Tonight a sold out crowd in the sleepy town of Ravenswood WA was treated to something rather special. Australian Rock Royalty was in town to kick off a Saturday night celebrating the very best of good old Aussie Rock and Roll, and the capacity crowd lapped up every minute of it.
Situated on the banks of the Murray River the Ravenswood Hotel is in a great spot, sitting tranquilly on the river bend and sporting a bottle shop, a TAB and a decent feed readily available its pretty much a one stop shop for a night out in a country town. Tonight though you suspect it is heaving rather more than usual, the main room sold out and the beer flowing as fast as you can pull a pint. Promising a night of songs from Rose Tattoo, The Angels, The Screaming Jets and Bon Scott-era AC/DC you can see the allure and when you know that the guys on stage have been part of that rich history it’s even more special.
Most are here of course to see Mark Evans of AC/DC and the irrepressible Angry Anderson, but neither take the stage for the opening salvo of Angels songs, rather it’s Los Angeles-born Jim Hilbun (The Angels 1982-1989 and 1992-2001) that guides us through the opening burst of ‘Long Line’ and the always stunning ‘Marseilles’ and a great job he makes of it too, nailing the vocal as well as holding down the bass duties. It’s ‘Stand Up’ though which comes next that fans might recall as his best-known contribution to the band and he fires it out into the enraptured crowd with real fire flanked by Dai Pritchard (Rose Tattoo) and Grant Walmsley (The Screaming Jets) and ever present sticks-man Greg Aldridge.
By the time ‘No Secrets’ and ‘Be With You’ have fired up the highly excitable and well-lubricated crowd it’s time for Angry and Mark Evans to take the stage with rousing rendition of The Tatts’ ‘One of the Boys’ which sees Angry’s characteristic stage banter and ‘Brothers and Sisters’ greeting met with a roar. There’s just such a great atmosphere here tonight and not a hint of aggression just rock fans having some fun and it’s the Tatt’s set that seems to be hitting the spot with ‘Bad Boy’ starting the sing along that continues through ‘Outlaw’, ‘Rock and Roll is King’, a wonderful rendition of ‘Scarred for Life’ and a reminder of just how good and important ‘Black Eyed Bruiser’ and call to arms ‘We Can’t Be Beaten’ are.
At one point Angry muses on the state of the world and is perhaps unintentionally rather eloquent “Some people need 68 different labels to be happy, we just need one- Australian” and whilst some of his later Stones ginger-wine flavoured pronouncements might be a little courser or edgier I think its a rather nice way to look at the world – just saying fuck it we’re all the same without getting into debates about showing respect to people whose primary agenda in life seems to be to take offence at every possible opportunity. As a wise man once said – “I may not agree with anything you say but I’ll defend your right to say it to the death”.
After all of that brute force rock and roll we’ve treated to a short break to replenish ourselves before they bring it home with the Screaming Jets and vintage AC/DC sets. It’s the Screaming Jets set that is up next with vocals handled by Grant Walmsley who let’s just say, whilst he might be a great guitarist and have written some bona-fide classics, isn’t up to the level of the other screamers tonight vocally. It matters little though when you’re dealing with tracks like ‘Better’ and the whole house is screaming along. The set does also provide a bit of a breather for some, containing as it does, a few slower numbers in there like: ‘Helping Hand’; ‘Shivers’ and The Jet’s intrepid cover of P.F. Sloan’s Barry McGuire classic ‘Eve of Destruction’ which tonight is dedicated less that graciously to a certain Mr. Trump.
Three great sets down and one to go and there’s not a person in the house who isn’t dripping with sweat wondering how Angry is going to tackle those Bon Scott tunes. The answer is two-fold: with a bottle of Stones in hand and with real reverence and personality. To be honest with you the great man is sounding rather good with this material and I’ll bet the other great man is looking down on this gathering and nodding his head. For those that haven’t seen it seeing Angry and Mark Evans playing these Bon Scott era songs is an almost spiritual experience,but its not all serious of course it’s also a whole heap of fun,and as the night is punctuated by Angry’s asides between songs and the crowd is getting rowdier all you can do is lean back, look on and glory at the real people-moving power and positive force of Australian Rock and Roll.
We start out with the familiar riff to ‘Hell Ain’t a Bad Place’ its a song so ingrained into the very being of the crowd here that it transcends what music would mean to most people, it’s part of the family, part of the way of life and it’s met with hundreds of smiling faces as Angry slugs on his ginger wine and really leans into the mic to give it all he’s got. ‘Dirty Deed’s raises the roof further and glasses are chinked at the bar before Angry leads the crowd into a rousing ‘Dog Eat Dog’. The love isn’t even confined to the band it’s the helpful crew and staff too and punters move out of the way to let me to the front to grab a few more shots seeing the camera in hand, and that never happens believe me.
Just when you feel that the mood can’t get any higher ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ lifts the room and immediately turns a large group of women at the back of the crowd into a bunch of failing air-guitar maidens, dancing laughing and flashing the devil horns. On stage Angry has an even bigger bottle of Stones for ‘Highway to Hell’: this is just good time fucking rock and roll – that guitar, those drums, the relentless bass, that roar that backs it all. It makes you feel alive.
The band reemerges for two encores, the crowd almost drowning out the performers onstage for The Angels “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face’ – a song 40 years old this year, before the 42 year old ‘Long Way To the Top’ closes things in a frenzy on and off stage.
I must admit that when I was a young lad and first saw Rose Tattoo play in the UK I didn’t quite understand what Angry really meant by that repeated address to the crowd of ‘Brothers and Sisters’ but here in this pub in out of the way Western Australia I feel now I do as I look around. This is family, these are the people that made Aussie Rock great and continue to do so, and it’s not just here it’s repeated in similar venues all around the country. There’s a lot of blood and sweat that went into making this music, and an equal amount that goes into every life that lives it or listens to it, and sure there’s a lot of beers too along the way too.
Tonight was just one of those nights you cherish – over 2 Hours with members of AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo and Screaming Jets. Ain’t life grand…