The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Nightwish Live Australia Perth January 2013


















It’s amazing to think that the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival has been with us for ten years now.  Always subtitled ‘A Music Lover’s Festival’ this year that description couldn’t be more apt with a heady mix over a beautiful march weekend of Blues, Rock, Soul and for want of a better term ‘Roots’ music. Stretching the event on this anniversary year may have been ambitious but the line-up that the festival organisers have managed to assemble makes it two days of pure joy for music lovers in WA.


Robert Plant, Saturday’s headliner needs no introduction even to the younger members of the crowd and the build up to Planty taking his crown is an interesting one. He may never shake off the ‘of Led Zeppelin’ suffix in many a lifetime but as a performer he knows his own mind and also has a natty sideline in interesting band names – this year he’s with the ‘Sensational Space Shifter’s successors to the ‘Band of Joy’, ‘Strange sensation’ and a host of others. Tonight he’s in grand form, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!


 The honour of opening the original festival in 2004 went to a local bluesman called Ben Witt, but this year we do actually have a veteran of that very first festival– Blue Shaddy who open up the ‘Big Top’ stage to a warm is slightly sparse response from the crowd. Their brand of ‘hillbilly blue’ may not have evolved in a huge way in those ten years but as they say ‘if it ain’t broke’.


 Prior to Blue Shaddy in the ‘Top’  Odette Mercy and her Soul Atomics had eased us into the day out on the main stage with a heady mix of Motown and Stax infused Soul  - a nice way to ease us in to two days of nonstop action. Following Odette on the main comes today’s first real draw for us: the incomparable voice of Grace Potter (and the Nocturnals).  The band may have been around since 1992 but in that time their four albums have been remarkably diverse. On the stage Grace is full of energy and with a voice that instantly brings to mind Janis it’s a set not to miss crowned by the classic ‘Medicine’.



Mama Kin


Mama Kin, Russell Morris (whose latest album ‘Sharkmouth’ is well worth checking out) and Julia Stone keep the day’s faithful locked away in the Big Top with some great home-grown sets, but it’s clear that out on the Park Stage many have come to see Newton Faulkner shake his dreads. The man from Reigate with the penchant for percussive guitar is a veteran of just about every festival you can name and if anything it’s a surprise to see him play so early. In a very well appreciated  50 minute set he shows that he’s not just the man behind high charting singles like ‘Dream Catch Me’ and ‘I Hate Mondays’ he’s also pretty funny, asking the crowd early on how many had his album, then looking down and commenting that maybe if a few more of us bought it, he just might be wearing shoes next time.



Russell Morris



Newton Faulkner


The Tedeschi Trucks Band take the Park Stage next, I’ve long enjoyed The Derek Trucks Band, but this band, put together with his wife Susan Tedeschi takes the straighter edged blues as a base but moves us in another direction  incorporating more rock, R&B (that’s real R&B kids) and even gospel. It’s a great performance by a band that has two essential albums out there – the live ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ and the amazing debut and Grammy winning ‘Revelator’. If you missed these guys you missed one of the performances of the day.



Tedeschi Trucks Band


After the fun of The Music Maker Blues Revue in the Big Top (Music Maker is a US-based not for profit that spends its time supporting roots artists over there and is well worth checking out) Chris Isaak takes it down a notch on the main stage with a stunning set that proves that there is much more to him than ‘Wicked Game’ and ‘Blue Hotel’, he may be a little melancholy for some but he’s a true original and an impressive live performer who takes it to another level with a slightly sinister, somewhat sexy ‘Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing’. He’s also pretty funny too, thanking those that have seen him before for giving him another chance. If there is one gripe it’s perhaps that his set does rely a little too heavily on cover material – sure keeping songs of the likes of Roy Orbison is cool, but are we really here to see a covers band no matter how good?



The Music Maker Blues Revue


After the rock and roll of Isaak of course comes the blues and boogie of Status Quo. Now these British institutions will surely be framed when they finally retire and despite the years wearing heavily on their brows these days they still know how to Rock and Roll. If you can forgive them cashing in with Coles (believe me they’ve done far worse if you step into their voluminous back-catalogue) and suspend disbelief then you were probably having a great old time. The only slight regret for me is that their recent re-union of the four original members that lit up the stages in the UK earlier this month and by all accounts went down a storm didn’t make it out here. With a back catalogue like Quo’s you can never please everyone though and with 29 studio albums to choose from there will always be plenty left unsaid. Highlights tonight of course are the classics – ‘Down Down’ (thankfully not the Coles version) and Fogerty’s ‘Rocking All Over the World’ which they made their own in the 70’s. Today’s set is basically all the best pre-1981 and it’s a trip back in tiem for many.



