Review: A Day on The Green McLaren Vale, February 22

Great review of the Adelaide A Day On The Green gig.

Author:  Matthew Heath, The Advertiser.

Date: 24 February 2014.

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Mark Seymour, Hunters and Collectors frontman, performs at A Day On The Green in the McLaren Vale. Picture: Simon Cross Source: News Corp Australia

It was a long way from the beer-stained sticky pub carpets where they religiously followed their favourite band three decades ago.

But there were few complaints from the thousands of fans who flocked to the beautiful surrounds of Leconfield Winery at McLaren Vale on Saturday afternoon to see iconic Aussie pub rock band Hunters & Collectors make their grand return to the stage.

While some of the nation’s major music festivals are floundering, the Day on the Green juggernaut continues to go from strength to strength.

Aka the Big Day Out for Big Kids or a Day on the Red, the formula is simple — cater to its niche market of cashed-up ‘mature’ music fans with big-name heritage acts and attractive and relaxed open-air winery venues with minimal lines and decent food and drinks.

The Hunters & Collectors reunion shows are among the promoters’ biggest coup yet, and with the addition of some of the nation’s best live acts, the afternoon was a stellar celebration of top-notch Australian music spanning several generations.

Melbourne indie rockers British India kicked off proceedings in fine style as the audience became acquainted with the luscious Leconfield lawns.

Mark Seymour, Hunters and Collectors frontman, performs at A Day On The Green in the McLaren Vale. Picture: Simon Cross

While the exuberant band of 20-somethings was clearly the odd one out on this (or any) Day on the Green bill, it held its own among the more experienced contemporaries with a polished performance.

The quartet has an old-school work ethic rarely seen in the Australian Idol era of instant pop stardom, and with four albums under its belt, it now has a handy arsenal of smart singles to match.

Highlights such as Run the Red Light, Vanilla, I Can Make You Love Me and I Said I’m Sorry had audience members young and old bopping along on their picnic rugs and fold-up chairs, and it would be fair to say the talented young band left with a few new admirers.

This year marks Something For Kate’s 20th as a band, and in that time it has quietly gone about ingraining itself on Australian music’s collective psyche with its instantly recognisable catalogue of solid pop rock tunes.

The decision to open the set with a cover of REM’s This One Goes Out To the One I Love was a little puzzling, but the ever-reliable band quickly found its rhythm with rocking 1999 favourite Electricity.

Hunters and Collectors at A Day On The Green in the McLaren Vale. Picture: Simon Cross
Hunters and Collectors at A Day On The Green in the McLaren Vale. Picture: Simon Cross
Aside from bass player Steph Ashworth’s radiant red dress, there is nothing showy about Something for Kate. They are meticulous craftsmen and they go about their business with minimal fuss and fanfare, as drummer Clint Hyndman’s sweating brow would attest.

The band had a loyal legion of fans among the now-sizeable crowd, and they sing along to every word of hits such as Captain, Cigarettes and Suitcases and a spirited rendition of Deja Vu.

For others, Paul Dempsey’s husky voice was perfect for taking in the last of the afternoon sun with the pretty Hills backdrop.

What the Hunnas were to the ‘80s, You Am I are to the ‘90s and Noughties, proudly flying the flag as the nation’s foremost rock ‘n’ roll band in any venue game enough to have them.

The band loves the challenge of the support slot, having ably filled the role for luminaries such as the Rolling Stones, Kiss and The Who, and it was clear from the outset tonight the kings of swagger were going to give the headline act a run for their money.

Mark Seymour has a beer during the performance. Picture: Simon Cross

Frontman Tim Rogers was at his reckless best in his ruffled white suit, ripping into the Pete Townshend windmills with wanton abandon, while his cheeky repartee between songs provided some laughs and put the hecklers in their place.

Gun keyboardist-for-hire Stevie Hesketh was once again a handy addition to the line-up, particularly on the rollicking tracks of the underrated #4 Record, which got a decent airing (Junk, Billy, Rumble and a rousing Heavy Heart which prompted a mass singalong).

The rhythm section of Rusty Hopkinson and Andy Kent were in great form on rockers Gunslinger and Constance George, before the band wound up with high-tempo favourites Cathy’s Clown, Good Mornin’ and Berlin Chair, the latter still as dynamic and powerful as when it was released 20 years ago.

As Rogers tells the crowd, this is “making love music” – “It’s meant to be messy, it’s meant to be fun.’’

Here’s hoping the band spawns some new material soon.

Despite You Am I’s red-hot show, it was clear the majority of the crowd was here for the Hunnas and there was a buzz of anticipation in the air.

The true believers rose to their feet and let out a huge cheer as the eight-piece strode to the stage and ripped into Talking to a Stranger, the song recently enjoying a new lease of life thanks to an impeccable cover by mashup maestros The Avalanches.

It was the start of a two-hour, 23-song hit parade down memory lane.

It had been 16 years since the ‘80s pub rock heroes bid farewell to their South Aussie fans over two nights at the old Heaven nightclub, but the timeless songs were as relevant as ever.

Fans singing Blind Eye at the top of their voices provided one of the highlights of the day, and the band followed with an electrifying version of Inside a Fireball.

Despite being a bit raspy, Mark Seymour’s voice was bigger than ever as the band turned the tempo down early with True Tears of Joy.

The horn section was also huge, really bringing to life classics such as Where Do You Go? and Do You See What I See.

Guitarist Barry Palmer was clearly enjoying being back on the big stage, shredding on Dog while John Archer’s jangly bass shone on Say Goodbye.

The crowd — particularly the footballers who’ve hijacked the song — united as one during the anthemic Holy Grail, before the set concluded with When the River Runs Dry in its raw and ragged glory.

By the time the encore rolled around, the temperature had plummeted and the band’s biggest anthem — Throw Your Arms Around Me — was warmly embraced by all, many not letting go until their loved ones go until the show climaxed with 1984 underground hit The Slab.

There were few surprises and the set was a bit rough around the edges, but the beaming fans didn’t seem to mind.

To borrow a phrase from the Hunnas’ own songbook, it is hard to keep a good band down. Just another feather in the cap to Day On The Green organisers.