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Tag Archives: Hunter Valley

Midnight Oil: Back Home and Back in Form


Wow! Back home the Oils were at their energetic and acerbic best in the Hunter Valley in October, delivering raw powerful rock with a not so subltle message,  exhorting us to save our planet and save our species (morally at least) from further destructive acts.

We’re at Hope Estate. It’s Saturday 21 October and we were about to witness the much anticipated – and much hyped – return of Midnight Oil to the stage. I write this post on the day of the culminating Oz event for the Oils,  the concert in the Domain in Sydney, Saturday 11 November. Which will be mega, as they play to their home town crowd.

We were back in the Hunter too. The Doctors and the Rock Chick, who has been my partner in crime in lots of adventures. We’ve been to many gigs over the years – who could forget Led Zeppelin in 1972? We were young, single and fancy free, but now at least we’re single once more and still very much fancy free!

After a world tour that took them to venues in both hemispheres, Midnight Oil were back home and back in form!

The weather behaved – a classic Hunter Valley spring night – cloudless, inky black and starry.

Hope Estate was packed, with a capacity crowd usually only seen for uber celebrity rock acts like the Stones or the Boss. The crowd spanned the ages, mums and dads, little kids, grandads and grandmums, and loads of Gen Xs who grew up on  the music. The Gen Ys seemed a little mystified with the rock star reverence that their parents were showing as iconic song followed iconic song.

The band played for a non-stop 2 hours. So much energy on stage! Rob Hirst’s drum solo was exhilarating, so much Power in his drumming with so much undoubted Passion!

But it’s front man Peter Garrett who is the riveting performer onstage. His voice, punching out the lyrics, his literally huge presence, and his Joe Cocker like disjointed strutting  across the stage, are what Midnight Oil are all about.

And we are left in no doubt about the message. The Oils may not directly directly influence politics, but it’s clear that their huge following may just be the ones to start off that process of social change.

Peter, your music speaks so much louder than your politics…

Set List Saturday 21 October 

Redneck Wonderland

Read About It

In The Valley

Stand in Line

River Runs Red

Truganini

Hercules

My Country

When the Generals Talk

Short Memory

US Forces

Kosciusko

Only the Strong

Put Down That Weapon

Beds Are Burning

Blue Sky Mine

Forgotten Years

Dreamworld

Encore:

The Dead Heart

Power and the Passion

Best of Both Worlds

Encore 2:

King of the Mountain

 

 

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Fleetwood Mac: Rocking into Retirement

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So we’re back in the Hunter Valley at Hope Estate for another concert from some Old Rockers. Fleetwood Mac were back in town. They had cancelled their 2013 tour after John McVie became ill. So it was good to see them back – and this was the best thing about the gig – Christine McVie was reunited with the band.

Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Christine McVie together again! The dream line-up.

Now I was sitting quite a way back, but with the help of giant video screens, it was obvious from the youthful appearance of the band members that “work” had been done. And quite a lot of work. Lindsey Buckingham looked like he had been embalmed… I found his orange colour quite disconcerting. Stevie Nicks looked good, she’d dropped some weight – but was she wearing a wig?? Can anyone of her age have that much blonde hair to swoosh? It was hard to see what John McVie looked like, he played bass upstage from the others. No Sting-like theatrics for this unobtrusive rocker. Mick Fleetwood looked just like always, he had apparently barely aged. Somewhat of a gentle giant, with the occasional manic moves on drums.

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Christine McVie was the standout. The oldest of the bunch, at 72 she looked really great – and sounded great. 16 years away from Fleetwood Mac and the rock and roll lifestyle have clearly had their benefits. Slim, energetic, giving it her all in her own numbers, she did none of the annoying prancing and dancing that Stevie and Lindsey indulged in for far too much of their time on stage. We were here for the music, not the geriatric calisthenics. Christine was worth the trip.

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It was a good concert but not a great concert. You got the feeling that they had done this gig time after time after time. There was no spontaneity, no straying from the set list. Even the stage patter sounded formulaic and rehearsed. Stevie greeted us with “I’ve never been to Hunter Valley”. We know, cause if you had, you’d know it’s The Hunter Valley.  The all important “the”.  And we know all about the Stevie/Lindsey dynamic, so we didn’t need to see some fake frolicking and lovey dove stuff during a couple of the numbers.

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But, all things considered, the Old Rockers gave us all the classics and pretty decently too. Lindsey’s guitar antics were pretty awesome and it’s clear he’s still got it musically. Mick’s manic drumming was pretty good too – highly energetic, what is he on?