Status Quo


Francis Rossi recently hinted that the end of the line live might be near and it’s great to see them before they pull up stumps...
Jason Mraz who was last here in 2009 had quite a lot of press leading up o the festival and draws a good crowd on the Park Stage, but to be honest we weren’t really in the mood for his ‘singer-songwriteriness’, we are of course in the tiniest of minorities, but his reggae tinged, slightly funky doodlings, even though beautifully executed don’t quite do it for us...  Back in the tent Fred Wesley & the New JB’s, ex band-mate of James Brown, turns up the trombone dial (wow I wish there was a trombone dial) to 11 and sticks some serious horn to us. The version he plays of the classic ‘Mother popcorn’ tonight is one of the highlights of our day. Some things are just priceless.



Jason Mraz


Staying in the tent Kitty, Daisy and Lewis (in Australia last year at the Big Day Out) are interesting and a little different, nice on a festival bill with a refreshing shot of Swing, R&B Rock and Roll and Country, and very entertaining but I’m not sure I’d be drawn to the as a headliner and that of course is part of the beauty of Festivals – opening your eyes to a greater variety of artists than you might normally be exposed to. 


It is of course though Mr Robert Plant that most of us have come to see, this year with his Sensational Space Shifters. The last time Led Zeppelin was in Perth was 1972, though of course Mr Plant has ventured down-under before but not for some time.  
Expectations are high and you can measure them by the surge in the crowd towards the stage twenty minutes before he takes the stage. Today might not quite be sold out but it certainly feels like it now.


What we get as Robert takes the stage is hard to describe, it’s a mixture of the familiar and the not so familiar, the classics reworked with that African vibe that has always been part of the Zeppelin sound and which really came to the fore when Page and Plant conspired again for the No Quarter project. The soundscapes are quite breathtaking and cloak the Zeppelin songs in new clothes that fit magnificently. Vocally Mr Plant is in fine form, hitting all the right notes on cue, and though he may move more languidly around the stage these days it’s with grace and style that befits the music.  


Sure those hoping for a Zeppelin by numbers night might be disappointed, though they can hardly have expected it even just with a cursory glance at the internet. Tonight I have never seen an audience more transfixed on a performance, and whilst it is of course the Zeppelin set-pieces that take the biggest applause I for one can’t wait for the next Plant album, his first with this band.  






Heartbreaker | Tin Pan Valley | Another Tribe | Friends | Spoonful (Howlin' Wolf cover) | Black Dog | Going to California | The Enchanter | Four Sticks | Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die) | Ramble On | Bron-Y-Aur Stomp | Whole Lotta Love




Going to California | Rock and Roll




Iggy and the Stooges seem to have only been here the other day – playing The Big Day Out in 2011 they these days are the perennial Festival favourite, seemingly completely cool to everyone of every age it’s funny how music creates icons of certain artists. Uncle Iggy and Co have been riding high on the Festival hog for many years now since reformation in 2003, and as a huge fan of all they are and all that followed in their wake it’s always great to see the shapes and faces thrown by Mr Osterberg. We get the full box and dice as you would expect, and glorious it is too.


Closing the day Manu Chao La Ventura is the sort of rootsy world music that some feel compelled to pronounce ‘authentic’, sure it’s lively it’s ‘Latin’, it’s primarily Spanish sounding and all sung by a man who seems to love to talk about how many languages he can speak and sing in.  As a diversion it’s cool enough, but it’s all a bit lively and cartoony to us. Still it acts as a sorbet between today’s feast and tomorrow’s glorious second course.  This is looking like the perfect year of Blues and Roots already.







Paul Simon


There’s already been a lot of great music before Ash Grunwald takes to the Park Stage, with locals Sticky Fingers and The Domnicks proving that we have some great acts here in Australia. We’ll pass on the mish-mash of sounds that emanated from The Brow Horn Orchestra who attract the curious to what sounds like a upbeat mash of everything except blues and rock, but if you like your ska, your electronic, your hip hop and your dub and need to dance to get the circulation going then by all means...



