On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of going along to ‘RocKwiz Live! Salutes the ARIA Hall of Fame’ at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne. It was the first of two such shows in Melbourne; the second being the following night. But there was something very special about this one. The identity of their secret ‘Special Guests’ had been leaked a few days earlier and eventually it was confirmed that Skyhooks would be reforming for a one-off performance that night. Of course, the question still remained ‘Who would be standing in for Shirl? The rumours, of course, had been flying around for a few days but finally that too was revealed. Ross Wilson would be doing the honours.
This tour, as the name suggests, salutes those members of the Australian music industry who have been inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Guests include ARIA Hall of Fame inductees, musical performances include tributes to songs by those artists, and questions are focussed on those artists and their music.
Now, if you have ever been to a taping of RocKwiz at its regular home, The Espy Hotel in St. Kilda, you would be familiar with the proceedings but, for those who aren’t, here’s the drill. Brian Nankervis usually selects a few potential contestants from the crowd lined up outside the Gershwin Room (or whichever venue it might be on this tour) and fires some music trivia questions at them. Some make the grade. Others don’t. On this occasion, we were all told that there were 24 wild cards placed randomly under seats in the theatre and the lucky finders of those cards were invited up to the stage. By the process of elimination, the final four are chosen to compete, with two on each team. The third spot which is that of the team ‘leader’ is taken by the guest artist. For the purpose of the Live show, this process took perhaps longer than normal as we were treated to some pretty interesting and, at times, hilarious performances from the 24 hopefuls, including a Mick Jagger impersonation from a guy who strutted around on the stage to The Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’, with hands on hips and puckered up lips ala Sir Mick. He didn’t make the final cut but he sure did make a big impression.
When the final four were selected, it was time for a short intermission. But with the length of the queues for both the bar and the (ladies) restroom, there was barely enough time to use either before we were called back to our seats for the second half of the show and now the real fun begins...
The four selected audience members take their seats on stage and we are introduced to the RocKwiz Orchestra comprising John Black on keys, Mark Ferrie on bass, Peter Luscombe on drums and Ashley Naylor on guitar and on vocals, the always sensational Vika and Linda Bull. Finally, Brian introduces host Julia Zemiro who asks that timeless Rockwiz question: Who can it be now? Except that, this time, it is more like ‘Which song can it be now?’ The song, as it turns out, is ‘We Can Get Together’ and performing the song was… (no… no… not Iva!) Melbourne-based singer/musician Olympia. Dressed in a shimmery, figure hugging outfit (from where I was sitting it looked to be aqua but I could be mistaken so don’t take my word for it) and playing guitar, Olympia paid homage to the early hit from the band then known as Flowers and now Icehouse.
But, of course, we needed some HOF representation on board and that came in the form of legendary Australian singer/songwriter, Brian Cadd who took his turn centre stage, seated at the keyboards for an absolutely perfect performance of one of his most popular songs, ‘Ginger Man’, before joining his team to put their music trivia knowledge to the test.
Still in keeping with the RocKwiz tradition of promoting new and young talent as well as those we have grown up with, Davey Lane from You Am I performed a truly inspired rendition of the Masters’ Apprentices ‘Because I Love You’. Now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, it takes something pretty special for me to be impressed with covers of my favourite songs but I have to admit that I was blown away by Davey’s interpretation of this classic. Well done, Davey!
Julia fired off the questions with her usual comedic flair. There was the familiar Local and/or General and, of course, the Million Dollar Riff which is a good segue into the next act on the bill.
When a series of questions focuses on Skyhooks, there is a definite air of eager anticipation in the room as the lights dim before Bob, Greg, Freddie and Red appear on centre stage, joined by guest vocalist Ross Wilson. As most Australian 70s music fans would be aware, Ross was a part of the Skyhooks story, having produced three albums for the band at the height of their popularity. There was none of the make-up and gimmickry of their heyday except, of course, for Bob ‘Bongo Starkey’s familiar outfit but just to have the four members performing together again was indeed a special moment and the significance of that moment was not lost on the appreciative Melbourne audience who were all no doubt feeling very lucky to be there for this one-off event. After performing ‘Horror Movie’ and ‘Balwyn Calling’, the Hooks left the stage before the crowd demanded an encore which they got in the form of ‘All My Friends are Getting Married’ and which, Red wryly commented, was ‘Just the way we rehearsed it.’
After their performance, Red replaced Olympia to lead her team and, while lamenting his age, quipped that perhaps he had ‘overcharged’ for his appearance. Both Julia and Brian couldn’t resist the opportunity to remind Red of their appearances (in a previous lifetime) on Red Faces. Brian’s poetry reading under the alias of Raymond J. Bartholemeuz actually won the comedian a prize on the Hey Hey It’s Saturday talent quest in the 80s, despite the fact that he was unceremoniously gonged by Symons. We had to say goodbye to Red who had an early start in the morning for his breakfast radio program on Melbourne’s ABC. He was replaced by Bob Starkey and Davey Lane took the place of Brian Cadd for the opposing team. Traditionally, the two guest artists on the show perform a duet at the end of the show and tonight was no exception as Olympia and Davey Lane performed the Split Enz hit ‘History Never Repeats’. Then the remaining guests return to the stage to lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of legendary Hall of Famer, Johnny O’Keefe’s ‘Shout’.
And who won? Who cares? All that really matters is that we had a fun night and the cast and guests seemed to enjoy it just as much as the audience obviously did. When it comes to a fun night, RocKwiz always delivers. The show was fast paced, with laughs from start to finish and the musical entertainment was faultless. Hopefully RocKwiz will continue to take the show on the road for a few more years to come.
by Sharyn Hamey