Excelsior Hotel, Surry Hills
Sunday, April 24, 2005


Anticipation hung heavily in the air. With the three essential elements of the most enduring line-up of X playing music under the same roof, would we see an impromptu reunion? You can't get shot for asking and it seemed every second punter was doing just that. With two-thirds of X living in another city, chances don't occur very often. It didn't happen in the end, but we still copped a good musical deal.

First up was the redoubtable Mr Lucas, now domiciled back in Sydney after a short spell in Melbourne. The first of two sets was a solo acoustic bracket a lots of fun, with anything from an extensive personal catalogue being reeled out. A trio of Lennon compositions filled out the second half as well as a cover of "This Guy's In Love With You" (dedicated to the girls behind the bar), for which drummer Theo Katkas is co-opted on brushes. Must have been worth a few free drinks, that one.

There's a stack of material in the Lucas backpack and he's currently shopping a solo album (featuring the late Cath Synerdahl) as well as planning a second Pubert Brown Fridge Occurrence long-player.

Both should be very listenable, going by what we heard tonight.

If it was ever in any doubt, Lucas has a great voice when you strip away the diamond hard attack of X or Bigger Than Jesus. It doesn't get more exposed than winging it with an acoustic guitar for company. Hopefully, the man can land another residency of the sort of longevity of his run at the Glebe Excelsior before his move to Melbourne.

Ian Rilen & The Pushers turn out to be Ian on guitar and longtime collaborator (and former domestic partner) Cathy Green on bass. Rilen looks like he's recovering from the previous evening's album launch, while Green is positively glowing after becoming a mother recently. We're treated to a set generously peppered with songs recorded or played by Hell to Pay, the famously combustible outfit whose ranks (briefly) included both Ian and Cathy.

You can't bottle songs like "401" and "Booze to Blame" but there's a laugh or two as Cathy reminds Ian of the odd verse/what key they're going to play in. "Letter" is bookended by his comment that it's biograhpical and her's that he did, indeed, receive such a missive from a lawyer-equipped ex-wife. Maybe it was Cathy.

The set's closed by Cathy's child (presumably being minded by friends or family located somewhere other than the pub) needing a feed. That, and the absence of amplifiers on stage (the players are DI'ing their instruments through the PA) effectively shuts down the possibility of an X reunion.

What follows is still nonetheless excellent. Steve Lucas returns for a second set, paired with Jon Schofield on mandolin. Ian Rilen recruits Theo Katkas on drums and former Rose Tattoo member Mick Cocks on guitar for a set of his own, before disappearing into the crowd at the bar (and several other bars, for those that could keep up). Ironically, the last X set was with Katkas on drums at a 50th birthday for Mick Cocks in January this year.

This show might have lacked the volume of what each of these players does with their more high profile bands, but none of the intensity. There's an honest quality about playing "unplugged" (ugh, it's a term that reeks of industry marketing demographics and isn't even accurate). Each of the players on stage managed to bring that honesty to bear, and not too many punters would have staggered out into the night unhappy with what they'd seen.