It's been a Red Hot Summer in Australia in more ways than one. Temperatures have been soaring across the continent and meanwhile, a concert tour that has become an annual event, has also been giving music fans in regional centres a big serve of red hot rock 'n' roll. The ten date Red Hot Summer Tour kicked off this year in Port Lincoln, South Australia and is just about to wind up its run with a final concert on Queensland's Gold Coast this weekend. The penultimate performance was staged in Nowra, south of Sydney, at Harry Sawkins Park on Sunday, perfectly located near the river which was a blessing considering the scorching heat of the day. We were lucky, however. Fans in other states had to endure temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius.
My Lasting Reply kicked off the afternoon with an impressive one-man performance, warming up the early birds (not that any warming up was needed really) who had already started filing in through the gates, eager to grab a spot in the shade before the hoards arrived. And luckily, there was a good number of trees along the edge of the park, offering at least some protection from the scorching sun. It might have been a long way from the stage, and the bands looked like little dots from that vantage point but if you were lucky enough to grab a shady spot, there was no way you were going to give it up as the sun's rays grew hotter.
A true legend of Aussie rock, Russell Morris, hit the stage at 2.25pm with a set that included tracks like 'Black Dog Blues' from his award winning blues album, 'Sharkmouth' and introduced the crowd to some new material from his forthcoming album and, of course, the classics we have come to expect from Morris. Could he ever get out of playing his big hits like 'Sweet, Sweet Love', 'On the Wings of an Eagle' and 'The Real Thing'? I think not and, as always, Russell was in fine voice and his set got people dancing.
To satisfy the younger members of the crowd, many of whom perhaps think that 'Sharkmouth' is Morris's debut album, next on the roster was Shannon Noll who opened with Bryan Adams 'Drive'. Whilst his Australian Idol moment was a decade ago, he has certainly established himself with songs like, 'Life', 'Now I Run', 'Switch me On', 'My Place in Line', 'Learn to Fly' and 'Shine'. Although out of the limelight lately, the memories that Noll brought back with so many great songs made sure he wasn't out of place on this tour. Noll is in the midst of writing a new album which, in listenening to some of the new material, will certainly be worth looking forward to. His interaction with the punters was also a highlight of the day. As the heat kicked in, Shannon stripped off his t-shirt to reveal a bare chest and the number of females congregating in front of the stage mysteriously seemed to double. I certainly had no objection to the singer's wardrobe change. However, I did object to a certain inebriated male in the crowd who took this as an open invitation to follow suit, removing his shirt and waving it about in the air. Not a pretty sight, I have to say... and I am still cringing at the memory. Finishing off with his successful cover of Moving Pictures' hit 'What About Me', the crowd sang along and were well and truly pumped for the next act.
Moving right along, The Black Sorrows led by Joe Camilleri, complete with ubiquitous saxophone, were next up on the bill and their set included a couple of Jo Jo Zep numbers like 'Hit and Run' and 'Shape I'm In' as well as the Sorrows' 'Harley and Rose' and 'Chained to the Wheel'. The great thing about Joe is that you are going to get a foot tapping good time with some stories thrown in and today was no exception. Joe seemed to be enjoying himself and this was reflected by the punters who, despite the heat, were having fun.
As the afternoon wore on, the rock got even rockier. It was time for The Angels to take the stage. With Dave Gleeson on vocals and a line-up that includes three Brewsters in the band, the guys opened with 'After the Rain' and ripped into a set packed with their greatest hits like 'Take a Long Line', 'Marseilles' and 'I Ain't the One', always crowd pleasers but they are also introducing the fans to their new material including 'Talk the Talk', which is the single from the latest album of the same name.
By the time The Angels wrapped up their set, the crowd was well and truly ready for the Queen of Rock, and, thankfully, it was starting to cool down a little by the time The Wild One hit the stage. While not entirely leather clad on this occasion (wise choice, considering the temperature) Suzi had to be wearing at least some leather. In this case, a short black jacket – unzipped, of course. Backed by a band consisting entirely of Melbourne-based musicians, Suzi showed the crowd why, at age 63 (and fast approaching 64, I might add), she still wears the crown. For the next hour, we were treated to a rock 'n' roll show as only Suzi can deliver, only slowing down occasionally with a couple of quieter numbers, notably the beautiful 'Spotlight' from her most recent album, 'In the Spotlight', possibly just to catch her breath... understandably. The Angels' Dave Gleeson joined her on stage for a duet to perform 'Stumblin' In' which Suzi recorded with Smokie's original lead singer Chris Norman in 1979. As she was proud to tell us, this is the singer's fiftieth year in the industry and narrowing down a choice of songs from five decades of hits to squeeze into sixty minutes is no mean feat so there were a few favourites that, regrettably, were missing but the set did give a pretty good representation of most periods of her illustrious career and I don't think anyone would have been disappointed. The obvious inclusions, of course, were '48 Crash', 'Can the Can' and 'Devil Gate Drive' which was a huge hit here in Australia for her and one she calls a 'real crowd getter upper'. And, of course, the opener, 'The Wild One'. Suzi finished her set with 'If You Can't Give Me Love' which she once told me is one of her favourites to perform live as well and then the closer 'Johnny B. Goode'.
It was a bit of a drive from Sydney but well worth it to see an impressive line-up of artists and soaking up an afternoon of fantastic rock 'n' roll in scenic surroundings. This was the second last show of the Red Hot Summer Tour. The final performance is this Saturday, 15th February at Harrigan's Drift Inn on Queensland's Gold Coast, with local singer/songwriter, Casey Barnes joining the line-up and kicking off festivities. And no one can say it hasn't been a Red Hot Summer.
Check out our great gallery of photos from the day here.
by Sharyn Hamey