Aussie rock gods who are still sold-out

An article about the life and times of experienced Australian rock musicians, including Mark Seymour.

Author:  Kathy McCabe, News Corp Australia Network.

Date: 5 June 2016.

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If the chart gods counted records sold at their gigs, James Reyne and Mark Seymour could be soaring high in the top 10 later this year.

The last time the pair hooked up for a joint tour in 2007, they booked 15 gigs. Demand exploded and 18 months later, they played the last of a staggering 90 concerts.

They are doing it again from July for the … And The Rest Is History tour with demand from their loyal fanbase already forcing them to add extra shows in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

“The last time Mark and I went out, we were selling our CDs at the gigs; we both had done the Liberation acoustic records and they sold enough that if they recorded those sales from the merchandise stand, we would have sat at No. 1 for two weeks,” Reyne said.

“We sold something like 20,000 each, enough that Liberation wanted us both to do a second instalment.

“Why can’t they align what we sell at gigs to a chart? If they did we would have been sitting in the top 10 for weeks and then all the gatekeepers in the media and the industry would be saying ‘Their records are going through the roof! They’re back!’ That reflects on gig attendance and everything.”


The big kids still wanna rock and their appetite for the artists who created the soundtrack of their youth is proving lucrative at the box office and on the charts.

While you won’t hear his new songs on the radio, the latest record from Eric Clapton, ironically titled I Still Do, debuted at No. 10 on the ARIA charts last week.

His contemporary Bob Dylan entered the album chart at No. 11 with his 37th studio album Fallen Angels.

Just above them at No. 9 was Dami Im, who is nowhere near middle-aged, but the songs on her Classic Carpenters album certainly are and no doubt are playing on the car stereo of the parents whose kids cheered her on at Eurovision.

INXS remain in the top 50 with The Very Best collection more than 135 weeks after its release while David Bowie and Prince continue to sell strongly since their deaths.

Kate Ceberano leapfrogged 17 spots last week with her three-disc Anthology collection which retails between $18.99 and $22.99 which isn’t too much cash for 53 songs.

The 49-year-old Ceberano’s chart fortunes have been boosted by her presence on the annual APIA Good Times tour alongside contemporaries Daryl Braithwaite, Jon Stevens and John Paul Young.

“Since Jon, Kate, JPY and Daryl first graced the charts, their fans have become parents, some even grandparents. Their collective work from the 70s to now has lasted decades and has now been heard by generations. These people are the juggernauts of the Australian music industry,” music critic Paul Cashmere wrote of last weekend’s Melbourne show.

The APIA Good Times tour kicked off four years ago, packaging up a selection of artists who possess enough big hits that combined, would draw thousands of fans into sold-out big rooms including Sydney’s Enmore Theatre and Brisbane’s QPAC.

For about $90, punters get solid gold entertainment with a high quality sound system, comfortable seating and the songs of their lifetime.

Promoter Frank Stivala said the older concert market was “very lucrative”.

“It has been strong on the live level for many years but seems to fly a bit under the radar,” he said.

“These are career artists who can fill a big club or concert theatre on their own and have been able to do that for decades. Put them together with good production and that is a great night out.

“And there is still a big percentage of younger crew, between 20 and 30, at those gigs because they grew up listening to that music through their parents.”

Stivala pointed out at the phenomenal sold-out tours of Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Eagles, Lionel Richie and Rod Stewart as proof the boomer rock market is alive and rocking its socks off.

He said perception of the artist’s ability to still rock out played an important role in their ability to continue to draw big audiences.

“Perception plays a big part; if you didn’t do a great show last time or forced people to listen to too many new songs, that can affect whether someone will come and see you again,” he said.

Seymour, who released his Mayday album last year to strong reviews, said his and Reyne’s respective audiences are intrigued to hear how they have evolved as songwriters.

In other words, they are keen to hear some new stuff with the old stuff.

“I don’t think you can overlook the importance of the fact that people come to see us with the expectation that we write songs and there is this ongoing story,” Seymour said.

“Even if they want to hear particular songs, which is fine, there is an assumption they are always going to hear something else and that gives you a bit of an edge when it comes to planning a tour. That’s how I roll, I am still writing songs.”

Another key to keeping the box office ticking is to not oversaturate the market.

Promoter Michael Chugg said international artists have to be particularly careful not to come back every year.

“The last Bob Dylan tour here was the best he has ever done, tailored for theatres and people really wanted to go and see it,” he said.

“The older acts have to be careful they don’t come back early — they do better if it is every three or four years — and you have to watch the ticket price.

“Madonna didn’t so great because of the ticket price.”

Chugg nominated Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and Bob Seger as boomer artists Australian promoters would be keen to tour here.

“Everybody has been trying to get Petty for years but he wants private jets, too much money and just isn’t that keen to come.”

Seymour and Reyne, like the APIA tour and most decent-sized national concert runs these days, are adamant that regional gigs are included on the itinerary.

The boutique regional festival boom and winery circuit have also booked up dozens of older artists in recent years. Head to Bluesfest at Easter in Byron Bay and you will see more prams, walking sticks and camp chairs than young folk in altered states.

Joint tour … The last time Mark Seymour and James Reyne toured again, they ended up playing more than 90 shows. Picture: Sam Ruttyn.

“I have a romantic idea of it, I really love getting out into those regional places because there’s so much to discover in Australia, these amazing communities in these isolated places that I am only getting to now and never got to in Hunters and Collectors. All these rooms that never had live music in them,” Seymour said.

As Stivala points out, these artists know how to put on a show.

Jimmy Barnes, who is looking likely to claim his 15th No. 1 album when he releases Soul Seachin’ this week, could play every night of the week if he wanted to.

Reyne said you have to love show business.

“We have done this for a while and I’m a great believer in show business. When Mark and I do this, it’s a rock show, we’re not some moody petulant guy hiding behind his amp.” he said.

“Whatever the ticket price is, in basic commercial terms, they are going to walk away satisfied and happy they have had a good night. It’s a good exchange and they know that’s what they are going to get.”

James Reyne and Mark Seymour kick off … And The rest is History tour at Palms at Crown, Melbourne on July 29 and 30; all dates or