 “Dreams”, “Rhiannon”, “Tusk”, “Sara”, “Gypsy”, “Little Lies” and “Go Your Own Way” were my favourites and they have stood the test of time. Stevie’s voice was a little low and husky, while Christine McVie sounded like she had just stepped out of the 70s.

The weather was not kind: drizzly rain and cool temperatures on what should have been a balmy spring night. The crowd was edgy, patrons were drunk rather than tipsy, and a scuffle broke out towards the end of the gig. We felt the 2 1/2 hour concert dragging. We were cold and wet and ready for the bus back home. Back at chez Shakey – Hunter Valley Country Lodge –  a hot shower and a liqueur muscat nightcap really warmed us up.

I’m sure the band would have slept well too, after the gig, dreaming of the money they had made on this tour, and perhaps thinking of retirement. Right? Right.

Oh, I should mention that the bonus at the concert was the support act Angus and Julia Stone. A great Australian brother and sister duo worth listening to.

Fleetwood Mac Hope Estate, 14 November 2015

 

 

Paul Simon and Sting in the Hunter Valley: The Odd Couple

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A warm February night in the Hunter Valley. It was Valentine’s Day and a waning moon. Is that significant? Is love on the decline in our increasingly  commercial culture?

A group of old friends, school and uni, were gathered for the Paul Simon and Sting gig at Hope Estate. It seemed like yesterday I was at the same venue under balmy skies to watch the consummate act of the Rolling Stones (review here) go through their geriatric paces.

Geriatric is not a word you would use to describe the 64 year-old Sting, whose rippling muscles defined his slender torso. Sporting a hipster beard, he’s still got it. I was a Sting tragic in the 80s, and still have a fascination for his musical breadth and diverse interests. I was richly rewarded on Saturday night. He featured a lot of his wonderful jazz influenced 80s repertoire. When The World Is Running Down and Driven To Tears were probably less accessible for the audience than Roxanne, but they made my night as I had last seen them performed live in the 80s with Sting’s epic jazz line-up of Branford Marsalis, Darryl Jones, Kenny Kirkland and Omar Hakim.

Paul Simon is a little worn. But not bad for 74, his performing style is not the main attraction. A consummate song writer, with the commonality with Sting of an interest in world rhythms, hearing him perform his music which had its genesis 50 years ago was a pleasure. I listened rather than watched.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Still Crazy after all These Years were lyrical and moody, while Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes was wonderfully delivered and had the audience dancing in the aisles.

The Odd Couple did a couple of things that surprised me. When they sang each other’s songs they were really impressive. Simon’s rendition of Sting’s Fragile was poignant: highlighting the song’s political message. Sting’s back-story of America as the sound track to his first tour of the US gave a lovely new narrative twist to Simon’s lyrics.

I was least impressed with their duo singing. Their vocal styles are so different and don’t quite match. Not such a problem on Sting’s stuff, it really grated on Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel numbers. Sting is no Art Garfunkel, and I missed the pure, choir boy harmonies of the early Garfunkel. The Boxer, my favourite song of the original duo, in Saturday’s performance became formulaic and lacking in narrative strength. And the encore of Bridge Over Troubled Water, mostly delivered by Sting, was mundane and without real emotion. You just have to listen to Garfunkel’s singing of Simon’s lyrics to appreciate the beauty of the song.

It was a great night. I love to see musical legends of the 20th century perform live. These two, while not being a match made in heaven, were able to deliver a fairly representative selection of their musical history. And they clearly respect each other as musicians and people. There was a lot of hugging on stage, between the short one and the tall one, which was rather sweet.

And returning to Valentine’s Day – love off stage was there too. My old school friend and her husband, long time partners, danced bare foot in the aisles, absorbed in the moment and in each other, reviving even this old cynic’s view of life and love.

Paul Simon and Sting: Hope Estate Hunter Valley, 14 February 2015

 

 

Old Rockers Rock the Hunter: The Rolling Stones at Hope Estate 2014

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The prospect of another gig in the Hunter Valley sends a frisson of excitement through this aging (at least physically) and (slightly) arthritic frame: a weekend of fine wine, fine food, good company and of course music! And on this weekend in November I got all of the above, with maybe a few tiny reservations about the latter…

The Rolling Stones in Australia: it’s a gas! We were fully pumped for the occasion: a fine dinner at the inimitable Shakey Tables, the subject of other rapturous blog posts, here and also here on the previous night; rather a lot of good wine consumed; and in order to soak  up the atmosphere, we were able to arrive nice and early on the day. As one would expect, the average age of the audience was …well… old.

