Greeting fellow Doomers and Gloomers!
Well, last night was our night - and boy what a night it was!!
Although I had to travel more than three hours to get to the Hobart University, the long trip with liberal doses of RT blasting from my CD player seemed to take all of half an hour to this already adrenaline charged RT disciple. I pulled into the car park right on 7:30 and immediately set about locating the University Bar where the concert was to be held. This proved to be harder than expected considering I hadn't been there before. After wandering about confused for five minutes I stumbled across a similar group of perplexed RT fans looking for the venue. Using our combined intellect, sense of direction and orienteering skills we located the Uni Bar tucked away round the back of the car park (isn't that just typical!).
As it turned out, we were the genesis of the quickly gathering crowd and made great speed to be the first to cue up at the doors. Of this group I was the only one to secure tickets previous to the event leaving the others a little bit concerned that there mightn't be door sales. After chatting away about RT, Islam, Rushdie & Dave Pegg for what seemed like an eternity, this guy emerges with a cash register, a selection of bouncers take their positions and at 8:00 the doors finally opened.
As you've probably guessed, I was first in!
After quickly scanning the venue I picked a choice seat RIGHT IN THE CENTRE OF THE FRONT ROW, a mere eight feet from where our man would soon stand! On the stage Danny's bass "Victoria" could be clearly seen lying on her side anxiously awaiting her master's attention and the Martin acoustic guitar leaning up against an amplifier looked somewhat familiar as well!
At 8:13 the local support act guitar playing, singer/songwriter Patrick Bercheree climbed up on his stool and proceeded to entertain the quickly gathering crowd. He opened with a radical yet sensual reinterpretation of "Just Like A Woman" which received a well deserved round of applause. He continued then with three of his own compositions which displayed the emerging songwriter at his best. One of the songs delt with his childhood infatuation with the Waco, Texas based Christian singer Evie (Evie Tornquist) who used to regularly appear on TV here in the 70's. This was followed with a revamping of the Boy George hit "Karma Chameleon" (much to the embarrassment of the folkie audience), then two more of his own songs before finishing with the John Denver chestnut "Leaving On A Jet Plane".
After a very short "changing of the guard" a familiar form came bouncing onto the stage at 8:49. Yes, it was none other than Loudon Wainwright III complete with the old suspenders, the tasteful shirt, and the foot stompin' tongue waggling antics that we were greeted with on his first visit here. After laying out several bottles of our local Mount Franklin mineral water and a couple of white towels he wasted no time in getting down to some serious entertaining. He didn't hesitate in telling us that we were all about to be "guinea pigs" to some of his new material. As I'm not all that familiar with Loudon's body of work, I don't really know all of the song titles so please bear with me. He opened with "Thank You Mr. Hubble For Your Telescope" complete with the familiar wide-eyed antics and whining falsetto. Next was a song about being depressed and having the blues followed by another one about war. Next was "Out Going Message" followed by a song about looking old and decrepit (and like shit) then "Prince Of Wales" and a song about being a dad. After some quick banter with the audience about how wonderful Tasmania is (yeah, sure he was REAL sincere) :^) someone yelled for "Your Mother And I" which he quickly obliged with after two false starts pretending that he couldn't think of how the first verse went. Next was a beautiful rendition of "The Picture" followed by a song about how cold it is in London, then we all clapped along to "Unhappy Anniversary" and a solemn rendition of another requested song "Men". We spent the next five minutes in hysterics as LW had great difficulty changing the tuning of his guitar. "Please bear with this progressive jazz thing I've got going here. Would you believe I'm a professional musician!" he bellowed at us between expletives as we laughed uncontrollably. After finally regaining control of his senses (and tuning) we were privileged to a fantastic rendition of "Talking New Bob Dylan" followed by the deeply poignant "Hitting You". LW's set concluded with a song with the opening line "Our Relationship Is Like A Small Boat On A Stormy Sea". He returned to the stage for the requested encore "The Acid Song" complete with hilarious monologue and announced before leaving the stage that he would be "flogging fine Bolivian cocaine and CD's after the show at the bar!"
Once LW exited the stage we were subjected to a 15 minute wait for RT which emed to drag on forever. During the break some guy appeared on stage and proceeded to tune the Martin acoustic while even more people crowded into the already overflowing bar. The room seemed to fill with cigarette smoke almost instantaneously!
At 10:13 I saw a side stage door open and I held my breath. The stage lights went on and I saw the familiar face of Danny Thompson walk over to "Victoria". Seconds later, amid the cheering, whistling and clapping, appearing like an apparition from nowhere was the face I had seen looking at me from countless photos and album covers for years. Yes, it was really him and he was smiling that fantastic RT smile. The lone figure stood with his Martin acoustic, bathed in a red strobe light, dressed in a black shirt complete with black and white patterned vest, tartan guitar strap and of course his faithful moniker - one black beret complete with red star. "Welcome to the Dick and Dan show" he exclaimed smiling broadly. Seconds later the room filled with the staccato opening strains of "Easy There, Steady Now" and the crowd just exploded. The interaction between the two was just immaculate. Maintaining eye contact for the first sixteen bars without blinking - they just knew what the other was doing telepathically.
