With Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons and Stephen Cummings
Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia
Wednesday 6 February 2013
By Shane Pinnegar / Photography by Maree King
Evenings don’t get much more glorious than this, sipping champagne on the lush green grass as the sun shone brightly late afternoon as Stephen Cummings took to his seat centre stage and introduced himself – probably only half jokingly – as a recluse who “never leaves the house.”
Cummings gives it some acoustic wellie through an engaging Suspicious Minds and Fell From A Great Height, but whether he is annoyed that half the crowd haven’t arrived by 5:15, or that they are busy filling wine glasses and nibbling oysters and chatting about their work day rather than paying him undivided attention, he gets more and more eccentric, surreally adopting comedy voices a la Dave Warner’s late 70’s/early 80’s Half Time At The Football period. An extended version of The Sports’ Who Listens To The Radio – Cummings only really big, enduring hit – becomes an opportunity for him to name check Warner in the same comedy voice, “Dave ranting on about Bicton – I remember those days…”, perhaps not realising that most of the crowd wouldn’t know The Boy From Bicton from a piece of shhhhh-ark.
Joe Camilleri is resplendent in a snappy white suit and cowboy hat as he leads his Seventies band into a set of soulful rockers, bringing to mind the rambling groove of mid Seventies Stones, complete with reggae and R&B touches, and a party atmosphere that, had we been in an intimate, sweaty venue, would have got the crowd going. In between heavy R&B jams, a vibrant Hit & Run and So Young see some pockets of the oldies up and dancing, but Camilleri’s frustration with the general complacency is punctuated with an exasperated “Well I’ve tried getting you to stand up…” as he leads the way into classic Shape I’m In and raucous set closer Ain’t Got No Money But I Sure Got A Whole Lotta Other Stuff.
No-one was more surprised to see The Sunnyboys live in 2013 on the big outdoor stage than the band themselves, and their excitement was palpable as they trod the boards. Playing mostly from their 1981 debut album, Tunnel Of Love, Happyman, My Only Friend, What You Need, Let You Go, Liar, I’m Shakin’ – featuring Jo Jo Zep’s Wilbur Wilde guesting on sax – and their ‘biggie’ Alone With You all sound fantastic, beefed up with a punkish energy, pulsating, coruscating and energetic. There’s no bullshit or gimmicks to The Sunnyboys – just four blokes, older and hopefully wiser, who have another chance to play these power pop tunes that they recorded over thirty years ago, and they take advantage of the opportunity with gusto and infectiously broad smiles. What remains after their set is not just the memory of great music delivered so well, but the sheer joy of seeing the band so happy to be there, and so well received.
Elvis Costello leads the dapper Imposters onto the stage, dressed darkly with a straw trilby atop his head, and wastes no time ripping into I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, stabbing out urgent guitar chords with the same urgency and intensity that he chews his gum.
What follows is a relentless set of hits, all delivered with punky energy, consummate musicianship and little fanfare, Costello preferring to mostly let the music do the talking – something no-one complained about, being as they were all too busy singing along to practically every tune!
Uncomplicated and Radio Radio hit all the right notes, a reggae-tinged Every Day I Write The Book pleases Costello enough for some jazz hand-action as he leads a clap-a-sing-a-fun-along enthusiastically, spraying sweat and spittle halfway across the stage in his excitement.
Rocking Horse Road playfully features a snippet of Wild Thing, and Elvis announces he is “happy to share half a name with Elvis [Presley]”, and as if any further proof were necessary that Costello’s musical smarts were so staggering, he punctuates his refusal to be pigeon holed into any specific genre by presenting the wonderful Song With Rose, co-written with Roseanne Cash, before asking “Do you wanna hear one by Rose’s Dad?”. The response is an emphatic yes, of course, and The Imposters nail Cry, Cry, Cry seemingly effortlessly, which is no mean feat.
The hits kept on coming: Red Shoes, Indoor Fireworks, the “This is how rock n’ roll was in Western Australia in 1927” rootsyness of A Slow Drag With Josephine, before sending the band off “for make-up and costumes for the finale” cheekily, before playing Jimmie Standing In The Rain solo on his acoustic guitar, with a vaudevillian verve.
The Imposters return for an enthusiastic slide down towards the finish line – Watching The Detectives, Turpentine, (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea, Alison, Oliver’s Army (not ‘All Of The Zombies’!) and In The Heart Of The City, Costello stoic throughout – he’s a smart fella and knows that he needs to balance the artistic genre shifting with a majority of the crowd wanting to hear ‘the hits’, and he feeds everyone equally, walking that wire like a pro.
Pump It Up and (What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding again revisit his new wave/post punk past, and then it’s all over – “That’s all they’ll let us have time for, bye” he tells the adoring crowd, and the lights are up without an encore. Despite a performance that no-one could possibly have any gripes with, perhaps that’s the vaudevillian song n’ dance man in him wanting to always leave ‘em wanting more.
About the Author: Freelance journalist for Perth's Xpress Magazine, Co-owner of 100% ROCK & 100% ROCK MAGAZINE, you may also know me from my work as creator & owner of The Rockpit for it's first three years (and 1.5 million visitors). I'm a father, a husband, a chef, and a passionate lover of rock and metal, blues & punk, and all sorts in between.