It was a rather hot spring night when Sydney’s iconic State Theatre played host to another Aussie icon. Celebrated rock legend, Ross Wilson, took to the stage to entertain the audience with his aptly named ‘5 Decades of Cool’ concert. Supported by various musicians who have played alongside him throughout those five decades, the singer performed hit after hit from his vast catalogue of music, including tunes from his early bands, The Pink Finks and The Party Machine as well as, naturally, some better known classics from Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock.
Opening with 'Bed of Nails' and 'Louie Louie', Wilson’s performance was enhanced by a backdrop screening images of old record covers and other classic shots telling the story of the singer’s considerable musical history. He then went into 'I Don’t Believe All Your Kids Should Be Virgins', pointing out that the songbook containing the lyrics to this song was once banned by the vice squad. (Probably only serving to increase the song’s popularity among the youth of the time.)
The singer’s esteemed guest list on the night boasted some of this country’s finest musicians including former Daddy Cool guitarist, Ross Hannaford, Mondo Rock’s Eric McCusker, Paul Christie and James Black, guitar virtuoso Stuart Fraser, Spectrum’s Mike Rudd and former Skyhooks’ guitarist, ‘Bongo’ Starkey. The very talented Wolfgram Sisters provided backing vocals. Forgive me if I’ve overlooked anyone!
The crowd cheered loudly when Mike Rudd took over lead vocals on 'I’ll Be Gone', a hit for his band, Spectrum, in the early 70’s. And some old Daddy Cool favourites, 'Come Back Again', 'Bom Bom', 'Baby Let Me Bang Your Box' and 'Hi Honey Ho' had the audience travelling way back in time…
Wilson rounded off the first set with 'Living In The Land Of Oz', 'The Fugitive Kind' and 'Primal Park'.
After a short break, the star of the show returned to the stage with special guest, former Skyhooks guitarist, ‘Bongo’ Starkey, for his version of the band’s hits 'Horror Movie' and 'Ego Is Not A Dirty Word' (both of which were produced by Wilson).
Another highlight of the evening came with Ross’ own interpretation of his composition, 'A Touch of Paradise', a big hit for John Farnham in the 80’s. The lengthy introduction included a story about the apparently magical touch of adding a few choruses of ‘Na Na Na’ to a song. To prove his point, the singer gave us an amusing impersonation of Kylie Minogue strutting her stuff to her mega hit… um… you know, the one with all the ‘Na Na Na’s.
With the evening drawing to a close, it was now time to bring out the big guns and launch into some of Mondo Rock’s biggest hits, starting with 'Chemistry' and 'Primitive Love Rights'. The atmosphere built with the countdown to the 'Summer of 81', and the crowd was itching to get to its feet for the set closers 'Cool World', 'State of the Heart' and 'Come Said the Boy', which never sounded better than on this occasion.
Of course, there had to be an encore and it had to include what is undoubtedly Wilson’s best known and most enduring song, the classic 'Eagle Rock', which never fails to please the punters.
But the fans still wanted more and Ross and his guests were happy to oblige, walking back on stage to give them a dose of 'Daddy Cool' and closing the night with the beautiful 'Love’s Journey'.
On leaving the theatre, fans were given a copy of his 'Hell of a Time' CD. A nice touch to help keep the music alive long after the night had ended. Aside from a few small technical hitches early in the proceedings, the evening went smoothly and the legend gave us just a taste of why he has remained at the forefront of Australian music for forty five years. Ross Wilson the singer, songwriter, producer and performer - along with his impressive array of special guests - put on a hell of a show and we all had a hell of a time!