Comrade Tom and I had been given another rock n'roll mission - to get ourselves from Canberra to Newtown, via Mona Vale to pick up a surfboard, and go see The Young Docteurs, Decline of the Reptiles and The Hitmen.
Chris Shakallis, singer of the Young Docteurs, had made the call a few weeks prior to the gig. I first saw the Docs circa '79/80. They were the vanguard of a thriving punk/new wave scene in Canberra and their high energy music elicited high energy reactions from their audiences. Thirty years on, the band continues to perform sporadically.
Young Docteurs are in!
Guitarist Paul Hayward was in fine form on the night - a real showman and true original. Paul quipped early in the set that the
Young Docteurs were "not so young anymore". True, but there was plenty of power in the band's delivery. The Docs propelled their way through a set that included the songs "Buying Freedom", "One Day", "Running From the Heart" and of course "Man in the Box" They really peaked at times, losing themselves in the music and that gave me and the growing crowd cause to whoop and holler. Good to see the not so Young Docteurs still playing with passion and intensity.
Next up Decline of the Reptiles. I'd never seen them live before but am familiar with their sound from the mid-'80s recordings "The Hammer Speaks" and "Too Much Armour, Not Enough Brains". I always thought the Reptiles had a very distinctive sound - a combination of the songwriting, and to my ears, Bruce Tatham's keyboards and Mark Roxburgh's vocals. That sound was delivered in spades on the night. Call me a wuss but I thought that clarity lost out to volume at times but I guess that's the volatility of live amplified music.
Mark Roxburgh (left) from Decline Of The Reptiles won Sharpest Suit of the Night while Johnny Kannis name-dropped the Barman.
Speaking of volume - I recall seeing the Hitmen at the Sydney Cove Tavern about 1983 or '84. Chris Masuak had placed a flimsy piece of cardboard across the face of his quad box. On the cardboard he had written "Yes it is loud, hence this custom built sound inhibitor". Of course it made not one scintilla of difference.
A quarter of a century down the turnpike and the Hitmen are incredibly consistent, a sign of the true professionals they are. "Pay Up or Shut Up", "15 Hours", "Didn't Tell the Man", "Death By the Gun", "California Sun", "Big Love", "No Clue", "It Is What It Is", "Rock 'n' Roll Soldiers", "Shake Some Action", "Suspicious Minds"... just some of the songs they played. I would love to have heard "Bwana Devil" and "Don't Fear the Reaper" but you can't play 'em all.
A pair of suspicious minds caught in a heat trap: Harmonizing was hot work for Zeus and Klondike.
The Hitmen continue to combine muscle and melody with lashings of Dictatoresque cheese and bombast to great effect. Johnny Kannis was goin' off and looked fitter than he did at the St Valentine's Day Massacre. Tony the Kid and Murray Shepherd were, in the words of Fabienne Shine, "solid as a rock", and guitarists Tony Jukic and Chris Masuak were stoking hot.
Heat was a factor both on and off the stage. The upstairs gig room at the Sandringham was like an oven with humidity beyond saturation point. Yeah rock 'n' roll is meant to be hot and sweaty but the conditions were ridiculous and potentially dangerous. Get the air con and ventilation up to speed before staging gigs in a sweat box. Access struck me as dubious as well.
On a lighter note Klondike stripped down to undies for the encore.