At previous gigs I do a lot of crowd watching to find out what the predominant vibe is. This weekend the beer gut was compulsory for males over the age of 35. I grabbed a few shots  – but it was kind of hard to take snaps in case I got my phone ripped from me or I got beaten up – there were some seriously mean beer guts out there, mostly sporting large Stones tee shirts emblazoned with the Famous Lips. I definitely didn’t want to get shirt fronted by one of those dudes!

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The concert was worthy of the hype. We got the Rolling Stones in fine form. There had been a worry that they might have cancelled, as they did their Victorian gig at Hanging Rock the week before. But Mick was clearly dealing with his throat infection, aided no doubt by handing over the vocals to Keith Richards for a few numbers mid set.

You can’t get away from the fact that these guys live and breathe rock and roll and do it with huge style, skill and even after 50 years, an obvious enjoyment for being on stage making music.  Mick, Keith and Ronnie bounced, gyrated and strutted the stage like aging peacocks, while Charlie, my personal fave, applied himself to some pretty amazing drumming with his trademark hauteur.

Thanks to Sharyn for Charlie’s photo!

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The audience loved it. We rose as one to our feet when rock royalty arrived, and just as we had done for Springsteen earlier this year, we stayed standing for the whole set. Numbers like Satisfaction became more an a capella audience experience, as we sang or shouted the lyrics; people bopped, tapped and danced in their seats.

I loved it all. Paint it Black, for nostalgia, Honky Tonk Women for Mick’s sass and sex appeal, and Sympathy for the Devil, for its rather pompous but broodingly dark lyrics, were standouts for me, the latter accompanied by a vast red firescape that engulfed the stage.

The staging was, to use that overworked epithet, simply awesome! A huge lighting rig, audience blinders, enormous banks of speakers, three – yes three! giant video screens with pristine resolution, and fireworks, all made for a spectacular audio-visual event.

My little gripe was that the audience patter formula, trotted out by every major rock act on tour, coming this time from Mick, was a bit too off the cuff and insincere.

” ‘Ow you doing? Awright?” with that slight Cockney twang. Did he really want to know? I don’t think so.

But hey – he’s Mick – he’s 71 and he wears tight jeans, size 28 inch waist, and he’s got knees I’d kill for! Sexy as, for every gender, it was a treat to see him perform. And the final line-up of the band at the end of the gig seemed to show that they still get genuine enjoyment from performing – we all left happy.

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Set List Saturday 15 November 2014 Hope Estate

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Let’s Spend The Night Together

It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tumbling Dice

Dead Flowers

Rocks Off

Paint It Black

Honky Tonk Women

You Got The Silver (Keith Richards vocal)

Before They Make Me Run (Keith)

Just Can’t Be Seen (Keith)

Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor)

Miss You

Gimme Shelter

Start Me Up

Sympathy For The Devil

Brown Sugar

Encore

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (with Sydney Philharmonia)

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (with Mick Taylor)

 

 

 

Bruce Springsteen – A Day on the Green

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A late summer evening in the beautiful Hunter Valley. A year after the Neil Young concert, we were back On the Green for the Boss.

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Hype, gossip and a little hysteria had heralded the concert. His other Australian gigs had been sell outs, so we were really looking forward to this!

Rain had threatened earlier in the day, but as always for Hunter concerts, the night was balmy and warm. The biggest audience the Hunter had ever seen made for a noisy, buzzy crowd, but they were good natured and friendly, some albeit a little under the weather as the night wore on…

We’re great people watchers, so we were fascinated by the crowd  – everyone from lavender rinse grannies, to dads and daughters, groupie mums, as well the usual concert suspects, with tats and T shirts and an amazing ability to consume copious amounts of alcohol.

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So, the concert.

Bruce walks on stage and with one unison movement 22,000 people got up from the grass or their seats and stayed up!  Three  hours later we were still standing and could have stayed on. Bruce seemed to get more energy as the night progressed, and we got the feeling that he could have stayed too.

A fabulous concert!  As much showman as musician, he worked the crowd and gave them whatever they wanted, although reading afterwards about the gig online and getting feedback from other concert goers, I had the feeling that the concert repartee and audience participation were maybe carefully engineered…

Nevertheless, the concert was three hours of great rock and roll, tinged with a little folk and some interesting covers.

My standouts were American Skin (41 Shots), High Hopes, and the Ghost of Tom Joad.

SET LIST

Hunter Valley Bush Retreat – Shakey Tables

Early 25 September 2013 at Shakey Tables in the Hunter Valley NSW. A crisp morning before the unseasonable heat of the day…

The light, the reflections and the nesting goose were the reward for an early ramble.

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