With jackets on in the sun, it was an evening colder than expected at the Zoo Twilights on Saturday. With the low temperatures and White Night on in the city, the crowds were small but intimate. Those who were attentive early in the night were in for a treat, especially when singer-songwriter Ben Salter took to the stage.
Alongside new bandmates Clint Hyndman (Something For Kate) on drums and Seja and Arun Roberts (Dirt Hand) on keyboards and bass respectively; Salter brought subtle swagger and rock grooves to the set. There were two animal-themed tunes (‘Vile Rat’ and the ambiguously mesmerising ‘Parrot Day’) and new singles ‘Boat Dreams’ and ‘The Stars My Destination’. Alternating between a Telecaster and an acoustic, the alt-rocker played out a series of moody melodies and chords on the guitar, bolstered by his harmonies and searing lead vocals. It was a solid set for those who were listening.
Even at 8pm it still wasn’t a sold-out crowd for Aussie rock legend Mark Seymour and his latest band The Undertow (Cameron McKenzie on lead guitar, John Favaro on bass and Pete Maslen on drums) but nevertheless, they were in good form. Joined on and off by his doppelgänger daughters Hannah and Eva Seymour, the band put on an entertaining mix of young and old – members and songs.
He kicked off the night with some new songs from the group’s third album Mayday, including the politically charged ‘Two Dollar Punter’ (about a desperate asylum seeker), and the rollicking, raucous instant crowd-pleaser ‘Courtroom 32’. There were a lot of Melbourne and Victorian references for locals, from Frankston station shenanigans in ‘Football Train’ to looking for refuge and redemption in ‘Castlemaine’.
For fans of Seymour’s hugely successful pub rock band Hunters & Collectors – basically the whole crowd – Mark and the band didn’t disappoint. The opening lines of Aussie anthem ‘Holy Grail “woke up this morning, from the strangest dream” came earlier than expected, and everyone quickly shuffled forward to either stand or film on their phones. The rendition was slightly different from the original but just as epic, and it was followed soon after by fellow hit ‘When The River Runs Dry’.
The beautiful ballad ‘Through Your Arms Around Me’ got everyone swaying with their eyes closed singing, “We may never meet again, so shed your skin and lets get started / And you will throw your arms around me”, and the always rousing ‘Say Goodbye’ got the crowd bellowing the famous line “you don’t make me feel like I’m a woman anymore!” (and the stage lights comically dimmed every time he sung the line “As we turn down the lights”). Popular tracks ‘Do You See What I See’ and ‘Talking To A Stranger’ were omitted from the setlist, but the gorgeous, bellowing 1992 number ‘True Tears Of Joy’ made it on there instead.
On stage, Seymour cuts an intense, albeit short, figure. Sharp cheekbones under the lights, head tossed from side to side; impassioned, husky vocals and strumming hard on the guitar. In-between songs, however, he is anything but. Admitting to some nerves at the start of the the night, the band banter just got more and more delightfully awkward, and with a quiet crowd in attendance, it was even worse. “I had an intimate moment with a seal here the other day,” Seymour quipped randomly. “She had big brown eyes, what?” he giggled as his daughters shook their head with embarrassment.
McKenzie was a gun on the lead guitar, unleashing lightening fast bends and pull-offs in every blistering rock solo. His epic break in ‘Westgate’ (about Westgate Bridge collapse survivor Eddy Halsall) went on and on, and he got a hearty applause at the end. “Wow, how was that?” he joked. “I was thinking about the meerkats in the middle of your solo, sorry” Seymour chuckled. “Poor things.” The Seymour sisters were back out for the gentle harmonies on ‘Kosciusko’, ‘Home Free’ and ‘Carry Me Home’, before winding up on some more energetic numbers. Men passing the stage raised their beers to Seymour who just smiled and shook his head. The Zoo is such an odd place for a pub-rocker.
Despite it being the coldest day at the Twilights so far this year, Mark Seymour and The Undertow played a heartwarming show. Ranging for ’90s hits to noughties should-be hits, Seymour and his crew put on a stellar performance that pleased die-hards, newbies and everyone in-between, and we cried true tears of joy!