From the early 60s through the 70s and into the 80s, the Long Way To The Top 10th Anniversary show takes the audience on a rock and roll ride of memories, packed with classic Australian songs that we all know and love. Saturday night at the Sydney Entertainment Centre was the second concert of the current tour along the east coast of Australia. To the music of ‘Turn Up Your Radio’, we were revved up for a night of great music from a long list of legends of Oz Rock!
Opening the proceedings was veteran pop singer, Col Joye, with his hits from the 60s, including ‘Oh Yeah, Uh Huh’ and ‘Bye Bye Baby’. He might be 76, but this old rocker still has ‘it’ and the crowd loved it! At 72, Lucky Starr can still rattle off his travel itinerary of 94 Australian cities in just a few minutes in ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ while scarcely drawing a breath.
As well as the above, the 60s and 70s decades were well represented with the likes of Little Pattie, Dinah Lee, Marcia Hines, Doug Parkinson, Brian Cadd, Glenn Shorrock, Jim Keays, Russell Morris, Spectrum, Chain’s Phil Manning and Matt Taylor, and John Paul Young. And this time around, the 80s also made a showing with Noiseworks, Dragon and Mi-Sex and a special performance by Ian Moss, paying tribute to the late Billy Thorpe.
A poignant moment came with Col Joye’s return to the stage to perform The Righteous Brothers’ ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’. The tribute honoured members of the Australian music industry who have passed since the first Long Way To The Top tour in 2002. For me, this was particularly moving as the list included dear friends and loved ones lost in recent years and to see their memories honoured in this way brought tears to my eyes.
There were a number of highlights for me. Among them would have to be Doug Parkinson's set which included his hits 'Dear Prudence' and 'I'll Be Around'. It's always a pleasure to hear Doug's deep, soulful voice and we got to do that on two separate occasions tonight, as he later returned to join Ian Moss for a tribute to Billy Thorpe.
Jim Keays closed the first set with the song that opened the show: The Masters’ Apprentices’ ‘Turn Up Your Radio’. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to hear more from him.
Mi-Sex opened the second half of the show with their unique ‘Computer Games’, taking us further into the 70s. The band lost their lead singer, Steve Gilpin in early 1992 as a result of a car crash. 20 years later, they are back with another Steve taking over lead vocals; Steve Balbi, from Noiseworks, is now the front man for the band.
Glenn Shorrock returned to the stage to sing ‘Help is on its Way’, a big hit for the Little River Band. And help was on its way, in the form of Brian Cadd who was also a part of Shorrock’s earlier band, Axiom. Together, they performed ‘A Little Ray of Sunshine’ after which Brian sang his classic, ‘Ginger Man’.
The only noticeable glitch of the night appeared during Russell Morris’s performance, when voice communications between members of the crew became audible over Russell’s singing. This was somewhat disconcerting for a moment. However, it was quickly fixed and it was a sign of his true professionalism that Morris continued his short set without missing a beat and, as usual, in superb voice as he sang three of his biggest hits, ‘Wings of an Eagle’, ‘Sweet, Sweet Love’ and ‘The Real Thing’.
As well as performing ‘Love is in the Air’, ‘I Hate the Music’ and ‘Yesterday’s Hero’, John Paul Young paid homage to The Easybeats and songwriters, Vanda and Young, the team behind his string of hits, with ‘Friday on My Mind’. By the time Noiseworks, fronted by a very fit looking Jon Stevens, hit the stage, there was already a strong contingent of fans at the front of the Entertainment Centre. The band tied up the representation of 80s music with 'No Lies', 'Take Me Back' and 'Touch'.
While the punters relished every minute of what was, as Brian Cadd eloquently put it to me, ‘a running jukebox of hits’, I think it would be safe to say that there was one moment in particular which the crowd had been eagerly awaiting. In the build-up to the concert, we had all heard the stories about a tribute to Billy Thorpe and there was definitely an air of anticipation filling the room. The moment we had been waiting for finally came. The large screens above the stage were filled with footage of Billy of course but the piece de resistance was the image of the man, seemingly brought to life on stage, playing his guitar and singing ‘Girls of Summer’, which he had recorded in 2006. It was a moment that, for many, made the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end as, for just an instant, we almost believed that Billy was in the room with us. And he was to return again in the second set, joined by Ian Moss whose tribute to Thorpie impressed us all, with ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ (from Thorpe’s last studio album, Tangier), ‘Over the Rainbow’ (for which Moss was joined by Doug Parkinson, who sang the song beautifully) and, of course, ‘Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy’, without doubt, Thorpie’s ‘signature’ song. The tribute was more than appropriate as it not only honoured a great and much loved singer/songwriter/musician and an important figure in the history of Australian music but also because Billy was, in fact, the driving force behind the original Long Way To The Top concerts.
For the finale, the entire cast returned to belt out AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way to The Top (If You Want To Rock n Roll)’, winding up a night of classic hits by 17 of our most loved and enduring artists and three decades of memories that will stay with music fans for a lifetime.
by Sharyn Hamey
Long Way To The Top hits Newcastle on Tuesday, 9th October and the tour winds up in Brisbane on Friday, 12th October. Tickets for both shows available through Ticketek Ph: 132 849