LIVE REVIEW: Peter Garrett & The Alter Egos @ Factory Theatre, Sydney (12/08/16)


As far as icons go in rock ’n’ roll, Peter Garrett is one of the most distinctive. That inconceivably long-limbed physique, pronounced cheekbones and pale, bald head. The jerky, flailing movements and that authoritative bark and howl. With an extended absence from the live stage the audience could be forgiven for forgetting how commanding a stage presence the man has, until he strides out and completely owns the room’s attention for the entire length of the show.

Ahead of that entrance, WA’s Abbe May (also an Alter Egos member) played a set that covered her rock and blues past and previewed tracks from her forthcoming Bitchcraft album, with it’s decidedly 90s R&B sound. As a reference point she covered Ginuwine’s Pony plus a beautifully stripped back take on the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter. At times it was a tad too funk-rock but there’s no denying May’s singing and songwriting abilities and her sense of musical adventure.

IMG_6650In the Alter Egos, Peter Garrett has assembled a stellar band, perfectly balanced between rock chops, session player solidity and a vibe of relaxed enjoyment. Jet’s Mark Wilson was superb on bass, Peter Luscombe’s drumming never missed a beat and keyboardist Rosa Morgan impressed with her playing and vocals. The real joy though was seeing Martin Rotsey of Midnight Oil bouncing and lurching beside Garrett, a wry smile often sneaking out as the band locked in and rode the rhythms and melodies.

They’ve already announced that the Oils will return next year so that lessened the pressure for Garrett and co to play to nostalgia. Instead it was a showcase of his recent solo album A Version Of Now, with Homecoming (including two of his daughters on backing vocals), Great White Shark and It Still Matters the standouts. From there Garrett, who’s voice sounds better than ever, took great pleasure in honouring some of Australia’s finest songwriters with covers of the Divinyls’ Back To The Wall, Skyhooks’ Ego and Kev Carmody. Of course they couldn’t leave the crowd without a Oils song or two. Early in the set we were treated to the thrilling speed riffing of Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) but the real treat came during the penultimate encore with the previously seated audience rushing the stage, chanting the opening strains of the (here’s that word again) iconic Dead Heart. It was a truly celebratory moment to complete a night that marked another turning point in Garrett’s life, before the big show begins in earnest in 2017.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Abbe May @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney 25/08/11

written by Chris Familton

Oh Willy Dear! are singer Daniele Marando and guitarist Dan Babekuhl playing predominately bluegrass styled country music – a departure of sorts from the swampy rock n roll blues of their other band The Maladies. They played a mighty impressive set of covers and originals with some quite stunning guitar work from Babekuhl and a reminder of how outstanding Marando’s voice is. His range ran from a tender, almost feminine croon to a strained and crackling howl. Their final song, an original, was one of the highlights and marks them as the prefect support act for Gillian Welch if and when she returns to Australia.

Hootenanny are also a duo but quite a different kettle of fish. Two rabble rousing girls from Perth, they alternated between guitar and drums but by far and away the best combination was when the gravel voiced Nan Hunt was behind the kit and Jennifer Aslett was out front on guitar. There the songs were harder, tighter and way more cohesive as they ground out riff-heavy, bluesy rock n roll with a healthy dose of humour and spunk thrown into the mix. Once they get some more songs to match their best like Fire In The Belly they’ll be unstoppable.

Abbe May straddles generic rock and something a lot more artful and clever with her sound but on on this night she leaned more toward the former. Arriving on stage with bottles of hard liquor raised high she seemed to flip between the ‘live it up’ rock chick persona and someone deeply into her music and with a humble attitude. It probably didn’t help having a band of three lads with the hair and clothes and rock moves down pat – or perhaps it did if that is the vibe May is going for. Too often they descended into rock cliches and extended riffing that didn’t really reach great heights. When the music worked the best on songs like the quiet/loud Taurus Chorus and the slow motion mood of Disney On Acid her exquisite voice became apparent. Her guitar playing was effortless in style with some unique phrasings which often saved songs from becoming generic workouts. Mention should be made of the brilliant sound on the night – everything was crystal clear and loud without killing the eardrums – something that doesn’t happen as often as it should and that certainly enhanced May’s good but not great performance.

this review was first published in The Drum Media.