Well, Day 1 of the Stone Music Festival might have been all about rock but Day 2 was a bit more subdued and, thankfully, the weather was much kinder on this Sunday afternoon. The dark clouds had moved on, the rain had stopped and the mercury had risen just ever so slightly. The event also kicked off a little later in the day; a blessing for those who had endured eleven hours standing in the rain the day before. A quick glance around the stadium and you notice that, today, there is seating on the floor. A clear indication that we can expect a much more laid back evening.
A late cancellation of one of the acts who had been slated to appear, Lifehouse, meant that the starting time was pushed back even further so opening act, Illumination Road, didn’t hit the stage until 3.45pm. The Los Angeles based duo made their ‘live’ debut at the Stone Festival on Sunday, giving us our first taste of their sixties and seventies influenced rock.
Then it was Mark Seymour’s turn. Personally, I would have given him a higher rung on the line-up ladder but then, what do I know? Only that he is one great singer/songwriter and musician and I would have liked to hear more from him but we only got to hear a handful of songs from Seymour. But the quality made up for the quantity (or lack thereof), especially with such classics as ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘When the River Runs Dry’.
After a short set from Mark Seymour, Shannon Noll took to the stage. For a runner up on a talent quest, Nollsie (as he is affectionately known by fans) has done quite well for himself. He has had five Top 10 albums and, so I am told, is the only Australian male artist to have ten consecutive Top 10 singles and his set included a few of them, such as ‘Shine’, ‘Lift’, ‘Drive’ (written by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and Phil Thornally) and the one that he is probably best known for, a cover of the Moving Pictures classic ‘What About Me?’ which had the entire audience singing along.
As dusk settled over the stadium, more people filed in through the gates, the atmosphere began to grow and we were more than ready for the magical guitar work of one Mark Lizotte, otherwise known as Diesel. He can certainly make that guitar talk and everyone seemed to like what it was saying. And he’s a pretty good singer too. Diesel delivered a bluesy rock version of ‘Don’t Need Love’ and ‘Man Alive’ and strapped on the acoustic for crowd favourites ‘Tip of My Tongue’ and ‘Cry in Shame’.
Next up was the man who pipped Shannon Noll at the post on Australian Idol in 2003. I had never actually seen Guy Sebastian perform before so I really had no idea what to expect. I suppose I had an image in my mind that went back all the way to the time I first saw him on Australian Idol. I keep forgetting that was ten years ago and he is no longer the same man he was back then. Certainly, the image I had in my head was shattered when he walked on stage. My recollection is always of a short guy with an afro, very clean cut. The man on stage before me was nothing like that image (correction; he is still short). I think it was the tattoos that threw me the most though. All that aside, you can’t deny that Sebastian has a great voice and a personality to match. Performing songs that I was surprised I actually knew (I’m an old rocker, you know), he was entertaining and upbeat and I have to say I really enjoyed his set.
The seats up the front were now starting to fill up and the vibe in the stadium was building. We were about to see one of this country’s very best bands up on stage and I, for one, was very excited. I have always been a big fan of Icehouse, even going back to the days when they were called Flowers. I saw them many times back in the day and was sad to see the band split. This would be the first time I had the chance to see them perform since their reunion and I wasn’t disappointed. They opened with ‘We Can Get Together’, an early single from the Flowers days, and then they got a little ‘Crazy’. One of the many highlights of their set was when singer Iva Davies gave the microphone to Michael Paynter for ‘Man of Colours’. Michael is touring with Icehouse and plays guitar and keyboards and showed us all on Sunday night what an amazing voice he does have. And he is hoping to show the world as a contestant on The Voice. Good luck to him. He certainly has the goods. Another highlight of the band’s set was a cover of T-Rex’s ‘Get it On’ which really got the crowd going. They finished with ‘Nothing Too Serious’ from the Man of Colours album. And I will definitely be keeping my eyes and ears open to hear of more Icehouse gigs around town.
So now the crowd was really pumped. It had been a big couple of days already and there was still one more act to go and a big one at that. This was to be Billy Joel’s only performance on this visit to Australia so we were indeed privileged to be there for it. I have been to so many of Billy’s concerts, I have lost count. I remember being in the front row of the Hordern Pavilion back in 1981. And since then, I have only missed out on one tour. This was apparently Joel’s first live performance in three years and, with rumours running rife that The Entertainer himself might actually be thinking of retiring from the music industry, there is no way I was going to miss what might be my last opportunity to see the man perform again. Billy Joel is a prolific songwriter, a brilliant musician, a great singer and an all-round amazing entertainer. I don’t think I could count all the hits he has under his belt but I do know that, on Sunday night, he tried to fit as many as he could into his 90 minute set. Highlights? Too many to mention but I will share a couple that instantly spring to mind.
Seated at a white grand piano, Billy opened his set with ‘Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)’, a track from his 1976 album, ‘Turnstiles’. From there, it was one hit after another. ‘Pressure’, ‘Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)’, ‘The Entertainer’. He took a moment to wonder at the wisdom of choosing someone like himself to headline a festival that supposedly stemmed from a 1974 Australian biker movie. ‘Everyone knows ‘Piano Man’ is a biker theme,’ he remarked before launching into the first verse of ‘Born to Be Wild’. Joel’s humour was on tap throughout the night. Introducing ‘Always a Woman’, he told us that the song was about ex-wife No.2 . ‘It’s also a biker song,’ he quipped. Acknowledging those who were seated behind him, he apologised for not being able to turn the piano around to face them and, running his hand over his bald scalp, commented that ‘at least you’re getting lots of head.’
A definite highlight of the whole festival for me was when Billy swapped his piano for an electric guitar and handed the limelight over to his roadie Chainsaw (I don’t think I want to know how he earned that moniker) who screamed his way through the opening verse of ‘Highway to Hell’ before handing the mike over to Noiseworks’ singer Jon Stevens whose vocals were simply brilliant. Stevens then handed the mike back to Chainsaw to finish the job. The AC/DC classic was followed by a couple of rock numbers from the very successful ‘Glass Houses’ album from 1980: ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me’ and the set closer ‘You May Be Right’.
But there were, of course, still at least two more songs that had to be included in a ‘greatest hits’ set from Billy Joel and, sure enough, he was back for an encore, getting the crowd to their feet for ‘Only the Good Die Young’ and the finale took us right back to where it all began… seated at the piano and with harmonica firmly in place, those opening bars of ‘Piano Man’ sent chills up my spine and the audience was singing along and swaying to and fro. We were left in no doubt. Billy Joel is the Piano Man and The Entertainer… Let’s hope the rumours are not true and we do get to see him again. But, if this is the last time, it’s one I will always remember.
And so endeth another day at the inaugural Stone Festival. While the organisers might not have got the numbers they had hoped for this time, the music spoke for itself. It was an amazing weekend and, with any luck, it will happen again next year. Let’s just pray for sunny skies next time.
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by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved.