The Hunter Valley hosted two big concerts on Saturday – Grapevine Gathering and A Day On The Green.
A younger crowd flocked to see the likes of Client Liaison, Miami Horror and The Jungle Giants at Roche Estate while music-lovers of a different vintage filled every seat at Bimbadgen for John Farnham, Daryl Braithwaite, Richard Marx, Russell Morris and Bachelor Girl.
And what a day it was.
At the risk of betraying my own vintage, my first concert experience was Farnham’s Whispering Jack tour back in ’86. He was riding high on the back of that album and that song – You’re The Voice.
Thirty-something years later and nothing has changed. That song, that album and that voice keep fans coming back for more.
Bachelor Girl were up first. Vocalist Tania Doko was in fine voice and thrilled to be there, thanking the crowd for singing along to Buses and Trains as well as Treat Me Good and Lucky Me. Being the opening act in the hot sun when people are still filtering in and finding their seats isn’t easy but Doko’s chatty, easygoing banter engaged the crowd and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Russell Morris amused with the occasional dry one-liner but it was his musicianship that won over the crowd. There is so much more to his ARIA Hall of Fame inductee than his enduring 1969 hit The Real Thing. These days the psychedelic riffs have been replaced by a more rootsy blues sound which shows off his true vocal ability. Many people actually “heard” Russell Morris for the first time at Bimbadgen. The real Morris. A solid set by a band clearly enjoying playing together and not taking things too seriously.
Richard Marx cruised on stage wearing tight black jeans, a long-sleeved white shirt, black fitted vest and a still-admirable head of hair. Many a mullet joke was made by Marx throughout his set, which kicked off with a laid-back version of Endless Summer Nights.
“It took me about a week to get here,” he quipped before singing Take This Heart. “It’s an absolute pleasure to be there with you guys in the middle of nowhere … but it sure is gorgeous out here.”
Marx has a close friendship with Farnham, and was once quoted as saying he thought his Aussie mate had the best voice in the world. Marx isn’t too bad himself.
He told us he wrote Angelina “when I had a really fluffy mullet bigger than John’s. And I had the undeniable honour in 1992 of winning an ARIA for best mullet. It was actually for Hazard. Thanks for loving this song, guys.”
The song has lost none of its haunting beauty, either. Marx sang it to perfection and, as always, the lyrics and tone reminded me of the original Twin Peaks series.
“My really good friends call me Ricardo for some reason but for 30 years John has called me skid. I’ll let you think about that,” he said.
“Do you like country music? Oh, good, I’m gonna play some jazz.”
He gave a shout out to Keith Urban and performed his hit Long Hot Summer before asking the crowd if we were ready for “another mullet song”.
We were. Should’ve Known Better was the result and everyone was on their feet dancing. Marx sat at the piano for the timeless Right Here Waiting and yes, the singalong was as heartfelt and enthusiastic as you might expect. I’ve waited a long time to sing that song with Marx and the sell-out crowd clearly had, too.
Then Daryl Baithwaite casually strolled onto the stage wearing jeans and a T-shirt and started singing All I Do. He warned us he was about to play a new song, saying “Yeah yeah I know you want The Horses”. As The Days Go By, Rise and Howzat from his Sherbert days were highlights. He was in good voice and left Horses until the very end.
And last but not least, Farnham. He started with We Will Rock You and his set included Heart’s On Fire, Age of Reason, Chain Reaction, Every Time You Cry, the wonderful Reasons and No One Comes Close from Whispering Jack as well as Just One Step, Love To Shine and Trouble.
“I need to slow down a bit – I’m rooted,” Farnham said, laughing.
He then played Mondo Rock’s Touch of Paradise, followed by Take The Pressure Down, That’s Freedom, Playing To Win, You’re The Voice and AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top.
What a show. And Farnham, well, he’s the ultimate showman.
A Day on The Green continues to set the standard when it comes to outdoor concert events and Bimbadgen is a picturesque, people-friendly venue. You can buy quality wine by the bottle (until a certain time) and the lines for food and alcohol are reasonable. It’s a match made in heaven, really.