After this note perfect rendition (sounding exactly like the rendition on the Crawley album) RT stands transfixed on the audience, raises both his hands and yells "More mania, less Tas!" behold, RT - king of the pun! After regaining his composure it was straight into a tight rendition of "Hide It Away" followed with more banter with the audience. "It's so good to be here in Tasmania. This is my first time here you know." to which someone yelled back "about bloody time!". "Ah yes!" he continued "The home of real men, bronzed men. No homosexuals here!" to which Danny replied in mock gay voice "Oh, just the one!" followed by a roar of laughter from the gallery. "Danny! Why didn't you ever tell me! I didn't know you cared!" more laughter. RT continued with "Waltzing's For Dreamers" which was unfortunately marred by a slight mis-chord but otherwise beautiful. He then proceeded to do the old Chuck Berry "duck-walk" thing while strumming madly. This eventually turned into "I Feel So Good" par excellence. Next was one of the real highlights "The Ghost Of You Walks" absolutely beautiful followed by "Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands" complete with audience sing-along chorus and an additional reel tacked onto the end. "That was fantastic! Much better than Canberra!" said RT with a mock stunned look after hearing our contribution. Next was a long prologue about the second world was leading up to (of course) "Al Bowlly's In Heaven".
Danny then left the stage and RT continued on solo bathed in a lone white spotlight. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was of course perfect and featured RT listing an extra seven or so makes of motorbike in the last verse. A woman about four rows back yelled at the top of her voice "You're a bloody genius!" RT with a disappointed look replied "Is that all?" followed by more laughter. This was followed by a barrage of requests from the audience. I'm sure I heard more than five requests for "Razor Dance" during the evening. The same yelling woman requested "A Heart Needs A Home". After much thinking and strumming, RT fulfilled the request and received perhaps the most applause he got during the whole night. Next was "Cold Kisses" where the line about the "Margaret Miller Mystery" had mysteriously become a "Geoffrey Archer Mystery".
Danny returned to the stage and RT announced "For those keeping notes, here's a song from 1972" before launching into a powerhouse re-working of "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" which was followed by the new song "Hamlet" then "Turning Of The Tide" and "I Misunderstood". Next was a long and convoluted monologue about his soon to be new album "Industry" to which some impatient audience members replied "Get on with it!" RT returned serve with "Careful, you might learn something!" before launching into "Lottery Land" which sounded wonderful proving his songwriting days are far from over. "Now for something a little atmospheric featuring Danny and Victoria who turns 130 this year!" everyone knew to which song he was referring - "Ghosts In The Wind" complete with Danny's own spotlight. RT then declared "Now for something a little bit silly" before launching into "Two Left Feet" complete with additional rhyming lyrics and a "Dance With DANNY, Dance With Pete" which was met with smiles from a certain bass player.
RT and Danny then left the stage amongst call for "encore" and "more" before reappearing almost immediately with Loudon for a couple of encores. After re-adjusting tunings, even Danny got in on the act this time the three launched into a scathing rendition of the old Leiber & Stoller standard "Smokey Joe's Cafe". This was followed with the country song "At The End Of A Long Hard Day" written by "That guy Marty Robbins, you know the one. He wrote that song "A White Sport Coat And A Pink Carnation" exclaimed RT. "Isn't that the gay movement's theme song?" retorted LW amid howls of laughter.
After disappearing from the stage once more, the very vocal crowd calling for further encores were delighted when RT returned alone to perform the one song I'd been waiting all night to hear - "Beeswing" and yes it was truly beautiful and moving. Danny once again appeared on the stage for the coup de grace of the evening, "Wall Of Death" yet another stunning rendition with all the power and conviction of any electric performance.
RT left the stage with a "Good night and god bless" at 12:02. As the crowd slowly dispersed I sat there and watched Danny pack up "Victoria" with painstaking care before he himself slipped into the backstage shadows. They were gone, but the memory will linger with me for a lifetime.
Just to summarize, the following is the complete RT set list (in order):
"Easy There, Steady Now"
"Hide It Away"
"Waltzing's For Dreamers"
"I Feel So Good"
"Ghost Of You Walks"
"Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands"
"Al Bowlly's In Heaven"
"1952 Black Lightning"
"A Heart Needs A Home"
"I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight"
"Turning Of The Tide"
"Ghosts In The Wind"
"Two Left Feet"
(Encores With Danny & Loudon)
"Smokey Joe's Cafe"
"At The End Of A Long Hard Day"
"Wall Of Death"