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Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Sat 29 Jul.
With a new retrospective CD in the offing (Roll Back The Stone was recorded in what must have been high energy days at the Scrap Museum in Melbourne) – some different takes of both vintage and newer Mark Seymour songs are provided, with the Undertow providing a solid basis for Seymour’s delivery. Live at The Gov they are a treat, and there is a knowledgeable crowd singing along to many of the songs, a good portion of who are younger than Mark’s original bands! As well, Seymour has promised to tell us some stories along the way and he doesn’t disappoint – we hear about his mum making raspberry jam, about the rather dodgy road that used to go to Mt Kosciosko, as well as the equally dodgy Hillman Hunter, with all of 850cc that his dad drove up there with the kids…
It was great to get a bit of the human side of Seymour. I last saw him live in Asbestos, The Musical when he lead the local Born On Monday Choir in a timely and politically charged expose’ of the many problems with the products of asbestos, the company that made them and of course, the ordinary blokes and their families whose lives were bought to an early end because of the problems. Mark Seymour can write some fantastic love songs and songs of place, but he doesn’t shy away from political songs that he thinks should be written, sung and heard. And we were treated to several, including Westgate and a couple of songs for the refugees and boat people.’ Lyrics that jumped out at me on the night – ‘One rule for the filthy rich, another one for the weak’ in Home Free and everything in Throw Your Arms Around Me – which has been covered by the likes of Crowded House, Tripod, Pearl Jam, The Doug Anthony Allstars, Kate Ceberano, Canada’s Alison Crowe and many others… (That’s a large measure of respect!).
So to the gig – a tight outfit indeed are The Undertow. The set-list didn’t exactly track the CD, but there was a steady stream of great songs, join in choruses and a charged up crowd very ready, willing and able to sing along. Clearly considerable thought has gone into set dynamics, build it up, bring it back down, get the voices and harmonies out, hit the electrics, back to acoustics – always something changing in sound and presentation. Seymour got carried away towards the end of one of his many classics and while he almost lost it, the band tracked him beautifully, pulled it back together and found a great new way to end a song! We were treated to two sets, song presentation ranged from full bore band rock to solo acoustic with plenty of variety in between. I very much enjoyed some of the off and syncopated drum beats, particularly in parts where odd times were used to add up to the 4/4 rock beat over multiple bars – easier to say than do, but Peter Maslen nailed everything from kit to simple snare pieces. His partner in rhythm crime – John Favaro on bass is simply in the groove. The second set finished with a brilliant guitar frenzy, Cameron McKenzie and Seymour playing off each other beautifully.
So a few covers for the encore and acoustic solo – Celtic/Irish Traditional Parting Glass to say goodbye and it was all over, way too soon – there is a reason why many shows have been added to this tour – Seymour deserves respect, simply put he’s something of a national treasure (he may have to add a song about his mum’s pumpkin scones!) but even more importantly – he delivers on every level, musically, lyrically and in terms of putting a fine show together!