The Forum, Melbourne
There’s a lot of reasons why I might attend a gig and whether or not I enjoy it.
Let’s start with why go?
Love the band
Know some stuff but want to explore more
A bit meh on record but supposed to be great live
Want to stretch your boundaries, explore something new
Great venue, always rocks, good sound, comfy seats etc.
Partner loves em/ want to impress partner current squeeze
Then there is whether or not you like the gig or not
Band on fire/off night
Excellent seats/crap seats, clear line of sight/tall bloke with afro right in front of you
Great time with partner, mates, people around you right into it / annoying bunch of bastards
Good mood /bad mood: drugs working/ working against you
Set balance just right / too long, too short
So the whole thing is a matrix. So how did it all pan out seeing Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
So why did I go?
LSATDP were here as a sideshow to the mega Byron Bay Blues Festival held in Northern NSW. I don’t go anymore preferring to see a few bands I want to see for longer than more bands for shorter at the festival. I’ve got some of his records -check, but I don’t play em much – uncheck. I love him with Broos and his guitar playing check – but he is a sideman. Love his politics, his attitude, his appreciation of Oz bands like Radio Birdman and Hoodoo Gurus and that he promotes on his excellent Underground Garage program check, but what has that got to do with playing- uncheck. This is a soul revue, he’s a big fan, name-checks all the right stuff and I lurv soul- check. but can he play it? He is a rocker, isn’t he? Hmmm. Talk up his band, best he’s ever had 15 piece, line of horns, Hammond organ yes yes yes. I’m a buyer so tickets bought and off with a couple of mates.
I’ve been to a lot of gigs at the Forum. So I know what to expect. Not super crowded as so many bands in town and it is a holiday week. Set up position in usual spot behind the mixer first step up from the floor for an unobstructed view. So far so good.
On comes the band at 8 pm, no support. Gonna be a Bruce style long revue type show.
Some Arthur Conley Sweet Soul Music to open the batting. Brass belting out and Stevie in his trademark coat and bandana. So far so good.
Then onto the next numbers. All largely the same pace, all 15 performers participating and the sound is loud, a hard loud. I’m starting to think of my already deaf ears. Being a fuckwit, I don’t wear earplugs so if I’m gonna add to the tinnitus chorus the music betta be good. And I’m having my doubts.
Every song is a kitchen sink effort. Give those horns a break. Go down to a combo for a bit. The backup singers they look great but their voices ain’t that great. I wonder what the criteria for selection were. Stevie is a nice guy and the stage patter is a lot of nostalgia about the good times of soul music and introduces a song he wrote for David Ruffin of the Temptations. I stick my fingers in my ears to listen better behind the hard volume and Stevie, you sir are no David Ruffin. You ain’t got the voice. You sing in tune and got the who soul ethos but it isn’t the same. And here’s another thing. When you are doing songs in the classic soul style your benchmark is those classic soul songs and Stevie’s originals don’t cut it.
My mate is not a serious music goer and I can tell he is not digging it. He’s a Bruce fan and this is not his cup of tea, so I’m starting to think about him. These American bands often want everyone to start clapping along from the get go but the crowd isn’t buying it. You gotta earn your clap alongs down here. So I head down to the front of the stage to see whether the vibe is any better but nope, it’s just louder.
Finally, the horns, Stevie and the backup singers take a break while the remaining ensemble stretches out on a seventies funky groove a la Curtis, Isaac, etc to reference Stevie’s intro. And it is excellent. Some light and shade, some relief from the onslaught. More, please! But no Stevie’s back and they’re cranking it back up. The swing evident in the instrumental is gone and the thrill is gone too.
Fuck this, let’s leave em to it, let’s join the exodus, Rod. He jumps at the chance and off we go.
The reverse of the saying less is more is that more is less. this was definitely the case at this gig.
Older. Saw an Ian Hunter t-shirt and a Mott The Hoople t-shirt amongst separate groups within 5 paces of each other. What are the odds? Don’t think they have ever toured down here, let alone recently.
It made me think..
It’s all about the songs