The GC – Showroom One: The German Club, Wed 17 Feb
Anyone expecting to see a retired rock star wheeled out for one last lap of honour are in for a number of surprises tonight. Spectrum are still a working band and have visited Adelaide several times over the last decade or so. Their material often includes three distinct categories of songs – new material – yes, new material, blues standards, and what Mike calls RetroSpectrum – the older songs that Spectrum were known and revered for amongst a certain age group. Tonight we are given a mixture of all three.
Mike has often joked that he is lucky to have only had one hit song. It means he is not trapped into having to play ‘the hits’ in every show. As long as he includes that one song, he is free to do what he likes. That’s not quite true. They may not have been huge sellers but he has a large back catalogue of much loved songs and fans will want to hear their favourites.
The first surprise comes when he opens the show with THAT song – I’ll Be Gone. Not saved up for a climactic ending or for the encore, as might be expected. And he performs it as it was originally written – without the signature harmonica line, stripped back for voice and acoustic guitar.
It is another surprise that in a show entitled RetroSpectrum the set list is heavily weighted towards Ariel songs, particularly from the Strange Fantastic Dream album. Once again these stripped down versions of songs like Jamaican Farewell on acoustic guitar are a revelation. His rendition of Confessions Of A Psychopathic Cowpoke is reminiscent of Loudon Wainwright III in full manic flight.
Along the way there are many stories about mistakes made, and people he has met or worked with, such as Ross Hannaford and Max Merritt. Soul Man, his tribute to Merritt, is one of the newer songs presenting another highlight.
Mike announces that he will do an a Cappella song he recently tried at a wedding, if the audience will clap along to set the rhythm. It turns out to be I’ll Be Gone again, this time without any guitar, but with the signature harmonica. Of course the audience sing along. Clever.
Towards the end of the show a chap called Geoff who is almost tall enough to be Bill Putt joins Mike on double bass, with a fake walrus moustache to complete the gag. Add in some loop pedal and recorder and we are given a classic early Spectrum version of Superbody. Unexpectedly it is over to newer material to provide the finale – a gorgeous (I Cannot) Look At The Moon, and a final message from Bill hits the spot! Lyrics found in his car after his death have become It’s A Lottery. An encore is required, and it’s back to the blues classics, Smokestack Lightning and Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl.
Tonight has presented a way forward for Mike in the future. Spectrum will hopefully remain a working band for years to come. These stripped back acoustic concerts, with loop pedal and some minimal backing, are another way for him to bring these songs to our appreciative attention.