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It was a smorgasbord of the best of Oz Rock at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Monday night. And they were all there, as were the legion of fans who packed the venue, to show their support for one of the greatest front men this country has ever seen; Doc Neeson. When Doc announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, it sent shockwaves throughout the music industry and it wasn’t long before his friends and colleagues rallied behind him to organise a benefit concert to help out their mate in his time of need. The concert was held to raise much needed funds to enable Doc to continue the necessary treatment for his condition. We were promised that this would be an event to remember. It was.
The crowd started to pour in through the doors of The Enmore early, with die-hard fans securing their prime positions in front of the stage. The show was hosted by WSFM Breakfast DJs, Brendan Jones and Amanda Keller who did a great job of keeping the momentum going between acts. Rock Guru, Glenn A. Baker also joined them throughout the night, sharing stories and rock and roll trivia as only he can and doing the occasional introduction. The show kicked off with Stellar, followed by Demolition Diva. By the time The Radiators hit the stage, the crowd was more than pumped. They wanted more… and that’s exactly what they got with the likes of Mi-Sex (now fronted by Steve Balbi), Dragon, Rose Tattoo, Red Phoenix, Baby Animals, Diesel, Noiseworks and Jimmy Barnes. It was, as Doc was to say later in the evening, ‘The Golden Era of Australian Rock’ and who could disagree? For the first couple of hours, we rocked out to a selection of hits from the who’s who of that Golden Era.. And every one of them gave it all they’ve got. Barnesy wound up the first set, with his brother-in-law Mark Lizotte (better known to his fans as Diesel) on guitar.
Musically, it was a feast fit for royalty which is, I suppose, as it should be. After all, Neeson is considered by many to be rock and roll royalty, and rightly so. It would be hard to find a more enigmatic front man and, despite his current health problems, he is still a commanding presence, both on and off stage.
There were so many highlights on Monday night, I would be here forever if I recounted them all and I'd be sure to miss something or somebody so let's just say that everyone who performed at 'Rock For Doc' did an outstanding job, as did all the crew who worked on the night and all the people behind the scenes. It was, after all, a team effort with everyone contributing the very best to a good cause.
Two large photos stood side by side on the stage. One of much-loved tour manager, Aaron Chugg, a long time friend of Neeson. Aaron passed away recently from complications after suffering a stroke. The other photo was of Doc's friend and former colleague, Angels' bass player, Chris Bailey who also recently passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer. The photos added to the poignancy of the night and Doc paid tribute to his friends, acknowledging the loss he felt. I'm sure that both Chris and Aaron would have been watching and enjoying the show every bit as much as those of us crowding around the stage.
The second set was something very special as some of Doc’s special guests performed their own versions of Angels’ songs. Mark Gable got things rolling with ‘Let the Night Roll On’ and I could actually feel the floor move beneath my feet when Angry Anderson belted out ‘Comin’ Down’. Then Steve Balbi took us over the top with ‘Take a Long Line’ and ‘Shadow Boxer’. Diesel’s acoustic rendition of ‘Nature of the Beast’ really struck a chord with me as did Melinda Schneider’s very different take on ‘No Secrets’; a toned down, mellow version of one of the band’s biggest hits, with Angels’ drummer Buzz Bidstrup accompanying. Then she beefed it up a bit with ‘Dogs are Talking’. It was good to see some other former Angels also taking their turn at the mike. James Morley gave us ‘Eat City’ and former bassist, Jim Hilburn really rocked with ‘I Ain’t the One’ and ‘Stand Up’. Peter Garrett made a special appearance on the night to perform ‘We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place' accompanied by fellow Midnight Oil members, drummer Rob Hirst and guitarist Jim Moginie as well as Chisel keyboard player, Don Walker.
And who else but Jon English could cover ‘Fashion and Fame’? That was another standout for me, as was Suzi De Marchi’s version of ‘Be With You’. Then, Mark Gable returned to the stage for another turn. This time, he had the great honour of performing the very popular ‘Marseilles’ but he stepped aside to let a very special guest share the stage and the spotlight. Dressed in black coat and top hat, a very dapper Doc made his entrance to thunderous applause, reciting the French interlude from the song, and instantly stole the show. Doc then left the stage but it wasn’t the last we would see of him that night. It was just a quick teaser to whet our appetites for his return.
The set closer, of course, had to be the song that started it all: ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?’ sung by none other than David Hasselhoff, aka The Hoff himself. The crowd wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Hoff but he gave it his all and did a damn good job, urging the crowd to chant the infamous chorus as only an Aussie crowd can. Enter the man of the hour. Once again, Doc strutted on to the stage and joined with The Hoff to get the fans going and the audience lapped up every minute of it. Then, Doc took the opportunity to talk to us about the night and how it felt to have such amazing support from the music community, his peers, his friends and especially…. his fans. He spoke about the comradeship amongst those in the industry here in Australia and how they always come together to help fellow musicians and those in the music world in their time of need. This benefit concert, as he pointed out, was just one of many that had been put together over recent years to give support to artists who, like Doc, had tough battles like this to face. He also spoke of the amazing talent that our local industry has produced and commented that what we have to offer in this country is equal to anything on the international stage and urged us to continue to support Australian music by going to gigs at our local venues and keeping Australian music alive.
He told us how his doctors had advised him not to perform that night and not to overdo it. But Doc is Doc and, of course, he ignored that advice and did what his heart told him to do. He was strong and inspirational and he gave every ounce of energy he had into the performance of a lifetime. Doc and The Hoff left the stage to even more applause and the crowd called out for an encore.
Doc returned to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, to give us the last song of the night and it couldn’t have been more perfect. ‘Love Takes Care’ summed up the feeling in the room that night and I think everyone there was feeling the love.
Doc took the time to thank all those who had contributed their time, energy and resources to making the event happen and, in particular, his publicist and friend Cat Swinton who had worked tirelessly on what was, essentially, a labour of love to pull it all together. He surprised her with a lovely bouquet of flowers to say ''Thank You". Kudos to Cat and everyone involved for a job well done. It was certainly a night to remember and hopefully the funds raised from the event will ensure that we get to rock for and with Doc for a long time to come.
by Sharyn Hamey
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