A band like The Whitlams are a band you can always depend upon to provide you with a good time. The fact that the Sydney band have enjoyed consistent successes and sold out shows on the road with a national tour almost nationally has proven that theirs is a songbook boasting not only longevity, but quality songwriting that has retained an essence about it that many of their contemporaries haven’t been able to quite match.
In saying this, it has been great to see how the band continues to find their rhythm so easily on stage in front of crowds of differing age demographics with each tour. As I stood in the band room of the Corner Hotel last night, I tried to work out on my fingers how many times I’ve seen The Whitlams perform over the last handful of years…I counted seven. Seven over the last ten years. Given the band is currently on their 25th anniversary tour, I can only imagine what the show count is like for those older than me or those who have been fans of the band from the early 90’s. It’s a great environment to be in, these shows; there were teenagers right through to those who may have been parents of teenagers in the crowd, each united by memorable lyrics or piano melodies or hell, united in a love for Tim Freedman and his onstage presence alone.
Earlier in the evening, Deborah Conway and Alex Lloyd performed sets of their own – the first time I had seen either artist perform, but had obviously been well aware of their importance within the Australian music scene, particularly with live music crowds.
Conway, whose overall presence as a woman in the industry has awed and inspired me, performed alongside husband and collaborator Willy Zygier a set that captivated and enthralled; Conway commented early in the show at how quiet – read: attentive – the crowd was and I was glad we were too. As the venue filled up, that atmosphere was inevitably disrupted but by that point, the strength of Conway’s vocals, coupled with Zygier’s smooth backing vocals and steel guitar prowess drowned any outside noise out.
For Lloyd’s set, I was completely taken by the strength of his voice; I’m not sure what I expected because I remember how awesome he sounds on record. Regardless, as he sat centrestage armed only with an acoustic guitar, the warmth and power behind his vocals made for an excellent musical weapon. The crowd was completely under his spell too, with many day one fans singing back loudly, requesting songs and hollering praise Lloyd’s way. I urge you to get to these shows early, the entire bill is jam packed with natural talent.
Now as I mentioned before, this wasn’t my first Whitlams rodeo. I expected “Hamburgers” to be shouted out by a guy three or four beers deep multiple times throughout, just as I expected Freedman’s biting wit to drive each response. Coming from Adelaide, it was slightly odd to be hearing about the band’s relationship with Melbourne, but it was cool to hear about their early days in this city, cutting their teeth on stage at The Espy, pulling the late night sets at The Public Bar. It was clear this show was as much a gift back to the fans for their constant support, as it was about delving into the back catalogue to celebrate over two decades in the game.
The set list was littered with favourites; opening with “I Will Not Go Quietly” and continuing through to put the spotlight on the “Charlie” songs, we were treated to the Torch the Moon era with “Fall For You”, Love This City‘s “Made Me Hard” and “Blow Up the Pokies”, and a dip into songs including “White Horses”, “The Ballad of Lester Walker” and “Witness Protection Scheme”.
Front and centre, guitarist Jak Housden shone as usual, while Terepai Richmond and Warwick Hornby once again proved how good a rhythm and percussion partnership can be when the players really get into their pocket. The band looked to be having a great time too, which is what you want to see as a punter frequent to these type of shows.
Trading asides between songs, shooting encouraging looks or just grins at one another’s playing when the spotlight happened to be on them all we were signs that even though many a year had gone past and each have been involved in different projects outside the band – that Whitlams connection is most definitely still there.