Fifty shades of grey heads huddled out the front of the iconic Palais Theatre on Friday night, gearing up to honour the biggest and the best in our industry. One week after The Age Music Victoria Awards crowned Courtney Barnett queen at 170 Russell, it was now time for the legendary Hall of Fame inductees to do their thing.
The night’s MC – RocKwiz maestro Brian Nankervis – pranced through the crowd for an energetic Acca Dacca sing-a-long, clap and chant, baptising the audience for the night’s rock n’ roll experience. Grinspoon’s awkward frontman Phil Jamieson kicked off the performances with a stirring rendition of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ with backing belter Vika Bull and the night’s band, the EG Allstars, appropriate given The Stones played the Palais twice exactly 50 years ago.
Ageing rockers the Thunderbirds were the first of a handful to accept their award in person, followed closely by crowd pleasing performances by sixties star Normie Rowe (‘Shakin’ All Over’) and Santa Claus aka Axiom’s Brian Cadd (‘A Little Ray of Sunshine’). Australia’s nudey rudey answer to Woodstock, the Sunbury Festival, received its induction via a cutesy video featuring Tex Perkins, as did the late great DJ Stan ‘The Man’ Rofe, record producer Bill Armstrong and the Palais Theatre itself.
Hunters & Collectors chief Mark Seymour lead a groovy version of ‘The Loved One’ (not sure why that song was picked actually) and Kate Ceberano did a surprising good job tackling the musical majesty of The Seekers classic ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’ as they were inducted (sadly absentee) into the Hall of Fame. Local alt-pop singer Angie Hart put on a less than impressive cover of ‘A Little More Love’, but thankfully, a pre-recorded message from Olivia Newtown-John herself (with friend Barry Gibb presenting the award) stole the scene. As did that ‘Physical’ clip.
Two moving duets from Archie Roach and Paul Kelly commemorated Roach’s induction, with Charcoal Lane’s poignant hit ‘Took the Children Away’ about the Stolen Generation welling the eyes of many who witnessed it. However, both were immediately upstaged when tiny Aboriginal actor/musician Uncle Jack Charles gave an accidentally hilarious speech about bumping into Roach in jail.
Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan – sharp-suited in an all-white ensemble – gave a rousing read on behalf of our biggest band export AC/DC, who were unable to attend only because they were preparing to rock the socks off Adelaide. Fair excuse I reckon, and school uniform sporting axeman Angus Young was said to be “honoured” by the recognition. Kingswood members Fergus Linacre and Alex Laska teamed up with Vika Bull to do their best screechy Bon Scott impression on ‘Highway to Hell’, which quenched the crowd’s thirst for some Acca Dacca live action.
Just when you thought the night couldn’t possibly get any better, it did. Tenfold. Act 1 concluded at 10pm and the stage was cleared in the interval. The anticipation was so high, that when the one and only John Farnham finally walked out on stage, it was almost a relief. This Act was Farnsy’s act. With a grin as big as a cheshire cat, the 66 year-old star humbly accepted his induction in formidable fashion, with a generous set of hit after hit after hit.
Complete with Vegas-esque band with some original members, Farnham began with soaring 1988 torch song ‘Age of Reason’. He quickly and enthusiastically followed with ‘Reasons’, the lyrics of which he fluffed in spectacular style. Typically witty, “I buggered it up” he commented, stopping the band. “Shut up!” he bellowed tongue-in-cheek as the crowd roared with laughter, “I don’t know what to do now”. They started again, and the always charismatic singer got it spot on of course. The classics came thick and fast, ‘That’s Freedom’, Human Nature duet ‘Every Time You Cry’, his Little River Band footy anthem ‘Playing to Win’ and ‘Pressure Down’. Farnham may be Whispering Jack, but thankfully, there was nothing whispery about his performances.
If you weren’t already up on your feet, it would’ve been un-Australia not to be once the instantly recognisable intro of our un-official anthem ‘You’re The Voice’ kicked in. It was one giant sing-a-long love-in, as heads were thrown back in awe and phones raised up in wonder. “How long can we look at each other, down the barrel of a gun?” felt poignant in an era of extremism, and the refrain “we’re not gonna sit in silence, we’re got gonna live with fear” even more so, and it was as enjoyable as it was cathartic to sing it so loud and proud. And dual bagpipes too. Wow.
As much rock as he is pop, Farnham then mentioned ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top’ – “a song AC/DC don’t do in their set anymore, like Sadie the bloody Cleaning Lady!”. Then he did. Both of them, leaving us lingering longingly in Melbourne pride and sixties splendour respectively – and more bagpipes.
It was a night of true artistry all round, in a legendary venue with legends on stage. For three hours, some of Victoria’s greatest ever musicians gathered to celebrate all our awesome state had – and still has – to offer, and it was marvellous. Young musicians and bands ought to take a leaf out of their books, for sure. In the words of Acca Dacca – Oz rock, we salute you!!