken up originally over 20 years ago, but thankfully the group, led by Mark Seymour, have reconvened for reunion tours and special events multiple times over the last decade. Tonight’s show was a delight and the band was well-rehearsed. Barry Palmer in particular was on fire, playing lead guitar like a man possessed and clearly enjoying himself. The setlist was near-perfect, opening with Talking To A Stranger, Blind Eye and Where Do You Go?.

Seymour implored us several times to be kind to each other (in agreement with the T-shirt he was wearing) and also encouraged us to support the Country Fire Service, the first responders to the recent bushfires. Full use was made of the giant screens now that darkness had fallen. Fan favourite The Slab sounded as great as ever, with quite a few punters joining in on the iconic lines. Back In The Hole saw French horn player Jeremy Smith on guitar. The crowd went nuts for the hits When The River Runs Dry, Do You See What I See? and Say Goodbye. The band’s anthem Holy Grail was a standout for many. However, Throw Your Arms Around Me was the endearing highlight and the perfect finale to the set, as well as the day’s entertainment.

Now in its 11th year, Sounds By The River is one of the best-run festivals in the country in terms of quick access to food, drink and facilities and an incredible line-up of artists.