Ash is as always entertaining and in front of a growing and partisan crowd he wins over a few more converts to his own rootsy style.
We raved about Graveyard Train and Brothers Grimm back in October when they were over for the Rock It Festival in Joondalup and nothing has changed our opinion, only now we can sing along to a few of the less morbid Graveyard Train songs (actually I’m not sure there are any). If you like your Country music punked-up and overflowing with lyrics about death then it’s about time you jumped on board. If your tastes are more Americana and Country Blues then it’s Brothers Grimm for you.



Michael Kiwanuka


Michael Kiwanuka is one of those artists that has the ability to transport you back in time to another place entirely and immediately reminds us of someone we always wish we’d seen – the late great Otis Redding. Despite struggling with seemingly every guitar he touches being out of tune, when he’s ready to go there’s a soul and grace to his compositions that is seemingly unsullied by the last forty years of popular music and he gives us a set of beautiful and finely crafted songs that immediately after have us tracking down the CD.


We have to confess that Rufus Wainwright was always a name that we were familiar with but never someone we had the inclination to track down after hearing just the song ‘Hallelujah’ which was OK and then a version of ‘Across the Universe’ – our search stopped there and does too this evening.




Steve Miller Band


The Steve Miller Band is just a band that everyone should see live, they are consummate musicians, tight as hell and pour out a seemingly non-stop string of hits and new music. If you are a casual fan and I guess many of us are, the depth is astounding, you can see people in the crowd singing along to the hits before realising that they know the next song too, they just never knew it was Steve Miller too. It’s a wonderful afternoon stroll through an amazing back catalogue and by the time Miller and co hit the stage the sell-out crowd is pretty much all through the gates.


Santana played Perth last in 2011 on a beautiful evening in the Swan Valley, today’s set in the roaring sun  is essentially a ‘Greatest Hits’ workout, he gets his first cheer of the day even before he’s played a note, taking the microphone from Lucky Oceans with a finger to his lips before he can introduce him! It’s hard not to like Santana and his passion, not only in his music but in his convictions to peace and the earth, and while some may see his pronouncements as a little sanctimonious it is an essential part of who Santana is, and you don’t get the beautiful music without the message of love.





Bonnie Raitt may well have been around for as long as we can remember but she still knows how to rock and we’re kind of ashamed to say we haven’t seen this American institution live before. She is stunningly good and seems as one with her guitar. She wows the crowd in the tent despite a difficult clash with Ben and Charlie out on the Park Stage, we’re absolutely torn and it’s the only real clash of the day where we wish we could split ourselves in two.


Jimmy Cliff always makes us smile and that essentially is what Jimmy is all about, here only a couple of years ago for the Ragamuffin Festival he’s in great form tonight in the tent and far more lively than he was for his last outing, in fact his energy onstage tonight seemed boundless and it clearly infected a crowd who found it impossible not to be caught up in the dance. If you love your Reggae you just had to be here: and with a host of songs, old and new, preaching a message of love it’s hard not to fall in love with the man and his music. ‘I can see clearly now’ of course almost brings the house down around him and his band.



Jimmy Cliff


Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite explode onto the stage with a set that is as relentless as it is enjoyable, the smiles coming from Harper tell the story better than anything, and the crowd lap it all up. For a man of his years Charlie has energy to burn and his harp melds with Harper’s lap steel to produce an experience to equal anything we’ve seen so far.



Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite


Paul Simon, though, is clearly the main drawcard tonight and when you look back on his career it’s impossible to adequately describe what he has given to music over the years. After a low key start to the set when you wonder how he will play this one out, it’s the strength of the musicians behind him and the songs that shine through. Taking the best of his lengthy solo career and glimpses of the peaks of his Simon and Garfunkel years it’s a set that serves as a  lesson on both his musical history and our collective musical history itself. The capacity crowd loves it.





Wilco is the final band of the Festival and in many ways the revelation of the entire event. Being introduced as the ‘Greatest Live Band in the World’ is the largest epithet of the Festival, but their rocked out reawakening seems so far from their mellower Americana origins that they almost seem like another band entirely. The faithful gathered in the Big Top clearly agree and if there was a single band this weekend that you just didn’t want to stop, it was Wilco.



The 10th Anniversary of the West Coast Blues and Roots leaves itself only one dilemma – it’s a simple one – how on earth do you top that?  




words and photos by Mark Diggins