Saturday 23rd Febuary, 2013: Review By Winston Mann
Given his usual Aussie drawl vocals, pension for the drink and general jolly-swagman of rock character, funk is not exactly the first genre you’d associate with Aussie rock stalwarts You Am I’s lead man TIM ROGERS. In fact for anyone that may remember Berlin Chair, outside of spurring a trap album, it’s probably one of the last. So it came as a bit of a surprise when, seemingly from nowhere, he popped up as a guest vocalist on smooth groove extraordinaires THE BAMBOOS critically acclaimed 2012 LP ‘Medicine Man’; even more surprising still was that the track (I Got Burned) was a hit. So with announcement of their ‘Rock n’ Roll Medicine’ tour came an obvious question: What can be expected when one of Australia’s most, and often pretty dubiously (let us not forget, he once punched Mark Holden and made Missy Higgins cry), notable rock ‘n roll ‘blokes’ performs with a band, less dubiously, regarded as the lands premier ambassadors for the ever-cool genre of funk? Well the result, as a sold out Chevron festival gardens crowd found out, was a pretty entertaining – all be it a little daggy – slice of surf ‘n turf soul.
Taking the onus of warming up the slowly filling ‘outback-shack’ grand stand, Perth’s prime purveyors of big ‘afro beat/sunny electro/hip hop’ sound The Brow Horn Orchestra came out of the gates with trombones and synths blazing; filling the darkening air with fiery Latino brass (reminiscent of the fellow exuberant good timers Cat Empire) and a pacey African drum beat. Undeniably joyous, the quintet set about proving why their name has become synonymous around town with catchy tunes and festive parties. Every Single Day quickly whipped up a few punters from their seats and began heads festively bopping. A bopping which only increased through the more electronically bent, though equally uproarious, Fade and We Climbed Phaser Mountains. Even vocalist and primary songwriter Nicholas Owen’s introduction of Aussie hip-hop line delivery (a genre enjoyable for some, detestable for others) evoked enchanted smiles from the audience. Yet behind the grins lurked an unmistakable air of self-consciousness – with more than a few people were slightly confused about how exactly to bend without spilling their house whites. It was at this point becoming increasingly apparent that the average age of the crowd would put a halt on any heavy ‘krump’ throw downs.
After a bit of a gap in which to dash toward the cider bar, The Bamboos (led by the perpetually well suited Lance Ferguson), were warmly welcomed to the now heaving venue. ‘Good evening, we’re The Bamboos’ was Ferguson’s only segway into a set that proved early why the Bamboo’s were last year ARIA nominees for ‘best live act’. Sax driven opener ‘On The Sly’ saw Ferguson’s sweet bluesy guitar wrap immaculately around the stunning dry moans of resident vocalist of Kylie Audice. As the rich, groovy sound permeated into the night sky, it was a little too easy to forget that one crucial element was missing. Perhaps finished with his wine or noticing that people weren’t yet calling out his name Tim Rogers, in a suit that would make John Travolta blush, flew in from the side; exploding with the world’s most surprising falsetto into ‘I Got Burned’. Energetic as ever, Rogers began parading around the stage with all the charismatic intentions of Jagger (at one stage slipping in a ‘chicken dance’) which were realistically more akin to Rod Stewart (ie. goofy as all hell); but the smiles from audience, as well as The Bamboos themselves, made it evident that there was a definite lean toward the light hearted.
That being said, some of their newly written collaborations illustrated that it wasn’t all fun and games. Ferguson is renowned for running a relentlessly tight ship and while still in prototype stage, there was certainly illustrated an amalgamation of fresh ideas. ‘Kissing My Baby’, while still heavy on the groove, incorporated elements of Chuck Berry with the more contemporary rock rasp of Rogers’ vocal lint giving it a uniquely Australian quality. After a gutsy duet that reduced both Rogers and Audice to sweaty piles, the pair left stage to make room for guest vocalist Ella Thompson. Riding the good vibe wave of southern-church soul organ and weaving electric keys, Thompson blew through ‘Medicine Man’ with a vocal sultry that reduced the well bearded man wearing a t-shirt branded ‘I’d Rather Funk’ next to me into a deep and prolonged knee bend. After slowing things down considerably with a fine, but unnecessary, cover of James Blakes ‘Wilhelm Scream’, Thompson returned to the backing vocalist position; allowing Rogers (who, perhaps in a stupor, had donned the most incredible pair of velvet blue pants, in addition to a stockman’s hat) to swagger back into the spot light to great applause.
‘Takes a lot of love to be here’ commented Rogers – throwing his inhibitions and formally white silk shirt into the darkness before launching into older Bamboos single ‘Ain’t No Good’ – and there was a real sense the love was reciprocated as a (tiring) audience was encouraged into one final and valiant attempt at hustling up a boogie. After an unconvincing bow and disappearing off stage only momentarily, both Rogers and The Bamboos returned to the purple hued stage. The subsequent encore (a pretty sexual duet between Audice, Thompson and a half naked Rogers) closed things off in a perfect encapsulation of the night; a good deal cringe worthy, funky, weirdly rural and overall a lot of fun watching seasoned musicians and a Sandalford wines crowd get down.