Live on Stage, Sydney Cove Tavern
The most positive live review ever – of early 1989 Sydney gigs.
Author: Ross Clelland, Juke.
Date: 25 February 1989.
Original URL: N/A
Venue: Sydney Cover Tavern
It’s all about passion. When I stop being a fan, I stop writing about this rock and roll thing. But while Hunters and Collectors keep improving and putting on shows like these, there’s no danger of my interest waning.
Keep the slick professionalism of INXS, the sometimes brittle brilliance of Midnight Oil or the bombast of Barnes; Hunters are the most important band in this country.
That should keep the Mushroom Records publicists happy when they’re looking for quotes for the next press release.
But seriously, for consistent power and quality H&C’s are without peer. And some nights, like the third of these shows at the fetidly overpriced Cove (about to close, unlamented by this wallet), the Hunters go beyond the merely excellent to the truly inspired.
I’ve seen this band in stifling, cramped pubs, in sprawling leagues clubs in Sydney’s western suburbs; in the open air of the Melbourne Showgrounds, even in a tacky converted cinema in the middle of London – and never have they failed to move me (and incidentally, guys most of the times I’ve paid for the privilege – the ultimate compliment from we freelist freeloaders of the music press).
I have seen them alone, and with dozens of friends. I first started seeing them five years ago with my then-lover. Six hundred miles and a lifetime apart we now see this band separately – but the opening chords of “Throw Your Arms Around Me” still burn a hole in my heart over her. This is the sort of reaction Hunters can provoke.
It’s not all heart-rending and melancholy. There can be few experiences as uplifting as being part of 2000 voices howling “Say it! Say it!” in unison during a full-throttle performance at “The Slab”.
And it’s not just these personal memories and emotions which make Hunters truly great. You can feel the passion (that word again) in Seymour’s songs – whether they be about the pain of love lost or the heat of Broken Hill. Even the inspiration is just the half of it, the delivery needs to match. Put simply, Hunters are virtually unmatched in purely ‘musical’ terms.
Doug Falconer and John Archer are collectively (sorry) the best rhythm section in the country. Both came second in their respective categories in the last Juke poll – Archer being behind the Angels’ Jim Hilburn, Falconer narrowly beating daylight for second after the Oils’ Lord Robert Hirst of the Drumstick.
And then of course there is the brass – that wonderful swirl of sound, and never better than I’ve seen on these nights.
Barry Palmer’s guitar is now fully-integrated and beginning to gain some personality of its own within the H&C’s noise. Some of his slide playing is really impressive.
1989 has to be the year for Hunters and Collectors, the live reputation is well established locally, there’s a core of support in the US, UK and particularly Europe. They now have the back o an enthusiastic record company overseas (Miles Copeland’s IRS). Surely now it must happen for them.
At this years opens, H&C’s are in transition again, beginning to seriously roadtest the new songs for the critical next album. The songs on Human Frailty (for many, still THE Hunters’ record) were well-established and full-developed before recording. Pressured for the follow-up, some of What’s A Few Men? seemed only half-realised, with basic production that saw much of the band’s essential texture and personality lost, with the brass buried miles back in the mix.
With second thoughts, some remixes and re-recordings for the sets’ overseas release, many of the songs got closed to their potential – and with over a year of liver performance, songs like “Under The Sun” and “Breakneck Road” are now revealing their full quality.
That said, some of the new songs are excellent now. The next record could be that one What’s should have been, and Fate (the overseas title) nearly was.
I’ve already gushed on once, in these very pages, about “Crime of Passion” – the hypnotic cry of anguish which jut gets more impressive with each hearing. And though it sounds like a perfect Hunters’ original it was actually written by Melbourne’s Eric Gradman (remember early 80’s band Man and Machine feature electronic viola? No? Oh well, never mind). Barry Palmer is an old Gradman alumni before his Harem Scarem and Hunter’s duties.
There’s a real confidence in the new material, and on each of these nights the band appeared really relaxed and enjoying the level of performance they were achieving. Seymour even spent time smiling and joking – while still managing to emote heavily over the stage when necessary, and stopping a small ruckus in the crowd and just a wordless glance that would have melted lead. Had he continued in his (and his father’s) chosen career of school teaching, he would have been a fearsome prospect for his pupils.
Half-a-dozen new songs got runs on these nights with topics as diverse as trying not to be affected by the oppressiveness of “cold, dirty, grimy, grey” London (“Turn A Blind Eye”), a touch of Sartre philosophy in “The Way We Are”, a “boogie about the great outdoors” titled Wilderness that features on of these Archer bass lines which goes straight up your spine, another “I wrote sitting in the backyard of my brother’s house – he’s in a band too, but he’s a millionaire” (“Everything You Love”) and “Running Water”, not about tapes, but homesickness and distance.
Throw in the previously drooled over “Crime” and the plaintive “Wishing Well” (written for Fate) plus the faves from Frailty and beyond, and it’s a superlative set.
As you’ve gathered, this ain’t the first time I’ve stood sweating and impressed by this band, but only two or three times have I seen them hit the level they did on the third of these nights. You could actually see and feel it happen, it’s a moment where a band meshes into a single entity and effortlessly go up – taking the audience with it.
It’s a physical thing – even Seymour was taken aback. It happened during Say Goodbye, about five songs into the set. The crowd rose, the band pounded harder. “Shit,” he said, “we haven’t peaked too early have we?”
The crowd booed only once, as Seymour plugged the Building Bridges pro-Aborigine record. “I hope I didn’t hear that,” he threatened. Interesting point, this was not a crowd of westie yobbos, and it was a damn loud jeer. Makes you wonder.
A final encore double of Ray Charles’ “I Believe” and the throbbing beat that is “The Slab” rounded it out. Barry has now learned how to play the closer after a crowd at Penrith Leagues Club begged for the song all night recently. I know, I was there – and not on the freelist.
Okay, enough rave. I know my cool supervisor journalist credibility has been ruined by enjoying these shows too much (I Hope no one actually caught me singing along and even dancing).
Closing statement: Hunters and Collectors are now truly world-class, and cannot, must not, be ignored.
Here endeth the lesson.