+ GENTLE BEN AND HIS SENSITIVE SIDE + THE MUDDY SPURS
Friday, November 12, 2004
Words: SIMON LI
Hard on the heels of their reformation in Melbourne in the middle of 2004 as part of Melbourne’s Tote Hotel 20th Anniversary celebrations, tonight was the first of two Sydney shows for The Johnnys. For those who only became aware of the band primarily through its members' "post Johnnys" projects (The Crisps, The Beasts of Bourbon, The Last Gasp, Holy Spirit and Escape Committee, the last few featuring Spencer P Jones), tonight would prove a massive eye opener.
Up from Melbourne, for their first Sydney trip were The Muddy Spurs. An all-girl trio that played some tasty swamp country blues, they were led on vocals by their bass player. Midway through the set, they showed themselves to be a multi-faceted singing outfit, with both the guitarist and drummer weighing in.
Up next were Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side and played an impressive set, most of which likely to be drawn from the bands debut CD "The Beginning of The End". The band features vocalist Ben Corbett, one of the brothers who front Queensland's 6 Foot Hick. To me, they're a curious mix of some of the energy of Ben’s other band, but also indie rock, blues, alt. country which might make some draw comparisons to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
An off-beat addition to the band’s set was the oft-covered Boudleaux Bryant-penned classic "Love Hurts", which was even more curiously dedicated to ex-Queenslander, recent country music award winner and now Nashville captive Keith Urban.
The Johnnys opened with "Move It", followed by a shambolic, rambling version of "There’s Gonna Be a Showdown".
This had the crowd joining in for a sing-along, with the younger punters probably only familiar with the version by Australia’s biggest Daltrey, Townsend, Entwhistle and Moon fans, You Am I, while the reference point for the older ones was probably the classic New York Dolls take on this tune.
From there, a string of Johnnys classics like "Injun Joe", "Slip Slap Fishing" (the signal for hay from several bales to fly through the crowd), "Mountain Man", "Dead Men from Boot Hill" and "Way of the West".
It seemed the band had hardly had a break (let alone a spell of over a decade), with the rhythm section quite rock solid and guitarists Slim Doherty and Spencer P Jones in great form.
The band also threw in some Bo Diddley and closed the main set with "Bleeding Heart" another of many tunes from the band's debut LP "Highlights of a Dangerous Life" aired tonight.
For encore one, the band with "Motorbiking", which had the crowd really rockin’ , followed with "I Think You're Cute".
The fridge full of beer also appeared on stage, which probably fueled the band's (and particularly Spencer P. Jones) on stage demeanour, no doubt recalling hazy memories of them treading the boards in the '80s. In fact, Spencer seemed about as out-of-control as I've ever seen him, but led the band in incredible fashion.
Tonight’s gig by The Johnnys was one incredibly memorable show from an incredibly unique, if rarely sighted, Australian music treasure.
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